Mason Professors Share Their Fulbright Experiences

Posted: May 21, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Faculty in Fulbright program
Karen Rosenblum, Roger Lancaster, Jo-Marie Burt and Lisa Pawloski are some of the Mason faculty members who have participated in the Fulbright Program, which seeks to promote “mutual understanding between people of the United States and the people of other countries in the world.”
Collage by Evan Cantwell

By Catherine Probst

As the world recovered from the devastation of World War II, U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright envisioned a program that would promote “mutual understanding between people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world.” Congress approved his vision, and the program was signed into law by President Truman in 1946.

Today the Fulbright Program unites the United States with more than 150 countries throughout the world. Being able to experience different cultures, form lasting bonds with colleagues from other nations and gain research and teaching insights has allowed many Mason professors over the years to share in what is known as the “Fulbright experience.”

Roger Lancaster is one Mason professor who has recently benefited from the Fulbright program. Professor in the department of Sociology and Anthropology and director of Cultural Studies, Lancaster traveled to Mexico in the summer of 2006 on a research/lecturer grant. He is now in Puebla, which he describes as “a charming colonial city of two million that is home to North America’s Volkswagen plant.”

While lecturing at the Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla, Lancaster is working on a research project titled “How Mexicans See the United States.” He hopes to write an interview-based book that will focus on work and the economy, American culture’s influence, race and ethnic relations, neoliberal globalization and America’s place in the world.

“If I’m successful, my ultimate goal is to have narratives by Mexicans from all walks of life,” says Lancaster.

When he returns from Mexico, Lancaster hopes to bring back to Mason some collaborative projects with Mexican universities. He says he has already spoken with several faculty members and administrators at some of the schools, and they have expressed a great interest in forging ongoing relationships with American universities.

Hung Nguyen
Hung Nguyen used his Fulbright scholarship to research U.S.-Vietnam relations.

Another Mason faculty member has already completed his Fulbright sojourn. Last summer, Hung Nguyen, associate professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs, traveled to Vietnam on a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research on U.S.-Vietnam relations.

Since Vietnam is a communist country, international studies, as it is known in the United States, is a very new field in the country and has only been recently allowed by the authorities, according to Nguyen.

“My language capability and understanding of both Vietnamese and American cultures gave me a clear advantage in conducting research and interacting with Vietnamese colleagues and students,” says Nguyen.

While in Vietnam, Nguyen gave seminars to faculty and graduate students at both Hanoi National University and Ho Chi Minh City National University and briefed the Prime Minister’s Research Group.

Karen Rosenblum also did some teaching during her Fulbright experience. A professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, she traveled to Japan in the fall of 2006 to teach Contemporary American Diversity in the American Studies programs of the University of Tokyo and Japan Women’s University.

According to Rosenblum, it was interesting to teach about the United States in the context of current Japanese social issues such as the falling Japanese birthrate, which affects the status and employment of women, as well as policies affecting families and immigration.

“The experience of teaching in Japan will probably prove life changing for me. The Fulbright program seems to have achieved its aim of expanding the view of a scholar who would otherwise be U.S. based and to give students outside the U.S. access to an ‘insider’s’ view of the country,” says Rosenblum.

Lisa Pawloski’s Fulbright trip to Rangsit, Thailand, in the summer of 2005 consisted of teaching and research. The associate professor and chair of the Department of Global and Community Health wanted to examine the nutritional status, knowledge and behaviors of adolescent boys and girls living in suburban Thailand.

While in Thailand, Pawloski participated in conferences related to health promotion and lectured to students at Mahidol and Thammasat Universities about nutrition issues. She was also invited to participate in the development of the 2005 Bangkok Charter on Health Promotion at the World Health Organization’s Sixth Global Conference on Health Promotion.

“This experience has allowed me to be able to publish and present my research at national and international conferences and hope that it will lead to programs aimed at preventing the spread of obesity,” says Pawloski.

Jo-Marie Burt, assistant professor in the department of Public and International Affairs, visited the Pontific Catholic University, one of the most prestigious private universities in Peru, in the summer of 2006. Her research focused on the efforts to pursue justice in cases of human rights violations in Peru.

Burt gave lectures on the impact of political violence on civil society, participated in a conference on gender at the Catholic University and presented a paper on the role women played in Peru’s armed conflict between 1980 and 2000.

“My lectures emphasized the importance of telling the story of women as participants and subjects, not simply as victims during the armed conflict,” says Burt. “The Peruvian truth commission, created in 2001, has made enormous gains in raising awareness about gender and how women experience armed conflict in ways that are different from men.”

According to Burt, Mason students can benefit from being exposed to the efforts of people in other societies who are struggling for justice and to establish or preserve democracy. In addition, her experience has led to a new initiative she is directing under the auspices of the Center for Global Studies focusing on transitional and transnational justice. In that effort, Mason scholars have developed a collaborative research agenda on the issues of human rights, truth, justice and reconciliation.

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