Fulbright Connections –
Going Abroad and Hosting
Dr. Kristi Johnson and Dr. Shelly Haser*
Have you ever thought about
applying for a Fulbright grant or hosting a foreign faculty recipient of
such a grant at your institution? The following accounts briefly relate
what Dr. Shelly Haser experienced as a U.S. faculty member on a
Fulbright Lecturer grant in the Slovak Republic and what Dr. Kristi
Johnson’s efforts entailed to try and bring a Fulbright
scholar-in-residence to Marymount University.
Part I: Going Abroad
Dr. Haser was awarded a
Fulbright lecturer grant for a semester at Comenius University in
Bratislava, Slovakia. As a U.S. faculty member there, she would teach
three courses, two of which were an introduction course on U.S. special
education to undergraduate Slovak students. The third course was on the
etiology of emotional disabilities. In turn, Dr. Haser would learn about
the special education program at Comenious University, which had a
unique emphasis on a therapeutic approach through literacy and the arts.
The whole semester was a learning experience for her beginning in late
January with the three-day orientation in Telc, Czech Republic.
The spring University
semester in Slovakia commenced in mid-February and ended mid-May For the
“Introduction to U.S. Special Education” course, Dr. Haser modified the
course syllabus used at her home institution. She taught two sections
of this course. The first class had 24 students ages 19 or 20 who were
taking the class to satisfy two University requirements: one was a
foreign language since the class was in English and the second was an
elective. Overwhelmingly, the students were interested in the topic and
wanted to improve their English skills.
Dr. Haser’s teaching methods
were a combination of lecture and interactive activities. This style
was different from what the students were accustomed to. At first, they
were more comfortable with straight lecture; however, after a few
meeting times, they liked the interaction and looked forward to the
engaging activities. The varied interaction enhanced the class
During the semester, Dr. Haser had opportunities to learn from her
foreign colleagues as well in the area of “biblio-therapy.” This was a
new topic for Dr. Haser and she was able to incorporate this body of
knowledge into her teaching in the U.S. Before leaving, Dr., Haser was
invited to give a lecture on a “Snapshot of U.S. Education”, which
included a question and answer session with about 50 students and
What was learned from the
semester abroad as a Fulbright Lecturer? Generally speaking, Dr. Haser
found that students who choose to become teachers have a basic desire to
learn and help others. Also, she stretched her teaching and
communication skills to connect effectively with foreign colleagues and
students. In addition, new relationships were forged including those
with other U.S. Fulbright faculty who were spending time teaching in
Slovak institutions of higher education. Also, one of Dr. Haser’s
students came to the U.S. to visit her two summers in a row.
Part II: A University’s Pursuit
The other side to the Fulbright experience involves hosting
a foreign faculty member at a U.S. institution. The concept of a
visiting scholar who would teach, research, and participate in academic
activities while living in an academic community would provide a
perspective that was unparalleled. One thought was that Marymount
University’s faculty members would benefit and the students who were
fortunate enough to attend classes of a visiting faculty member would
benefit as well. To move this idea to another level, Dr. Johnson
contacted a professor in the sociology department at Marymount
University and together the two faculty members embarked on a long
journey toward developing a proposal to apply for a Fulbright
Before submitting the
proposal to the Fulbright Commission, a plan was presented to University
administrators for their approval. After gaining the appropriate
University support, the final proposal was prepared requesting an
individual for the Scholar-in-Residence program. The original proposal
was accepted and an award was granted to the University for a visiting
scholar who would teach and collaborate with the U.S. faculty members on
comparative immigrant issues, policy study, and social justice.
Proposed outcome goals of
hosting a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence included expanding
international thinking and experiences of students and faculty at
Marymount, extending global interests, and exposing different cultural
backgrounds and ideas. During Dr. Johnson’s endeavor, there were
several obstacles along this journey, not the least being financial.
The first block involved living expenses in metropolitan Washington,
D.C. The Fulbright living stipend was not enough and it was difficult
to obtain internal extra funding to augment this stipend.
Unfortunately, there was a time limit for the Fulbright Award and
Marymount University was not able to work within that timeframe.
Currently, Marymount University still intends to identify a foreign
Fulbright scholar for the interdisciplinary setting. Dr. Johnson and
the University have confidence that the right match will happen.
Both “connections” of a
Fulbright experience – going abroad and hosting – have possibilities for
students and faculty to learn and grow.
*Shelly Haser, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Education Dept. Chair
School of Education and Human Services
2807 N. Glebe Road
Arlington, VA 22207
Kristi Planck Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor of Education
2807 North Glebe Road
Arlington, Virginia 22207