Humphrey honorees make big impact at Penn State, beyond

Note: This story originally appeared in AlumnInsider, the Penn State Alumni Association's monthly member e-newsletter.

Established in 1978 to honor the late senator and vice president, the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program brings accomplished mid-career professionals from designated countries around the world to selected universities in the United States for one year of non-degree graduate study, professional training and work-related experiences.

With primary funding from the U.S. Department of State, the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program is administered nationwide by the Institute of International Education.

At Penn State, the program is housed in the College of Education. Penn State welcomed 10 fellows to the University Park campus this year and has hosted the program for 35 years, bringing in more than 360 leaders from 120 countries.

Additionally, each fellow is given a complimentary one-year membership into the Alumni Association. Alumni Association Director of Membership Joe Fiochetta said he hopes that the fellows become active and stay engaged with Penn State while here and then carry that pride with them when they return to their home countries.

“It’s our investment in their accomplishments,” Fiochetta said.

The fellows give talks, engage in research and work with faculty and students on global projects, said Talat Azhar, associate director of the program. Azhar also said each honoree returns home with a sense of Penn State pride, which leads to many of them returning for graduate work. Currently, three alumni are doctoral students in the College of Education.

Additionally, Azhar said that because of the program, Penn State faculty members have started student-exchange programs in other countries, collaborated on publications in professional journals, and been invited as consultants and speakers at universities across the world.

“Each year, we look forward to a unique group of individuals,” Azhar said. “Not only is each group different, the individuals in each group are all unique. Each is a leader in his or her own right and has shown promise for bringing about social change at the local or national level.”

Since the beginning of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in 1979, Penn State has hosted 363 Humphrey Fellows from 120 countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe. There are 4,884 alumni of the program worldwide. In the 2013-14 program year, Penn State is one of 17 universities at which Humphrey Fellows are placed to pursue individualized programs of study. In total, 180 Fellows from 93 countries will spend time at colleges across the country this year.

Fellows are also very much involved outside of University Park while at Penn State. Combined, they contributed more than 800 hours of community service, Azhar said, working with nonprofit organizations and participating in the United Way Day of Caring and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service alongside Penn State students, faculty and staff.

“A significant component of the Humphrey program is community outreach and public service,” Azhar said. “During their stay at Penn State, the fellows make several presentations about their countries and their personal journeys to a variety of different audiences within Penn State and in the community. Their stories are often very powerful, engaging, educational and enlightening.”

Below, in alphabetical order, are the 2013–14 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows:

-- Erika Anseloni, manager of regional sustainable development at Gaia Social, a Brazilian non-governmental organization;
-- Ornsiri Cheunsuang, associate professor of veterinary neuroanatomy at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand;
-- Charmaine du Plessis, senior manager of strategic communication at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa;
-- Vusal Hasanov, senior specialist in the department of development at the Central Bank of Azerbaijan;
-- Judith Sakubu, chair of the board and director of studies at Ecole Technique d’Administration et de Gestion in Burundi;
-- Vyjayanthi Sankar, vice president of strategic relationships and large scale assessments at Educational Initiatives in Gujarat, India;
-- Ali Zaman Shah, deputy registrar at Federal Urdu University in Islamabad, Pakistan;
-- Mian Shu, executive officer, deputy division chief of Chengdu Government in Western China;
-- Zodwa Thwala, principal at the High School for the Deaf in Swaziland;
-- Yvonne Yon, assistant director of corporate services for Namibia Business School.

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Last Updated May 12, 2014