COVID-19 Update on Bridging Scholars Program

July 17, 2020 

We are in a difficult time with pandemic-related health and economic pain and disruption.  Now, more than ever, together with you, our work is important to creating opportunities for listening, learning, and developing trusting friendships across cultural, racial, economic, and religious affiliations.

The Bridging Foundation board and staff have been closely monitoring the affects of COVID-19 on the Bridging Scholars program.  Like you, we remain committed to educational exchange.  As Kylan, a 2019-2020 Bridging Scholar whose time in Japan was disrupted this spring says, “I was disappointed my time in Japan had to be cut short…My experience in Japan was at times challenging, but I learned to be positive regardless, an attribute that I am sure will help me in these challenging times for the world. I am thankful for the Bridging Scholarship and look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

In-person exchange remains our focus, but even more so, the health and safety of our scholars.  Therefore, we are postponing our full academic year 2020-2021 and fall 2020 programs.  We have communicated with all of the Bridging Scholars who were in Japan this spring and those who recently applied for a Bridging Scholarship to study in the fall.  We will continue to closely monitor the situation and are hopeful that students can safely study abroad in Japan in spring 2021.

We know everyone is dealing with challenges caused by the disruption and trying to emerge stronger.  For the Bridging Foundation, this in-country program postponement provides us a pause and opportunity to thoughtfully address several key organizational and program initiatives:

·       Expand the launch of virtual programming to engage our scholars and community in these challenging times, and supplement our in-person exchange when Bridging Scholars return to Japan–designed to enhance students’ readiness for study abroad and provide leadership and workforce development opportunities

·       Provide more scholarships,  as we transition to the Bridging Foundation’s first full-time paid executive director (ED)

·       Collaboratively seek input from philanthropic partners, alumni, students, and other stakeholders

We want your input as we work our way through this transition.  And, we look forward to introducing you to our new ED when our search is complete.

Please contact me at espitzberg@jusfc.gov with any questions or ideas you have for upcoming virtual learning or other aspects of the Bridging Scholars program.

Thank you for your partnership, which encourages people-to-people exchanges that promote peace and illuminate our common goals.  We will get through this together and stronger.

Sincerely,

Ed Spitzberg
Interim Executive Director