Mason Students, Faculty and Staff Share Fulbright Experiences

Posted: May 23, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Since the Fulbright Scholar Program’s inception in 1946, approximately 279,500 people have been chosen to participate in the program’s educational activities – primarily university lecturing, advanced research, graduate study and teaching in elementary and public schools.

The third volume of the Diversity at Mason series, titled “Diversity at Mason: The Fulbright Experience” and published by the Diversity Research Group, offers reflections from Mason students, faculty and staff who have been named Fulbright Scholars and have studied, taught and conducted research abroad and at Mason. The volume will be available this summer.

Previous volumes in the series are “Diversity at Mason: Student Reflections” (June 2006) and “Valuing Written Accents: Non-native Students Talk about Identity, Academic Writing and Meeting Teachers’ Expectations” (June 2007).

As a recipient of a Fulbright scholarship who came from Sri Lanka to pursue graduate studies in architecture at Clemson University, Sandarshi Gunawardena, Mason assistant director of International Programs and Services, understands the importance of being handpicked as a Fulbright scholar.

“As a Fulbright scholar, I was not only given the opportunity to receive an educational degree, but was also an ambassador for my home country,” says Gunawardena. “It’s important that Fulbright scholars do not consider their experiences temporary. Being able to share the values and culture of another country helps to build bridges and connections and ultimately make the world a smaller place.”

The Diversity Research Group started as a University Life project by Karen Rosenblum, professor of sociology and anthropology. It is composed of administrative and instructional faculty who have been meeting once a semester since spring 2004 to explore diversity-related issues. Each meeting begins with the same reminder: Mason is a highly diverse institution that is marked by collaboration across instructional, student affairs and institutional support lines.

The inspiration for the latest volume came from two sources: the university’s receipt of the Institute of International Education’s award for internationalizing the campus and a set of posters on the Mason Fulbright Experience that were displayed during the 2007 Celebration of International Education.

The essays are organized around four major themes. The first grouping, “Reorienting,” includes essays from Nguyen Manh Hung, associate professor of public and international affairs; Jeffrey Stewart, professor of history and art history; David Haines, associate professor of sociology and anthropology; Elizabeth Chong, associate professor in the College of Health and Human Services; and Ronald Rotunda, Mason Foundation Professor in the School of Law.

These essays describe the manner in which their own conceptions and values about their country and its place in the world and their own place in the world were challenged and reconfigured.

The second grouping, “Changing,” includes essays from David Kravitz, associate professor in the School of Management; Lawrence Butler, associate professor of history and art history; Beth Bullard, assistant professor of music; Burcu Borhan, Mason student majoring in interdisciplinary studies; and Harold Linton, professor and chair of the Art and Visual Technology Department.

These essays describe the many personal and professional transformations that occurred during their Fulbright experience.

“Teaching,” the third grouping, includes essays from Rosemarie Zagarri, professor of art and art history; Marion Deshmukh, associate professor of history and art history; Rosenblum; and Steven Copley, core instructor and special projects coordinator for the English Language Institute.

The authors of these essays consider their experience of cross-cultural teaching and scholarship and how these have stimulated new ways of thinking and engaging students.

The final grouping, “Reminiscing,” includes essays from Rex Wade, professor of history and art history; Hazel McFerson, associate professor of public and international affairs; Saravanan Muthaiyah, Mason student majoring in information technology; and Kevin McCrohan, professor in the School of Management.

The authors of these essays remember the friendships and professional affiliations they have made that overcame the boundaries of place and time.

“This collection is more than a nostalgic recollection,” says Gunawardena. “It is an opportunity to promote empathy, tolerance and understanding among people from all over the world.”

For more information, see the web site or contact Gunawardena or Rosenblum for a pdf of the newest volume of essays.

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