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International Fellows Partner with Austin Organizations in First Virtual Professional Fellows Program

  • May 20, 2021

Six young professionals from Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine are working with business leaders in Austin to advance their professional skills and build sustainable partnerships as part of the first virtual cohort of the Professional Fellows Program (PFP).

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by American Councils, the program is a bilateral global exchange program designed to promote mutual understanding, enhance leadership skills and establish long-lasting connections between mid-level emerging leaders from foreign countries and the United States. Participants are placed in intensive fellowships with non-profit organizations, private sector businesses, and government offices for an individually-tailored professional development experience. This is the first year the program is being held virtually.

The 2021 Fellows at UT Austin work in fields ranging from education and economic development to entrepreneurship and governance issues. From April 1 to June 30, they will work with organizations in Austin including the UT Law School, McCombs School of Business, the City of Austin, International Accelerator, SEL Launchpad and the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Ukrainian Fellow Valeriia Melnyk is a prosecutor investigating and collecting evidence of conflict-related human rights violations. Melnyk will collaborate with UT Law School Professor Lauren Fielder to gain experience with U.S. legislative and governance processes and work with experts advancing governance issues abroad, dealing with international crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Turkish Fellow Can Gurlek works as a technology expert focused on attracting foreign investments into Turkey. Partnered with the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Leigh Christie, Senior Vice President of Global Technology & Innovation, Gurlek wants to learn how states attract investments and engage private sectors and NGOs responsible for economic development through private sector investments.

Selected through a highly competitive process, the Fellows represent the next generation of emerging leaders around the world. During the program, they will expand their knowledge of legislative and governance best practices in the U.S. and Eurasia and form professional and personal networks among leaders in the United States and partner nations. Fellows across the U.S. can also attend virtual professional development sessions coordinated by various universities covering themes such as women in leadership.

After the fellowship, the U.S.-based hosts are eligible to apply for reciprocal in-person or virtual projects to collaborate with the Fellows in their home countries. Program alumni will gain access to extensive resources and an international network of like-minded professionals spanning the globe.

Learn more about the Professional Fellows Program.