The Fulbright Experience

Harriet Fulbright

The Fulbright Experience is a series about the impact of a Fulbright scholarship on the lives and careers of Irish people who went to study in the US and Americans who came to Ireland.

The Fulbright Programme was set up by US Senator J William Fulbright just after World War 2 with the ambitious goal of contributing to world peace. He believed that by enabling students, especially future potential leaders, to go to live and study in other countries they would learn about other people and other cultures, and gain tolerance and understanding.

Ireland has been involved in the Fulbright Programme for over 50 years and in that time more than 700 Irish people have gone on scholarships to the US and around 500 Americans have come here.

Featured in the series are: Harriet Fulbright (widow of Senator Fulbright), pianist Therese Fahy, artist Steve Powers, clarinettist Paul Roe, musician Judith Coe, jazz guitarist Patrick Groenland, author Roger Rosenblatt, scientist Wally Greenberg, Irish scholar Molly Hester, linguist Sinéad Ní Mhaoilmhichíl, John O’Loughlin Kennedy, founder of Concern, cellist Gerald Peregrine, traditional Irish musicians Mel Mercier and Jimmy O’Brien Moran, retired parish priest Tom Stack, and musician Elizabeth Dyer.

Molly Hester is an American in her 20s who in 2008 came to study for a Master’s degree taught through Irish at NUI Galway. She could not have foretold how an initial interest in bluegrass banjo would lead her to where she is now. Along the way, she takes up the uilleann pipes, chucks in her chemistry studies at Harvard, and features as a guest on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.

Sinéad Ní Mhaoilmhichíl was one of the first people to get a Fulbright scholarship to go and teach Irish at an American university. Her students were in for a shock, especially as some of them did not even realise that Irish was a language. And Sinéad was in for a shock when she realised how little they knew about Ireland.

This series of eight half hour programmes was supported by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and was first broadcast on RTÉ lyric fm in 2008/09.