75 years of the Fulbright Program: Commission Staff

In 2021 the Fulbright Program celebrates its 75th anniversary (in Poland, the Program has been present for 62 years). We are joining this celebration by presenting monthly Fulbright alumni stories that showcase the positive impact of the Program on local and global communities. Each of these stories reflects the theme of the month. This month we have a surprise for you. Because the July theme is “Commissions and Posts” we prepared short interviews with our Commission staff, which will hopefully allow you to get to know us a little better, learn what we do at work and after work, and i.e. what songs/artists we listen to. More information about the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program can be found at fulbright75.org.

Patrycja Donaburska

1. What is your job at the Fulbright Commission? My primary job at the Fulbright Commission is coordinating Fulbright programs for students and doctoral candidates – Graduate Student Award and Junior Research Award. I also look after the BioLAB Program and I am involved in the organization of mentoring programs (TopMinds and BioLAB). Additionally, I am an EducationUSA adviser specializing in graduate studies and sports scholarships in the U.S.

2. Your favorite thing to do at work? What I like most is being in touch with people interested in applying for grants, as well as my grantees! I also love it when more and more people make their dreams come true. 🙂

3. Outside of work, I am passionate about… Reading books. playing video games, yoga, and recently roller skating.

4. An event that changed your life/professional life? Going to therapy.

5. Your motto? I am enough.

6. Your favorite song/artist? Hmm.. This is a very difficult question. I love music from animated films, musicals but also “Stare Dobre Małżeństwo,” Hurts, Kwiat Jabłoni, soundtracks from movies and series – it all depends on my mood. 🙂 

Justyna Janiszewska 

1. What is your job at the Fulbright Commission? My responsibilities are written down on three pages, small print, so I will shorten and simplify them as much as I can: I manage the team and the running of the Commission. 🙂

2. Your favorite thing to do at work? Participating in meetings we organize for our grantees, alumni, partners. I also enjoy interviewing candidates who are applying for grants. It is extremely stressful because of the amount of responsibility that lies in having to choose candidates, but it is also a fascinating meeting with so many personalities, people with amazing passions and competences.

3. Outside of work, I am passionate about… Travel, near and far, skiing, pilates, sometimes I get hooked on a good series.

4. An event that changed your life/professional life? An almost 6-month hitchhiking trip with my friend through Central America. It was many, many years ago but at the time it significantly changed my worldview, how I perceive myself, and also gave me strength to fight for my dreams. Undeniably, the birth of my sons. As for professional life – also travel. In 2014, I was invited by the U.S. Department of State to participate in the IVLP (International Visitor Leadership Program). The program of this 3-week visit was specially designed for our small group of 3 persons engaged in working on quite specific topics. I felt noticed and appreciated for what I had been doing so far, and the program of the visit has given me a lot of inspiration.

5. Your motto? Whatever you do, do it well or don’t do it at all.

6. Your favorite song/artist? Prince

Anna Kertyczak

1. What is your job at the Fulbright Commission? I coordinate special projects: media literacy and cybersecurity. I design, plan and organize workshops, conferences and webinars on these topics. As one of the few people in our team, I don’t work directly with Fulbright programs.

2. Your favorite thing to do at work? I sit a lot in front of my computer and I like getting up and meeting people in person. 🙂

3. Outside of work, I am passionate about… Plants. 🙂 I like planting, transplanting, handing out seedlings; experimenting and observing what does not grow and why. 

4. An event that changed your life/professional life? The pandemic. I barely had time to “take root” in the Commission, having moved here from another job, when the pandemic turned everything upside down. It was a solid lesson of re-planning and learning my own flexibility when it comes to thinking and taking action. 

5. Your motto? Don’t complain, but ask yourself “What did you do to change this?”

6. Your favorite song/artist? I can endlessly listen to songs by Postmodern Jukebox.

Justyna Kozyra-Bober

1. What is your job at the Fulbright Commission? Short version: I help make dreams and goals happen:-)

2. Your favorite thing to do at work? Everyday interactions with passionate people.

3. Outside of work, I am passionate about… Linguistics, bilingualism.

4. An event that changed your life/professional life? The Fulbright grant, duh! 😉

5. Your motto? Today me will live in the moment. Unless it’s unpleasant, in which case me will eat a cookie [Cookie Monster]

6. Your favorite song/artist? Fast Car by Tracy Chapman has stuck with me for years now. A lot of her work really speaks to me.

Paulina Kubylis

1. What is your job at the Fulbright Commission? I am the first contact person at the Commission for American grantees and candidates. 

2. Your favorite thing to do at work? My favorite thing is the moment when after several months of correspondence I can meet our grantees in person. 

3. Outside of work, I am passionate about… Lately, I have been most interested in self development, in particular stoicism in practice. 

4. An event that changed your life/professional life? Moving from Krakow to Warsaw.

5. Your motto? Every cloud has a silver lining.

6. Your favorite song/artist? In the summer, I like going back to Chris Rea’s album “On the Beach.”

Justyna Maziarska-Lesisz

1. What is your job at the Fulbright Commission? As a program officer (this is the official title of my position) I am responsible for recruiting Polish grantees – Senior Award and Slavic Award programs – and preparing them for their grants in the U.S. Additionally, I encourage Polish higher education institutions to invite American students as English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) and I help ETA grantees organize their stay and assist them during their grants in Poland. 

2. Your favorite thing to do at work? In person meetings with our grantees because it is a one of a kind chance to meet extraordinary people who pursue their own passions in various areas, not only in their own country but also abroad.

3. Outside of work, I am passionate about… Expeditions into the unknown. In each place, regardless of where it is located, and whether it beats the popularity rankings, I discover something for myself that gives me lots of joy and positive energy. 

4. An event that changed your life/professional life? Larynx disease, which made it impossible for me to keep working as a teacher-instructor, but opened up new opportunities for cooperation with universities. 

5. Your motto? Live as if everything was a miracle. 🙂

6. Your favorite song/artist? My favorite artist is Sting (because of his lyrics and music that fits every mood). 🙂 

Aleksandra Szaniawska

1. What is your job at the Fulbright Commission? I work as a communication and promotion specialist, manage our social media platforms and engage in many projects and initiatives that connect people and show the world how a Fulbright grant is a unique and life changing experience. 😉

2. Your favorite thing to do at work? I really like learning about all the fantastic and diverse projects Fulbrighters engage in. I love hearing/reading what they do, what they are passionate about and most of all, I enjoy engaging in interesting discussions during in person meetings we organize. 

3. Outside of work, I am passionate about… Reading, writing, and figuring things out. 🙂 I am passionate about literature written by women from the African diaspora, Afrofuturism, postcolonialism. I am fascinated by revolutionary cultural texts that destabilize social norms. And during the pandemic I got really hooked on reading mysteries written by women. 

4. An event that changed your life/professional life? Completing my doctoral studies at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Professionally, this experience has given me tools that still allow me to develop my interests and keep making contributions to advance social equity. Privately, my stay in Buffalo has shaped who I am today. It allowed me to meet extraordinary people who just like myself had come from different parts of the world and whom I have been lucky to call close friends for many years now, and also to find my special someone. Buffalove! <3 

5. Your motto? Be here and now, appreciate every moment and act not only for yourself but also for the benefit of others. 

6. Your favorite song/artist? Janelle Monáe, whose career I have been following for over a decade (from club performances in Buffalo to tours incl. New York and D.C.). I especially recommend her concept album The Electric Lady.

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