Last year, close to 300,000 travelers from around the globe descended on Austin, Texas to partake in South by Southwest, a music, film and creative economy conference and festival. This year, Eisenhower Fellows were present, visible and demonstrating their leadership and drive at SXSW, giving our Fellows and organization an opportunity to be showcased through various opportunities.

Jack Bienko (USA 2016), Cordell Carter (USA 2016), Chelsea Collier (USA 2016) and Nate Robinson (USA 2016) led a panel discussion that brought their experiences in China as Zhi-Xing Program participants to light. The session –“American Innovators in China”—demonstrated the power that global exchange and thinking can bring to a leader. Session attendees heard details about Eisenhower Fellowships’ history and mission, our core beliefs, our program in China and the ways in which the experience helped to pivot career decisions and trajectories for our Fellows. Our Fellows highlighted economic and social trends they saw while traveling through China for 4 weeks, and discussed opportunities they saw for each of them to develop their own interests post-fellowship.

Fellows Anu Passi-Rauste (Finland 2014) and William Hurley (USA 2018) gave mini-presentations to fellow Fellows and guests at a networking breakfast hosted by Eisenhower Fellowships. Passi-Rauste, now working in collaboration with Harri Ketamo (Finland 2017) through HeadAI, the company he co-founded, demonstrated the power of innovation and technology through microcompetency skill development and personalized learning, a pitch that she also gave during the international accelerator start-up competition at SXSW. Hurley, a.k.a. whurley, gave a preview to his keynote speech on quantum computing that he delivered to an audience of 5,000 people. Looking to understand what quantum computing is in a very simple way? Check out his latest book here.

Josh Baer (USA 2015) hosted an estimated 20,000 guests at Capital Factory, the start-up accelerator hub that he founded in Austin to be the “center of gravity for entrepreneurs in Texas”. Chelsea Collier (USA 2016) hosted several sessions through Digi.City, the entity that she founded as a direct result of her fellowship experience in China. Digi.City is a platform designed to discuss the policy behind deploying and supporting smart city technology.

South by Southwest dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. The event, an essential destination for global professionals, was an invaluable platform for Eisenhower Fellowships to increase the visible and impact of our organization and Fellows. The perfect convergence of SXSW and our Eisenhower Fellows proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together, keeping in true fashion with the #EFjourney.


Featured from left to right: Chris Laing (USA 2015), Cordell Carter II (USA 2016), Kristen Hess (USA 2016), Nate Robinson (USA 2016), Chelsea Collier (USA 2016), Will Hurley (USA 2018), Anu Passi-Rauste (Finland 2014), Romana Lee-Akiyama (Senior Program Officer, Network Engagement, EF), Adam Zuckerman (USA 2018), Jack Bienko (USA 2016)
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