September 20, 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
I really enjoyed your fabulous presentations, and am happy to hear that each one of you found your time in the United States to be so rewarding.
Whenever I meet with you it gives me new hope that Cyprus can be reunified and can take full advantage of the talent and resources of everyone.
The Embassy’s Summer Institute is one of my favorite programs. Last year, more than 140 incredibly talented young people competed for the 12 slots. After hearing about your experiences, I am even more impressed with you now.
Once upon a time, we were all like these students – eager to discover what we were capable of, and full of dreams of what we might become.
Many of you found your way while studying in the United States. I am very pleased you were able to take advantage of these educational opportunities to become the professionals you are today, contributing significantly to Cyprus’ present and future.
I’d like to mention just a few of the stories of some of you who are here tonight. Angela Shaka received a Fulbright scholarship to attend Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Years later, both her children followed in her footsteps and studied in the U.S. at U.C. Berkeley and U.C. San Diego. When her niece went to Yale, she visited the family that hosted Angela at Bowling Green decades before. That shows the long-lasting bonds that exist between Americans and Cypriots.
Another alum, Alex Panayi studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He is the Founder of Silver Spotlight Production and has represented Cyprus twice in the Eurovision song contest. He has also performed with famous American musicians, including one of my favorites, Billy Joel!
And Cemal Gurkan is a U.C. Berkeley alum who has gone on to be a renowned biochemist and molecular biologist. He has done important work on the Committee for Missing Persons.
We also have with us numerous professors, doctors, artists, teachers, community leaders and civil servants standing here tonight. We could have highlighted any one of you.
Over the last four decades, the United States government has spent more than $500 million in Cyprus to provide scholarships, to strengthen bicommunal ties, and to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. During that time, more than 2500 Cypriots traveled to the U.S. to study at American colleges and universities through the CASP and Fulbright Programs.
From Boston to New Orleans, Berkley to Memphis, Cypriots got to know Americans from all walks of life, and to learn the best practices in their particular fields.
Although the Fulbright Commission closed down a couple of years ago, the Embassy still runs a Fulbright program. There are three Fulbright Visiting Scholars doing research and/or teaching in the U.S. The deadline for next year’s applications is October 30. Two American researchers will arrive in the coming months. And our new U.S. Fulbright English Teaching Assistants are also here tonight. Thanks to the close cooperation with the Ministry of Education, they are living in cities across the island and helping teachers and students in public primary and secondary schools in Paphos, Larnaca, Limassol and Nicosia.
I also want to thank those of you here today for participating in the survey we sent out last month to all of our CASP and Fulbright alumni. Many of you said you would like to engage more with the Embassy and with each other. We heard you and would like to announce some initiatives for our alumni community.
First, we will be sending out a quarterly alumni newsletter via e-mail. The newsletter will profile different alumni, will contain news about Embassy funding opportunities such as the Fulbright Visiting Scholarships, and will have updates on the promotion of U.S. higher education here. More than 90% of those who responded to the survey said they would like to receive this.
Second, we are hosting alumni roundtable on specific topics. Thus far we have had discussions on education, entrepreneurship, and security. The next one will be on women’s education. These conversations are hosted by our DCM and they give us a chance to listen to your ideas on key issues for Cypriots. I know that our new DCM Chip Dean is already looking forward to them. They help us understand better the circumstances here and to make sure our programs address the real needs of Cypriots. Many of you—more than a third—have already said you would like to participate in these. If you have suggestion for particular topics, let us know.
Third, I plan to convene this fall an alumni advisory board to meet with me every six months. I hope to discuss with the board the Embassy’s relationship with its alumni and jointly come up with some initiatives to promote U.S. education in Cyprus.
In my last year or so as Ambassador, I would like to do whatever I can to encourage more Cypriots to consider studying in the United States. I often hear concerns about the cost of U.S. education, and it is true that American universities are generally more expensive than their European counterparts.
Although the dream of a U.S. education seems far away, it’s actually closer than you think. The Embassy doesn’t provide the scholarships it once did—the CASP and Fulbright programs here were the result of extraordinary appropriations from Congress which we no longer have. But there is a great deal of financial aid and many scholarships available at the universities themselves and through foundations and NGOs. The trick is finding them.
Our StudyUSA advisors are experts on the application and financial aid processes. Anna and Gulsen, whose office is in the Fulbright Center in the buffer zone, this year helped many Cypriots apply to and enter U.S. universities for the 2017-8 academic year. The 18 students who decided to go the U.S. received $1.32 million in assistance.
As alumni of U.S. institutions, you can help as well. You can provide advice to the parents of students considering American education through a new program we are starting at StudyUSA. You can represent your alma mater here in Cyprus.
Finally, I am pleased to announce that we are working with the Leventis Gallery to set aside one evening for a private viewing of its new exhibition, “The Venus Paradox” for U.S. alumni belonging to our network. This show represents the first time that a number of world-famous museums have loaned works for one exhibition to be shown here in Cyprus.
As the American Ambassador, an art lover, and a New Yorker, I am glad to say that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the donors. The embassy night will include a private tour of the collection and a reception.
I encourage you all to drop off a business card in the box at the registration table, and if you haven’t already filled out an update survey, please feel free to do so before you go.