To the MACECE Community – current Fulbrighters, alumni, colleagues, partners and friends

2021 message, by Rebecca Geffner

2020, need I say more? It is difficult to find the words to adequately describe the past year. 2020 was a year that brought confusion and clarity, indescribable challenges, hardships, trauma and loss. It was the year when the world came to a crashing halt and then we were all faced with a unique opportunity to pause, reflect, reassess and perhaps realign. It was a year when countries became more insular, borders closed, and travel was suspended. It was a year when our social lives took on a whole new virtual identity.

In March 2020, the US State Department issued a level 4 travel warning which suspended the Fulbright program. Commissions and Posts around the world scrambled to assist our Fulbrighters in getting home as countries began to shut down their borders. Many exchanges had to be put on a momentary pause as travel options became obsolete. As the lockdown in Morocco persisted through June, the MACECE team learned how to adapt to an entirely new way of remote working.

Our Fulbrighters both in Morocco and the US explored innovative ways to maintain their networks and connections virtually. The US also experienced an election year, paving the way for some new opportunities for change. 2020 has truly been a year of transformation. The global community quickly found itself needing to pivot between lockdowns, sanitary measures, economic stability and more reliance on technology. A new normal was established that took some adaptation, patience and flexibility to get used to.

Although we are no way out of the woods with the COVID-19 pandemic, the MACECE team looks to 2021 with optimism and a renewed sense of purpose. As some of our grantees have started their Fulbright programs online and our educators have adapted to virtual teaching this fall, we have realized that this is a moment where international education and exchange is even more important than ever before. As the world has for all intents and purposes “paused” and countries have closed down their borders, we, as the international exchange community must renew our commitment to mutual understanding and rebuild the bridges that were broken due to this pandemic. We must look for innovative ways to collaborate and continue the good work that we have started. As we enter the 75th anniversary year of the Fulbright program worldwide, we must accept the challenges of this year and see the opportunities that Fulbrighters can seize in making an impact and a difference in our home and host communities going forward. Now is the time, more than ever, that the Fulbright program is needed to foster mutual understanding between nations, share knowledge across communities, find solutions to shared international concerns, and improve lives around the world.

I want to thank first and foremost the steadfast MACECE team whose hard work, agility, empathy, and dedication helped the Commission to weather a very challenging year and provide the utmost support to our grantees and alumni community. I also want to express my gratitude to our Deputy Director, Ms. Hafsa El Bastami who just joined the commission in February 2020. It was not an easy time to start a new role such as this in the middle of a pandemic. Ms. El Bastami’s professionalism and support from the start has been invaluable to the team. I also want to thank the MACECE Board and our two governments for their unwavering support and guidance to the Commission to push through the hurdles. To our grantees, alumni and partners, I thank you for your patience, flexibility and solid commitment to the values of the Fulbright program to help us to continue our important mission of mutual understanding in the midst of unprecedented circumstances.

2020 captures the triumphs, the struggles, the emotions, the opportunities, the friendships, and moments of our community this year and in a profound way, provides hope for the future.
Stay in touch and be well.

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