Awards support overseas research, teaching

Erin Ghere

Angelita Reyes didn’t know what to expect when she applied for the Fulbright Scholar Program, but she came away with an experience she won’t soon forget.
“I still have it in me after three years,” said Reyes, an associate professor in African-American studies who traveled and taught abroad during the 1996-97 program.
A Fulbright representative showed other faculty members how they could have a similar experience at a Wednesday workshop in Coffman Union.
The Fulbright program — available to faculty and students — allows faculty “to exchange academic and cultural ideas,” said Kathleen Sellew, the director of faculty services in the Institute of International Studies and Programs.
William J. Fulbright began the Fulbright Scholar Program in 1948, when he was a U.S. senator. About 800 awards are available to graduate students and recent graduates.
“The Fulbright program is serving as a cultural and educational ambassador for the United States,” said Karen Adams, a senior Fulbright program officer.
Wednesday’s workshop — one of about 50 that Fulbright representatives offer around the country each year — taught faculty how to apply for Fulbright’s financial grants, Sellew said.
The program gives three types of awards: lecturing, research and combination, Adams said. Although many people think only research-oriented travel is funded, nearly 75 percent of awards involve teaching, she added.
Each year, the Fulbright program distributes 700 to 850 awards to a pool of up to 2,000 applicants, Adams said.
Awards pay a monthly stipend, ranging from $1,700 to $3,500 depending on faculty status and program type, plus allowances for living expenses and travel to the country.
Faculty members stay abroad between three and nine months, depending on the country, Adams said.
Applications for the 2001-02 academic year will be available this spring through the Institute of International Studies and Programs.
The University sends an average of four or five professors on the program each year, said Gayla Marty, communication coordinator for the department of international studies.
“We’ve had years where 17 awards were given to University professors, and we’ve had other years where as little as two have received awards,” Marty added.
Adams stressed that faculty members should know where and why they would like to travel before applying.
“It is very important to do your homework on where you want to go because of language, cultural and safety issues,” Reyes said. “You have to make sure it is a good fit for you.”
Sellew said faculty members go abroad for many different reasons, including research projects, collaboration with faculty in other countries and sabbaticals.
Although faculty members might teach the same subjects abroad as at the University, both Reyes and Irving Fang, a journalism professor who taught in the Philippines during the 1996-97 school year, said teaching foreign students is very different.
“Students there have half the education of American students but 10 times the drive, motivation and willingness to learn of University students,” Fang said. “I’ve never been so appreciated as a professor in my whole life.”
Reyes said the caliber of students in Benin was unusually high.
“Benin is a very poor country, so the students there were humble, knowing that their families had to sacrifice for them to be there,” she said. “Three hundred students would literally pack into a room the size of a small classroom and get upset when they sometimes couldn’t get in.”
Fang was in an impoverished area as well. He said students could only get materials by copying books because they didn’t have enough money to buy textbooks.
While on the Fulbright program, Reyes participated in the Benin Peace Corps and traveled to Nigeria, Senegal and the Ivory Coast.
Fang also visited China, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore while in the South Pacific. He enjoyed Singapore so much that he now teaches at a university there each spring.
When Reyes worked in Benin, a French-speaking country in west Africa, she brought her 12-year-old daughter along.
Although her daughter was reluctant to go, after two months, she loved it so much she didn’t want to return home and now speaks perfect French, Reyes said.
For more information on the Fulbright Scholar Program or other international opportunities, contact the Institute of International Studies and Programs.

Erin Ghere covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217. Peter Frost covers business and welcomes comments at [email protected]