The Office of International Programs in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) hosted seven Fulbright Scholars from Lebanon as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Junior Faculty Development Program in rural and economic development.
The scholars represented a broad range of universities and regions within Lebanon. All have several years of university-level teaching experience, and many already have Ph.D. degrees. The intent of this program is to equip the scholars with the knowledge and tools needed to build the capacity of their home institutions and to advance the education of future generations.
“From four years of hosting this Fulbright program, we have learned it is equally enriching for the scholars and the University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana community,” says Alex Winter-Nelson, director of the ACES Office of International Programs.
The scholars, who stayed on campus for 10 weeks from early July through mid-September, expanded their professional skills in both teaching and research through 1) assignment to an Illinois professor who served as a mentor/collaborator and 2) instructional training for teaching provided by the University of Illinois’ Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL).
Additionally the scholars acquired an understanding of the U.S. context for higher education, research, governance, and culture. On a personal level, they engaged in the local community through an assigned “community host” as well as through interaction with various service and community organizations.
The Fulbright program aims to be mutually beneficial for the visitors and the hosts; thus the benefits for Illinois are also numerous.
“By building links to institutions of higher education in Lebanon, we will facilitate access for our scholars to campuses in that country. Scholarship in many areas could be enhanced by unique opportunities for interaction with institutions of higher education that are particularly difficult for scholars to visit in the absence of well-defined scholarly relationships. We also hope to contribute to cultural exchange and mutual understanding on this campus and in our community,” explained Winter-Nelson.
The program closed with a poster session and ceremony to celebrate the scholars’ academic accomplishments as well as the relationships formed.
Every year’s scholars have been thankful and appreciative of their time at Illinois, but often they understandably are homesick after the 10 weeks. This year’s scholars, however, did not seem ready to leave the Illinois campus.
“These ten weeks flew by,” and “Is it possible to postpone our flights?” were just a couple of the compliments overheard at the closing ceremony, demonstrating the significance and value of this experience. Also, this particular group grew very close to each other. “We came as individuals but we are leaving as a team,” one said.
Lasting collaborations inspired by this year’s program are already in the works.
“One scholar has started the process of linking her home institution with the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition through a formal agreement, which would ensure the continuation of the collaborative work between her and her mentor, as well as create a platform for future faculty and student engagements on both sides. And another scholar is planning to publish a co-authored paper with her mentor,” said Suzana Palaska, associate director of the Office of International Programs.
This year’s Fulbright mentors were:
- Dr. David Rousch (Agricultural Education)
- Dr. Mindy Mallory (Agricultural and Consumer Economics)
- Dr. Brenna Ellison (Agricultural and Consumer Economics)
- Dr. Adam Osman (Economics)
- Dr. Hadi Esfahani (Economics)
- Dr. Mike Miller (Food Science and Human Nutrition)
- Dr. Matthew Stasiewicz (Food Science and Human Nutrition)
Other members of the Fulbright program team included:
- Cheelan Bo-Linn, Senior Specialist in Education at CTLL who lead the scholars teaching workshops
- Dr. Mosbah Kushad, Associate Professor in Crop Sciences, who served as cultural coordinator
- Megan Davis, OIP Office Manager
- Nahla Kreidly, graduate student
The Fulbright Faculty Development Program is sponsored by the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. More information is here.