Throughout his career, naturalized American angel investor Shervin Pishevar has been interested in education and building international relationships. One major milestone of this endeavor is his appointment to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
Appointed by the president of the United States, the prestigious 12-member Fulbright board meets quarterly in Washington, D.C. The board establishes worldwide policies and procedures for the Fulbright program. It also maintains a close relationship with both the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the executive directors of each of the binational Fulbright Commissions.
Pishevar’s appointment came in 2015 through President Barack Obama. Pishevar was also responsible in this role for providing, along with other board members, an annual report on the state of the program.
The Fulbright program is an important part of U.S. history and international cultural exchange.
September 1945 – The freshman senator J. William Fulbright introduced a bill to Congress that called for the use of proceeds from sales of surplus war property to fund the promotion of international goodwill through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture, and science. President Harry Truman signed the Fulbright Act into law the following year.
Today, Fulbright is a widely recognized international exchange program that is supported by taxpayers through an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress. Additional funding comes from partner nations. Annually, the Fulbright Program supports more than 8,000 students, scholars, artists, and professionals from the United States and more than 160 other countries to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas, and find solutions to shared international challenges.
The Fulbright program actively seeks out individuals of achievement and potential who represent the full diversity of their respective societies and selects nominees through open, merit-based competitions. Even before his appointment to the board, Pishevar was seeking to encourage individuals with leadership potential. In 2013, he created the Cyrus Prize, which is a $100,000 grant for Iranian inventors named after Cyrus the Great.
People involved with the Fulbright program have a unique opportunity to help address critical priorities in all world areas while building relationships, cultural understanding, and leadership. The program has prepared participants to address major global challenges, from issues relating to energy and economic development to global health, food security, clean water, and sustainability.
Seeking out and encouraging people with leadership potential to help solve global challenges is something that Pishevar has often supported through his many charity organization involvements. He supports Build.org and the Malala Fund, which provides funding to help girls in developing nations go to school and reach their full potential.
The Malala Fund is an international non-profit organization founded by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. The stated goal of the organization is to ensure 12 years of free, safe, and quality education for girls. As of January 2019, the organization has 24 staff members and receives grants of roughly $4 million per year.
The first contribution to the Malala Fund in 2013 came from American actress Angelina Jolie, who gave a $200,000 personal donation. The funds were used to fund girls’ education in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where Malala Yousafzai is from.
Malala and Ziauddin Yousafzai founded the Malala Fund in 2013 to champion every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, and quality education. Together, the board, leadership council, staff, and supporters are creating a more equal world by making sure that all girls can go to school. The Malala Fund works in regions where the most girls miss out on secondary education. The priority countries are Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey.
In 2018, Apple Inc. partnered with the Malala Fund to fund expansion to India and Latin America and provide technology, curriculum assistance, and policy research with the goal of educating more than 100,000 girls.
In addition to his support of the Malala Fund, Pishevar has traveled to Africa as a volunteer with Invisible Children and has served with charity: water, an organization that works to provide clean water to developing nations. These works of charity also mirror the Fulbright mission of building relationships through education, which ultimately leads to economic opportunity and cultural understanding.
The Fulbright Program awards merit-based grants annually to students, scholars, teachers, artists, scientists, and professionals from across the United States. In a celebration of diversity, these Fulbright scholars are chosen from hundreds of institutions. The selected scholars study, teach, and research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.
Global issues and education are part of Pishevar’s personal and professional investment mission.
His formal education includes attending Montgomery Blair High School, where he was voted as a student member onto the Montgomery Board of Education.
Montgomery Blair High School has a long history of diversity, global issues, and student achievement, which likely contributed to Pishevar’s early interest in world affairs. Located in Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., the school’s alumni also includes:
- Thomas Norris, the Navy SEAL who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War
- Carl Bernstein, the journalist and author known for breaking the Watergate scandal
Google Vice-President of Design Matias Duarte
- American actor, screenwriter, and film director Sylvestor Stallone
- Novelist Nora Roberts
- Jacob Lurie, professor of mathematics at Harvard University and winner of the MacArthur Fellowship and Breakthrough Prize in mathematics
The school’s social studies department offers honors and advanced placement courses in U.S. History, American Government and Politics, and World History, as well as elective courses including African American History, Latin American History, European History, Middle East History, Comparative Government, Comparative Religion, Cultural Anthropology, Administration of Justice, International Human Rights, Economics, and Psychology.
Montgomery Blair High School has historically been a popular stop for many politicians because of the school’s proximity to the nation’s capital. Politicians making visits have included President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Congressmen Jamie Raskin and Ted Deutch. The main hallway of the school, “Blair Boulevard,” displays flags from many countries, representing its extremely diverse student body.
Even after leaving Montgomery Blair High School, Pishevar remained interested in education and institutions with a reputation for global influence. The University of California, Berkeley, is described as a place where the brightest minds from across the globe come together to explore, ask questions, and improve the world. Pishevar studied cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and became the editor in chief of Berkeley’s undergraduate research journal, Berkeley Scientific.
Working under the coordinating efforts of the UC Berkeley Public Service Center, more than 5,000 students volunteer directly with 250 community partners each year. They spend hundreds of hours tutoring children in local schools, working with nonprofits to boost self sufficiency in low-income neighborhoods, and helping local governmental agencies best serve their constituencies. While studying at the university, Pishevar volunteered in the emergency room of a local children’s hospital. He also contacted the writer of a New York Times article in 1994 to see how he could help a Bosnian children’s clinic doctor that was mentioned in a story about the Bosnian War.
