< Distinguished speaker series

John Bader

Executive Director of the Fulbright Association

The Fulbrights at 78: Achievements and Contradictions

DATE: March 6, 2024 6:00 pm

LOCATION: World Trade Center Baltimore

Event information

The Fulbright scholarship program is the most famous educational exchange on Earth, with 400,000 taking part since it began in 1946.  Forty-one have served as heads of state or government; 62 have won a Nobel Prize, and Fulbrighters have won 95 Pulitzer Prizes.

But J. William Fulbright, the Arkansas senator who thought them up, has been airbrushed from the story of the scholarships because he voted against civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s – and even led the filibusters. He’s been called the most influential American internationalist of the 20th century, but his name went unmentioned at the 75th anniversary of the scholarships in 2021.

The program has been starved of funds for 60 years, but it’s innovated and expanded and now has short term Fulbrights for experienced professionals as well.

What are the program’s accomplishments? Where is it going?  John Bader, the executive director of the Fulbright Association, will discuss the scholarships and the paradoxical biography of J. William Fulbright at the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs March 6. He will be joined by Brian Sounders, associate director of Global Learning at UMBC.

This will be a joint program with the Fulbright Association, and we’ll welcome all Fulbright alumni to join the discussion.

Dr. John Bader, a former dean at Johns Hopkins, now leads the Fulbright alumni community. He is a graduate of Yale with a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in political science. His late father was part of the first Fulbright group sent to Germany after World War II, and then served as a staff member for Senator Fulbright on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John did his Fulbright in India and calls it the most intense educational experience of his life. While serving as the scholarship advisor at Johns Hopkins, he coached 114 Fulbright recipients. He is the author of Taking the Initiative: Leadership Agendas in Congress and the Contract with America, and Dean’s List: 10 Strategies for College Success (as well as a parents’ guide).

Dr. Brian Souders has served as UMBC’s Fulbright Program Advisor for more than a decade. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Political Science and Slavic Languages and Literatures, and a Masters’ degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Political Science. He earned a doctorate from UMBC in the Language, Literacy and Culture Program, as well as a master’s in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages. He lived two years in Finland – as a high school exchange student, and later as a Finnish Ministry of Education Scholarship recipient.


Related publications about the conference topic 

Memory, Commemoration, Crisis
Fulbright Program anniversaries have been plagued by crises every twenty-five years. In 1971, a dramatic 40 per cent cut in its budget—caused by the crushing pressure military spending for the Vietnam War put on all ‘non-essential’ expenditures in the federal budget—preceded the silver anniversary of the program, which to date still has not fully recovered from that blow over fifty years ago in real terms. 1 Senator Fulbright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour accorded to civilians in the US for meritorious service, three years before the golden anniversary of the Fulbright Program in 1996, then passed away at the age of eighty-nine in early 1995, the same year the Clinton administration announced a twenty per cent budget cut for the program for 1996. 2The run-up to the diamond anniversary in 2021 was turbulent in all regards: COVID-19 surges interrupting education and international travel, Black Lives Matter protests, tumultuous US presidential elections with disaffected Trump supporters storming the US Capitol on 6 January, and the end of a twenty-year war in Afghanistan.

Memory, Commemoration, Crisis
The commemoration of a program that is as well established and well-known as the Fulbright Program is problematic even under the best circumstances. The post-Second-World-War origins of the Fulbright Program are distant; its history and architecture are complicated; and there are many different stakeholders in the global program, each of which has its own story to tell. 1 Historical memory is generational and requires each generation to revisit, construct, and sometimes reconstruct the past. Recently this has become an extremely conflict-laden and precarious enterprise, fraught with differences between generations and among interest groups operating with diverging premises, methodologies, and agendas.

Memory, Commemoration, Crisis
The seventy-fifth anniversary commemorations also illustrated the extent to which the State Department has had problems addressing the paradoxical political biography of Senator Fulbright that became an object of contention at the University of Arkansas after the murder of George Floyd in June 2020.1 One year later—and after much soul-searching, debate, and deliberation by the university community—the board of governors of the University of Arkansas System passed a resolution in July 2021 to maintain the name of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and leave Fulbright’s statue on campus intact but ‘to add contextualization to the statue that affirms the University’s commitment to racial equality and acknowledges Senator Fulbright’s complex legacy’.2

The Fulbright Paradox



Executive Director, Fulbright Association, 2017 – Present

Chief External Academic Relations Officer, The International Baccalaureate, 2014 – 2017

Executive Director, Colonial Academic Alliance, 2013 – 2014

Director for International Programs, Marks Education, 2011 – 2013

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs, Johns Hopkins University, 2004 – 2011

National Scholarships Advisor, Johns Hopkins University, 2001 – 2011

Interim Assistant Dean of Advanced Academic Programs, Johns Hopkins University, 2004

Assistant Dean of Academic Advising, Johns Hopkins University, 2001 – 2004

Policy Director and Speech Writer, Jon Corzine for US Senate, 2000 – 2001

Director for Washington Programs, Asst Professor of Political Science, UCLA, 1994 – 2000

Political Researcher and Assistant Editor, ABC News, 1987 – 1989

BA in History – Yale University

MA and PhD in Political Science – University of Wisconsin-Madison


Publications and interviews 

Sending Your Millennial to College: A Parent’s Guide to Supporting College Success, September 2018

Dean’s List: 10 Strategies for College Success (second edition), April 2017

Taking the Initiative: Leadership Agendas in Congress and the “Contract with America”, September 1996



inaugural “Global Changemaker” Award, Issued by the Institute of International Education, Jan 2016

Outstanding Academic Advising Administrator, issued by the National Academic Advising Association (Region 2), Jan 2010

Phi Beta Kappa, issued by Johns Hopkins University – Alpha Chapter of Maryland, Jan 2010

Brookings Institution Research Fellow, issued by the Brookings Institution, Jan 1992

Fulbright Grant to India, issued by the Fulbright Program? Jan 1985