Using journalism to strengthen democracy


Yuli Ismartono (Indonesia ’97), Uni Lubis (Indonesia ’11), and Natalia Soebagjo (Indonesia ‘90)

Three Eisenhower Fellows, all women, all from Indonesia, are using their fellowship experiences across decades to collaborate and enact change in Southeast Asia.

Yuli Ismartono, a prominent journalist and media trailblazer, uses communications to build democracy in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. During her Eisenhower Fellowship in 1997, her publication was banned by the government. She had to re-establish a path for herself, switching careers from print to television. In her work post-fellowship, she introduced “taboo” topics such as domestic violence and LGBTQ issues, for which she received criticism from religious conservatives.

For the last decade, since creating AsiaViews, she and Eisenhower Fellows Natalia Soebagjo (Indonesia ’90) and Mari Pangestu (Indonesia ’90) have forged a path of unifying the countries of Southeast Asia through their English-based website. Her ultimate goal: to bring together the community of ASEAN people to share their strengths.

Soebagjo has found that her life shifted since her fellowship. Soebagjo had professionally worked in finance and the securities market,  but when she went back to Indonesia in 1990 to begin community development and rebuilding work, she realized that communities were left without resources due to corruption. This motivated her to join Transparency International, where she currently serves on the Board, along with three other Eisenhower Fellows. This is her way to take an active stand against corruption in both her home country and across the globe. She was motivated to join AsiaViews to raise the voices of Southeast Asian expert journalists. Often, she observed, commentators from the West wrote about Southeast Asia, but were not actually experts. She wanted to shift this dynamic.

Uni Lubis has spent 27 years in journalism using different media platforms, and now has a strong focus on digital media and is a keen observer of how millennials interact with it. She seeks to understand what millennials have in common around the world.

Listen here to Yuli Ismartono’s story. To learn about Uni Lubis and Natalia Soebagjo, listen here.

Featured from left to right: Natalia Sobegjo, Uni Lubis, Mari Pangestu, and Yuli Ismartono.

Change & Innovation, Justice

Offering health and hope to immigrant communities

United States

“If there hadn’t been doctors in Tampa Bay who donated their time when I was young, my life would probably have been very different. Because of that I find my current work fulfilling and ironic”. – Jorge Riopedre (USA ’15)


Jorge Riopedre admits that his life would likely have taken a far different course had it not been for doctors who cared for him when he was a child. “I was born with pretty significant health problems,” he said, and complicating matters was the fact that he was the son of two Cuban immigrants who didn’t speak English.

Riopedre is the president of Casa de Salud, a healthcare center for the foreign born community of metropolitan St. Louis. Casa de Salud offers clinical care, mental health counseling, psychiatry, and a wide range of patient advocacy services for a flat fee of $25. As well, the organization collaborates with over 60 local and regional partners to create healthcare access for marginalized populations, and offers on-site classes on health related topics. Regardless of wealth, insurance, or legal status, Casa de Salud hopes to provide health care for immigrants and refugees from all nationalities.

Since taking over as president in 2011, Riopedre has guided the nonprofit into its current position as health care provider for over 4,000 people annually, delivering over 10,000 patient services in the St. Louis community. As just one example, he told a story about a woman who had endometrial cancer. Casa de Salud completed all the paperwork, found a hospital that would do surgery for free, and four days later she had the surgery. Riopedre finds the work incredibly meaningful, and shares credit for the results with his team of talented individuals.


Providing access to quality education

United States

Susan Patrick (USA ’16) is the president and chief executive officer of the  International Association for K – 12 Online Learning (iNACOL) based in Washington, D.C. She traveled to New Zealand and France in a quest to examine and compare leading educational systems in economically developed countries with the United States in terms of how education innovation and policy support for future-focused learning. She came away with so much more, including a bolder vision for education transformation in the United States.

While on fellowship, Patrick confirmed her belief that the first order of business is examining how to create equitable, high-quality and effective educational systems. Her notion of innovation expands beyond technology to include contemporary and student-centered learning methodologies. She saw that education systems are redefining what student success looks like, and this deeply involves the community in crafting educational goals to address complex global issues with social, racial and economic disparities.

Immediately after the fellowship, she was inspired to grow the research arm of iNACOL to deepen the understanding of global systems best practices with American policymakers. The research and advocacy work provides access to examples of successful education models from all over the world.

Patrick says that the challenge for change in the U.S. is massive given the scope and scale of the country — 50 states that set policies and local control in 13,600 school districts. The fact that federal policy is limited in its role (due to the omission in the U.S. Constitution) means the states are leading the way, with innovative districts, to drive transformation for the education system. To scale transformation in a just and equitable way is one of our biggest challenges, according to Patrick.

Despite the massive task ahead of her, Patrick has found great success in developing partnerships at the state level. Using her knowledge and experiences from the Eisenhower Fellowship, Patrick and her organization are leading work for education innovation in more than 38 states. Arkansas and New Mexico are two states where she saw the immediate effects of her fellowship journey.

In Arkansas, her presentation to a group of school district leaders, state representatives, and philanthropists led to a sponsored learning trip to New Zealand, a country with a national literacy rate of 99%. Sponsors sent local practitioners, educators, foundation staff and state administrators to learn from site visits with innovative schools in New Zealand, the Ministry of Education in New Zealand and non-profit partners like Core Education. The outcome of the trip was the development of an Office of Innovation at the Arkansas Department of Education, now housed at the University of Arkansas. For many practitioners from Arkansas, it was their first trip experiencing education models outside of the United States.

Her experiences in New Zealand also influenced her work in New Mexico, a state that is committed to addressing opportunity and achievement gaps through youth development and the dismantling of systemic inequity. New Zealand strongly supports and empowers its indigenous populations. Their focus on competency-based learning and initiatives that improve the transition from school to further study, work or training are particularly effective. They also provide a wider range of learning opportunities and make better use of the education network. Notably, New Zealand schools deeply involve community and rely on local wisdom to drive reciprocal accountability, which Patrick believes is an approach that could have significant implications for new education models and solutions to support youth, schools, communities and the future health and prosperity of citizens in the United States.

Patrick has partnered with Eisenhower Fellow Rhonda Broussard (USA ’14), to share knowledge and practices. Their virtual conversation can be found on Broussard’s blog, where the two dialog about current assumptions of the U.S. education system. The pair shares a strong commitment to supporting advancements in our public education system with a focus on equity and student agency. Innovations for equity are sorely needed if the U.S. as a whole wants to improve its overall outcomes in education and equality, which according to Patrick, have a long way to go.


susan patrick