Pishevar admits that his parents were disappointed that he did not study to become a doctor. While at the University of California, Berkeley, Pishevar discovered that a career in medicine was not really his passion. Business investing and networking was where he found his niche, and the investment career that followed included work co-founding an investment company, where he helped raise and invest over $650 million.
On April 5, 2019, the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the Fulbright Board agreed to expand their partnership. The new expanded agreement will seek to increase the number of Fulbright participants to and from the Smithsonian Institution, enhance the U.S. Department of State’s ongoing efforts to diversify the pool of Fulbright applicants and participants, increase the number of Fulbright-producing and Fulbright-hosting institutions, better connect with Fulbright alumni, and increase institutional partnerships for the Fulbright program. In recent years, the Fulbright Commissions in Ireland and the United Kingdom have established joint research programs in partnership with the Smithsonian.
Pishevar was chosen by the U.S. government as an Outstanding American by Choice, one of the only 100 naturalized U.S. citizens to be chosen since the beginning of the award. He has served on the advisory board of Comscore, was one of the 10 members of the U.N. Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, served as an entrepreneurial ambassador in several state department delegations to the Middle East and Russia, and was a keynote speaker at President Obama’s Summit on entrepreneurship in Algeria. He was a member of the technology, media, and telecommunications policy working group that helped create the Obama Technology and Innovation Plan in 2008. During his tenure with the United Nations Foundation council, Pishevar helped create the U.N.’s first mobile application.
In the same way that the Fulbright Program seeks to make a significant and lasting local impact, Pishevar works to invest in businesses that address global challenges.
Pishevar believes that education contributes to business, and startups have the power to change the world in places that are struggling economically. These new businesses can bring economic opportunity into new places that build hope and positivity. In the same way, when Fulbright scholars return to their home countries, they bring their stories and often work to promote lifelong collaborations between communities.
U.S. citizens interested in the Fulbright Program should contact the cooperating agency that administers the grant program in which they are interested. Foreign citizens interested in the Fulbright Program should contact the Fulbright commission in their home country or, where no commission exists, the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries to promote friendly and peaceful relations. The agencies accomplish this mission through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges that engage youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders in the United States and more than 160 other countries.
In his appointment to the Fulbright board, Pishevar’s name is now recorded, along with other widely-known leaders in education, cultural exchange, and global opportunity.
The first Fulbright board included Philip Willkie, attorney, Rushville, Indiana; Dr. Francis S. Smyth, dean, Medical School, University of California; Helen C. White, professor of English, University of Wisconsin; Dr. Martin R. P. McGuire, professor of Greek and Latin, Catholic University of America; Dr. Charles S. Johnson, president, Fisk University; Dr. Frederick L. Hovde, president, Purdue University; Col. John N. Andrews, personal representative of the administrator of Veterans Affairs; Dr. Walter Johnson, chairman, Department of History, University of Chicago; Russell L. Riley, director, International Educational Exchange Service; Dr. Samuel M. Brownell, U.S. commissioner of education; Dr. Francis J. Colligan, executive secretary of the Board of Foreign Scholarships; Donald B. Lourie, undersecretary of state for administration; Senator J. William Fulbright; and Joseph B. Phillips, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs.
Shervin Pishevar remains an advocate for human rights. On January 27, 2011, following the Egyptian government’s shutdown of the internet, Pishevar initiated the Open Mesh Project when he called for help to create software that could turn laptops into low-cost internet routers to form a mesh network. In the United States, Pishevar has also been an advocate of the Startup Visa Act, which would create a new type of two-year visa for immigrant entrepreneurs. In 2016, Pishevar proposed a mobile app that could share information between police officers and citizens during traffic stops before officers approached a stopped car to reduce the number of police shootings and the necessity of face-to-face contact for traffic stops. In 1996, he co-authored an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that helped lead to the Istanbul Protocol, the first set of international guidelines for documentation of torture.
Pishevar often connects with people from all walks of life in social media.
This also means if you have trouble getting food on the table or pay for school supplies or tuition or pay for rent send me your problem. Just ask me. I will try help. #howcanihelp https://t.co/7tc4jpvmZS
— shervin pishevar (@shervin) July 13, 2018
On Twitter, Pishevar started the #howcanihelpyou movement, offering assistance to people in need and encouraging others to do the same. Pishevar has often stated in interviews that his philanthropy is important to his life’s work.
In 2016, Pishevar was selected as an Ellis Island Medal of Honor award winner. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is an American award founded by the Ellis Island Honors Society. The awards are presented annually to recognize American citizens for achievements and service. Past medalists include seven U.S. presidents, several world leaders, two Nobel Prize winners, and countless leaders of industry, education, the arts, sports, and government, along with everyday Americans who have made freedom, liberty, and compassion a part of their lives’ work.
As a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Pishevar’s name appears in the Congressional Record. The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress, published by the United States Government Publishing Office and issued when Congress is in session. At the end of a session of Congress, the daily editions are compiled in bound volumes constituting the permanent edition. Both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Shervin Pishevar is one of the world’s top venture capital investors and has several times been named to The Midas List by Forbes as one of the top 100 venture investors.