The list of West Virginia University’s Fulbright recipients grew again during the last several months as one administrator and one faculty member secured grants to travel abroad to share and add to their skills and knowledge.
Jennifer Douglas, the director of faculty and graduate student support at WVU, traveled to the United Kingdom for three weeks in August as part of the Fulbright International Education Administrators Program.
Gerard D’Souza, professor and chair of the Agricultural and Resource Economics Program in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, traveled to Paraguay for two weeks earlier this semester.
With these two, the number of faculty and staff at WVU who have earned Fulbright grants rose to 66 since 1968. A total of six trips were taken this year. WVU has received a total of 71 Fulbright awards, as some have received two or three in their careers.
Currently, there are 30 faculty or staff at the University who have received Fulbright opportunities. Six of those 30 have had two opportunities.
“I am tremendously proud of our two most recent faculty Fulbright award winners,” said Provost Michele Wheatly. “Dr. Douglas’s experience on her Fulbright will benefit WVU graduate students for years to come, while Dr. D’Souza’s recent opportunity to conduct research internationally will enrich his contributions to the field.
“Our faculty continue to inspire all of us here at WVU. These Fulbright awards show our students that our faculty members are not just teachers, but lifelong learners of the highest caliber,” Wheatly said.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program and is supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world.
Douglas was part of a group of 20 American administrators ranging from academic provosts to student affairs vice presidents who traveled to 11 different colleges and universities throughout the UK.
“We had a lot of common challenges and common excitement in working with students,” Douglas said. “Regardless of the size of the school, everyone was trying to make their students more prepared to go into the workforce and be more well-rounded people.”
Earlier this year, Douglas’ role at WVU grew outside the realm of graduate education and now includes faculty development. Her position is part of WVU’s Academic Innovation department.
Through panel discussions, workshops and presentations, Douglas was able to learn more about each institution’s most impressive programs. She hopes to find links between WVU and those schools in the future. One in particular would be the Imperial College London, which focuses its research in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
“We had chances to learn more about their educational systems, exchange ideas and to think about possibilities for partnerships and internationalization opportunities,” said Douglas, who has been at WVU since 2009.
Since she’s returned to campus, Douglas has been trying to nurture the relationships she made in the UK and help to develop future partnerships between those schools and WVU. She has already been in touch with the Office of International Programs about potential exchange opportunities.
In the future, Douglas hopes to collaborate with those schools with similar research interests.
Douglas noticed that the UK has a robust professional development program for its master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral students and would like to implement some of those into the way WVU is preparing its graduates for the real world.
As a Fulbright Specialist, D’Souza received this opportunity after being chosen based on need by the Fulbright Foundation.
“I met with various faculty members, with college students and even gave a weekend talk to high school students who were learning English through the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay,” he said. “The purpose of the trip was for them to understand how we in the U.S. deal with issues like environmental equality, energy and sustainability.”
While in Paraguay, D’Souza presented a series of nine different lectures on various topics including environmental economics, sustainability, water quality and agribusiness. Those presentations were put together with the help from six students and young professionals from Paraguay that D’Souza calls Team ParagUSA. The seven have stayed in touch through Facebook since D’Souza’s return to the U.S.
As part of his presentation, D’Souza discussed how the U.S. has dealt with pollution and cleanup in the Chesapeake Bay as a way to inform Paraguayans of how to improve the conditions of its Blue Lake, which has turned green due to algae pollution.
D’Souza came back to WVU with a new appreciation for Paraguay – and even went so far to say that it could be considered the green energy capital of the world by 2020.
“It’s a well-kept secret. It’s a very young and vibrant country. It has a lot of potential,” said D’Souza, who has been at WVU for nearly 30 years. “The potential comes from its rich national resource base that includes fertile land and good-flowing rivers. It has a reputation as a generator of green energy and hydroelectric energy and as a destination for extreme sports.”
D’Souza hopes to develop a joint academic partnership between WVU and Paraguay. It would be the first of its kind for both the University and the country.
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