US-UK Fulbright Commission: Appointment of new Executive Director

The Fulbright Commission is delighted to announce the appointment of Maria Balinska as our new Executive Director. She will succeed Penny Egan, who will be retiring from the Commission, in July 2019.

Maria Balinska has an appropriately transatlantic background. Born in the US, she was educated there and in Europe before joining the BBC in London in 1991, where she worked until 2009 as a producer and then senior editor focusing on international affairs. She returned to the US in 2009 on a Nieman fellowship at Harvard and subsequently founded Latitude News, an experiment in reporting America’s links with the rest of the world in new ways.  In 2014 Maria joined the launch team of The Conversation US, a non-profit digital daily where the content is authored by academics and edited by journalists for the benefit of news organisations and the general public.  She is now The Conversation’s co-CEO and Editor-in-Chief.  In her present and previous roles she has had extensive contact with universities and individual academics, and is a strong supporter of the Fulbright mission of expanding international educational and cultural exchange, and making it widely accessible.

Over the past decade under Penny Egan the US-UK Fulbright programme has grown massively – from 39 awards in 2007 to 123 awards today. We have maintained our funding from the US, UK and Scottish Governments, but added dozens of new partnerships with universities, enabling us to expand our programme.  We have also won support from foundations, corporate sponsors, research charities and individual donors, and partnered with the Sutton Trust to create a new programme which is this year sending over 70 British state school students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds for undergraduate study in world-class American universities.  The Commission wishes to reiterate our gratitude for Penny’s outstandingly successful leadership.

We are confident that Maria Balinska has the strategic ambition, ability to build lasting partnerships, innovative flair, all round leadership and communications skills and commitment to diversity to continue to promote and grow our programme, and put it on a solid financial foundation for the long term. 

The Commission’s Chairman, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, commented: ‘We are delighted that Maria Balinska will lead our programme into our eighth decade.  Fulbright occupies an important place in higher education on both sides of the Atlantic, and Maria’s personal and professional qualities give us great confidence that we can grow the programme, increase access and diversity even more, and build new links with donors and stakeholders.’

Maria Balinska

Maria Balinska said, ‘I am honoured to be taking the helm of an organization critical to the future of international educational exchange and synonymous with excellence. There has rarely been a more important time for a fellowship with the “immodest aim” – as William Fulbright put it -- of fostering leadership, learning and empathy between cultures. I very much look forward to building on Penny Egan’s impressive work and continuing to grow and diversify the Fulbright Commission’s importance.

Notes for Editors:

  • Penny Egan has been Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission since February 2007.   Following the announcement of her retirement, the Commission (fourteen Commissioners appointed by the US, UK and Scottish Governments) have conducted a search for a successor assisted by the executive search firm, Odgers Berndtsen.  Penny Egan will continue in her role until the end of June 2019, and Maria Balinska will take over as executive Director on 1 July 2019.
  • The US-UK Fulbright Commission was founded by diplomatic treaty in 1948, to foster intercultural understanding between the USA and the UK through educational exchange. It continues to support Senator Fulbright’s vision through scholarship and summer programmes, as well as through its EducationUSA advising service, supporting British and American citizens to study, research or teach at universities on either side of the Atlantic.
  • Maria Balinska’s CV can be found here.