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Fulbright Better Second Time Around

Published: August 8, 2016

Frank Baber of CSULB’s Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration recently returned from four months at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna as part of his second Fulbright award, this time as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Political Science at the prestigious postgraduate professional school where students and professionals train in international affairs.

Baber’s responsibilities included teaching two courses on American foreign policy and a seminar on “Democracy, Globalization and the Environment.” He also participated in the extracurricular and social life of the academy, which included judging a student debate. He returned home with a sense of the surreal.

“The Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Diplomatic Academy actually lives in an apartment at the academy and his or her office is immediately next door to the apartment,” recalled the member of the university since 2001. “It’s a small institution, only about 160 students, all at the graduate level. So, it becomes an all-consuming environment. To live in it, full-time, for four months and then to be suddenly back in California, leaves you gasping for air a bit.”

Founded by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946, the Fulbright Program provides competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists. Under the Fulbright Program, competitively selected U.S. citizens may become eligible for scholarships to study, conduct research or exercise their talents abroad.

Baber compared his current Fulbright with his first in 2009 when he served as the Distinguished Chair of Environmental Policy at Italy’s Politecnico di Torino.

“The students at Politecinico were second-year undergraduates, almost exclusively Italians. My 36 students at the academy were all master’s students and they came from 19 different countries,” he explained. “They also came from a very wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds—across not only the social sciences but also the humanities, business and even a few from some of the natural sciences.”

Baber, who was also a 2012 Visiting Fellow at Australia National University, was more than pleased by his second Fulbright.

“Getting a second is pretty unusual,” he admitted. “However, after my first Fulbright, I volunteered to serve on the selection committees, both for the disciplines of political science and law and on the Italy/Malta regional committee. Those experiences allowed me to understand in much greater detail how the application process works and how to structure your application in order to give yourself the best chance of success.”

Baber received a warm welcome from the Diplomatic Academy’s director Hans Winkler, faculty members, students, and the administrative staff, who went out of their way to show their enthusiasm for his visit.

“Every day, the faculty (in attendance that day) gather in the dining room for both lunch and dinner,” said Baber. “The faculty have their own table but most in attendance at any given meal will be students. The conversations range so widely that, even though they are almost always in English, it’s a challenge to keep up. But living there in the building as I did, it made me feel all the more at home.”

The Diplomatic Academy’s home is the Theresianum, a former summer palace of the Habsburg dynasty.

Frank Baber (c) with colleagues during his recent Fulbright trip to the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Political Science.

“But don’t be too impressed,” Baber laughed. “The academy is in what had been the servants’ wing. The grander part of the building is devoted to the Theresianum Academy, the most exclusive K-12 school in Vienna. But our wing had been converted and renovated very nicely, I must say. Plus, the availability of event space in the building, and its central location in Vienna, meant that we had from three to five special events each week. Many attracted speakers from the various diplomatic services in Europe and prominent politicians from within Austria. In fact, we were the location for one of Austria’s presidential debates during their recent election cycle.”

Working with diplomats helped keep Baber current on such European crises as the British exit from the European Union (EU).

“The dominant attitude at the Diplomatic Academy (after the surprise wore off) was that the British had made a major mistake—one that would cost them far more than it would the remaining members of the EU,” he said. “And, it looks as if events are going to prove that reaction to have been a fairly accurate one.”

Baber was recognized in 2011 with the International Studies Association International Ethics Book Prize for his 2009 book, Global Democracy and Sustainable Jurisprudence: Deliberative Environmental Law. He received his B.A. from CSULB in 1975 and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his JD from the University of San Diego’s School of Law and is admitted to the practice of law in California.

Baber urges other CSULB faculty members to apply for a Fulbright fellowship.

“It’s a career-altering experience,” he said. “And keep in mind that fitting the position you are applying for and writing a strong proposal is more important than the prestige of the school you are coming from.”