Fulbright scholars a CSUN tradition

Jessica Estrada

Many of CSUN’s professors have been awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. The latest is Melissa Wall, a journalism professor.

The Fulbright Scholarship provides scholars with funding to travel to different countries and leave an impression in the communities they visit by nourishing them with their knowledge.  It is sponsored by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Around 50 Fulbright Scholarships have been awarded to CSUN scholars between 1980 to 2011 in a variety of different fields to travel to different places around the world from Indonesia to Portugal and Vietnam and immerse themselves in the cultures of their host countries.

“It gives faculty a chance not only to learn something new, but to experience the ordinary in different and sometimes extraordinary circumstances,” said David Ackerman, marketing professor and one the most recent recipients of a Fulbright Scholarship.

One of the goals of scholarship recipients is helping promote friendly relationships with other countries, said Justine Su, coordinator of International Programs from the Office of Graduate Studies.

There are different types of awards, Su said. Some scholars focus on teaching. Others conduct research. The length of the appointment varies, she added.

Some of the most recent Fulbright recipients shared their experience.

Ackerman taught graduate students at the National Chengchi University School of Communications in Taiwan in the Fal 2010 semester.

“Professionally and personally it was a great experience,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman taught consumer behavior and marketing to future journalists and broadcasters and also conducted research during his stay.

Not only did he have the opportunity to teach in a different culture but he also experienced teaching the subject from different perspectives of society rather than teaching it from the business perspective he was accustomed to.

He described it as a challenging and growing experience from which he learned new things from a different perspective.

Theater professor Annie Cleveland also received a teaching grant through the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Cleveland had the opportunity to spend an academic year as a Fulbright lecturer at the Department of Theatre and Drama at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan.

“Learning about other cultures was the most valuable aspect of the program. To see how people live, their food and their value system was very important,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland taught a number of courses during her stay in Taiwan from September 2009 to June 2010.

Her teaching focused on theater costume and makeup design with an emphasis on computer aided design. She taught students the advantages of incorporating new technology into the universities curricula and how to use computer programs like Photoshop and Painter to design theater costumes.

The most exciting part of her appointment was designing a production titled Critical Movement performed in Chinese. She described it as a challenging and unusual aspect of teaching.

Cleveland feels she left an impact in her students in Taiwan. Some students keep in contact with her and have sent her some of their work.

Chicano studies professor Diana Contreras used her scholarship to travel to St. Theresa’s College in Kochi, India to teach a series of lectures titled “Warriors of Change in Contemporary India.”

“My Fulbright experience was the ride of a lifetime,” she said.

Contreras brought her two children with her and they had the opportunity to experience India’s culture as well.

The goals of Contreras appointment were to teach, serve as a cultural ambassador representing the United States and to create a bridge between countries.

She said her most important accomplishment was culminating her lectures with a symposium called The Warrior Goddess Diva Women’s Symposium for the Development and Empowerment of Young Women. It allowed her students to participate in everything from the planning to the presentation of the event.

To see the level of commitment of students was admirable, memorable and brought great satisfaction, she said.

“I learned to be fearless, to be more compassionate, and to feel more alive. It made me a more efficient educator and leader,” Contreras said.