On August 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed into law legislation introduced by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, creating the Fulbright Program. Fulbright Act just celebrated its 70th Anniversary this year.
The legislation authorized the use of proceeds from the sale of surplus war property from World War II to fund the “promotion of international goodwill through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science.” The first Fulbright Program participants — 47 Americans and 36 foreign nationals on exchanges with China, Burma, and the Philippines — started their travel in the fall of 1948.
From this beginning, the Fulbright Program has grown to award more than 8,000 grants annually to fund academic exchanges for the people of the United States and the people of over 160 countries. Funded by the U.S. Congress, with contributions from foreign governments, the academic community and the private sector, the Fulbright Program has made awards to more than 370,000 “Fulbrighters” since its inception. Fulbright alumni include 33 current or former heads of state or government, 54 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 29 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
As an academic exchange, the Fulbright Program supports the strengthening of scholarship and teaching in all fields of study — including the arts and humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences — among university faculty, recent U.S. college graduates, graduate students, K-12 educators field-based researchers and lab-based scientists, and professionals.