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Fulbright Scholarship Success

Published: June 6, 2016

When executive director of the Center for International Education Terrence Graham heard that CSULB had been recognized as one of the top producers of Fulbright scholarship recipients in the nation for the 2015-16 academic year, he immediately knew why.

“The credit for the recognition of CSULB as a top producer of Fulbright scholars goes to the campus faculty themselves,” said Graham, who came to CSULB from the American Councils for International Education in Washington D.C. where he served as director of higher education programs. “We have faculty members who are internationally engaged. There is a growing momentum at CSULB right now around bringing international dimensions to campus in a comprehensive way. That translates to faculty who want to pursue Fulbrights.”

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 360,000 participants with the opportunity to finding solutions to international concerns. More than 1,100 U.S. college and university faculty and administrators, professionals, artists, journalists, scientists, lawyers and independent scholars are awarded Fulbright grants to teach and/or conduct research annually. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program operates in more than 125 countries throughout the world.

Graham believes CSULB has many qualities that support an international outlook.

“It comes from diversity in both the faculty and the students,” he said. “Right now, we have more than 3,000 international students here. They bring perspectives from all over the world. We have active participation in study abroad. This summer, we have 40-plus faculty members taking student groups all over the world. With a diverse student body like ours, CSULB is an internationally connected place. Faculty want to come here because they see CSULB is connected to the world.”

Graham sympathizes with concerns about the safety of accepting Fulbrights after the slaying of CSULB Design major Nohemi Gonzalez in the Paris terror attacks in November 2015.

“However, an interesting study came out in March from the Forum on Education Abroad that reviewed insurance data to show that it is actually safer to be a student abroad than to be a student on a U.S. campus,” he said. “Safety is an exaggerated concern even today. I don’t think fear gets in the way of faculty applying for Fulbrights.”

The process begins with the individual faculty member who sees an opportunity.

“Each Fulbright opportunity is usually specific to the faculty member’s instructional field,” Graham explained. “We do informational gatherings such as in January 2015 when we hosted a Fulbright program representative here on campus. It is a chance to think several years in the future about the best time for a Fulbright.”

Geological Sciences’ Lora Stevens-Landon, who directs CSULB’s Paleoclimatology Research Lab, used her first Fulbright to research paleoclimatology in Vietnam from 2013-14, a place she first visited in 2000. The Vietnam National University in Hanoi sponsored her work with the Geology Department at the Hanoi University of Science and the International Center for Advanced Research in Global Change. There, she worked with scientists and students to pursue research that reconstructed past climatic changes from lake sediments.

“I’ve got lake mud in my lab and people grinding away at it all the time,” she said. “Fulbrights can really rejuvenate your academic career. Fulbright fellowships can take you in directions you never thought about. It’s an adventure with good colleagues.”

Stevens-Landon was granted permission to pursue her flood study in the rarely visited central Highlands near the Laotian-Cambodian border.

“It is now my favorite place in Vietnam,” she said. “I was stationed in Hanoi but I do not see myself as an urban person so any time I could visit the countryside, I did. There is no part of Vietnam, in my opinion, that is not amazing and beautiful,” she said.

Stevens-Landon received her Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Minnesota in 1997 after earning a baccalaureate from Pomona College.

Fulbright Scholarship Success
Lora Stevens-Landon (above) used her first Fulbright to research paleoclimatology in Vietnam from 2013-14.

She also traveled to the Quang Binh Province to better understand typhoon strikes, to Lac Ba Be in northern Vietnam to study monsoons and the Central Highlands to conduct preliminary coring studies of a volcanic crater lake in Kon Tum. Stevens-Landon also engaged in a project with archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology in Hanoi to understand the environmental impact of the Battle of Bang Dang in 1288 AD where the invading army of the Chinese Yuan Dynasty was routed by Vietnam.

Elaine Haglund, founder of CSULB’s Global Studies Institute and longtime professor of Social and Multicultural Foundations in Educational Psychology, Administration and Counseling, gave an unqualified endorsement of the Fulbright program.

“It is just as Sen. J. William Fulbright said,” she recalled, “Personal international interchange helps turn nations into people.”

The Fulbright program has had a major impact on Haglund’s career.

“Although I had visited several economically developing nations before applying for a Fulbright in 1978, the full two years of living in Nigeria provided a significantly broader and deeper experience,” she said. “The personal and professional relationships established at that time served to connect me with international scholars throughout the remainder of my career—and perhaps helped lead to the subsequent Fulbright in South Africa in 2000.”

She encourages CSULB’s faculty to explore the Fulbright option.

“First and foremost, there are now a wide variety of options available—multiple venues, as well as varied time-lengths of fellowships in order to meet applicants’ personal availability,” she said. “Second, as one of the world’s most prestigious awards, a Fulbright fellowship generally allows adequate funding and any necessary preliminary training to carry out a scholar’s proposed plan. And, third, Fulbright fellowships afford participants protection and assistance, in coordination with the State Department and the U.S. embassy in the overseas country. Above all, a Fulbright award can be life-changing.”

Graham believes one Fulbright success breeds more success and recently returned from an Institute for International Education conference at UC Davis where he found that CSULB has a national reputation as a globally engaged university.

“These Fulbrights are feathers in CSULB’s cap. They go a long way towards establishing a culture on campus that supports international initiatives,” he said. “It is no surprise that our faculty thinks internationally about how they can do things like lead a study abroad group overseas. That is part of our culture at CSULB.”

Alexander Klein, associate professor of Philosophy, is the most recent faculty member to earn the prestigious honor.  Klein will travel to the United Kingdom where he will conduct research at the University of Sheffield for a book about the American philosopher, William James.