Austin - When I was attending the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Florida, I had the privilege to talk to Ms Marianne Craven, the Managing Director of Academic Programs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). She was calm and very polite and seemed to enjoy conversation with Fulbrighters from different parts of the world. That encouraged me to approach her. I wasn’t sure she would grant me an interview, but conversation with her lead smoothly to my request, which she kindly accepted. My primary purpose was to understand how American foreign policy makers view educational and cultural diplomacy and its role in mutual understanding between Americans and other peoples. It’s not difficult to find references on the issue, but I was more interested in individuals, like Ms Craven, who are in one way or in another responsible for the decisions made in this respect. I would have preferred to do that in an informal way, but Ms Craven is a busy woman and she is based in Washington while I am miles away in Austin. She proposed to do the interview on the phone but, ultimately, I had to email her my questions, which she kindly answered.

Ahmed Echcharfi is a University professor of English.