2017/06/21

Get to Know a Grantee - Spring Scholar Mini Interviews

By Maureen Heydt 

The Fulbright Czech Republic program welcomed several new US Scholars for the 2017 spring semester. The Scholars are teaching at universities throughout Prague and the Czech Republic. These interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Professor Stanley Thompson 

 

Professor Stanley Thompson
Professor Stanley Thompson of Ohio State University is serving this semester as a US Fulbright Scholar to the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic. Professor Thompson’s discipline is economics, and in particular agricultural economics, and he is coordinating a wide array of activities at his host institution for his Fulbright stay. Below, he discusses his work this semester, how he thinks it will affect his teaching on return to OSU, and what the Fulbright mission means to him. 



-------------------------------------- Fast Facts ----------------------------------------
  • U.S. Position: Professor, Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
  • Czech Affiliation: Faculty of Economics and Management, Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague
  • Project: Agricultural Policy Analysis: Econometric Model Building and Policy Evaluation
  • Major Discipline/Specialization: Economics/Agricultural Economics
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What work are you doing this semester at the Czech University of Life Sciences?
I have full responsibility for two classes, Applied Econometrics and Research Methods in the Social Sciences. Both of these are attended by MS/Ph.D. students. In addition, I have guest-lectured in a bachelor-level policy course. Shortly after I arrived, I gave a Department of Economics research seminar on the topic “Capitalization of the SPS into Farmland Rental Prices under the 2013 CAP Reform.” Over twenty attended the seminar, and this was a great way to introduce myself to the entire department early in my stay. I will also give an invited seminar on April 11th at the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University.

I also have two collaborative research projects with faculty in Economics. First, a paper with Jiri Mach for presentation at the 2017 Agrarian Perspectives conference in Prague, happening in August. Secondly, with Lukas Cechura, I am conducting an econometric investigation of the abolishment of milk quotas on the Czech dairy industry. The latter is targeted for a top-tier scientific journal. In addition, so far in my stay I have twice served as an external reviewer for scientific journals.

Why do you think international education and exchanges are important for people to experience?
You never really understand a country and its people until you have lived with them. Not just in the confines of the university, but in their homes and villages. And, they don’t fully understand you and your county until you share your life and first-hand experiences with them. They are very curious about what it is like to live and work in the US, and your experiences and background never fail to enlighten their understanding. The US is not exactly like the media or Hollywood portrays it!

And how do you think your semester here in Prague will effect, or influence your teaching back at Ohio State University?
I have always tried hard to ‘put myself in the shoes’ of the student, especially those of different cultural backgrounds and experiences. This was even more challenging here in Prague where all of your students are different from you! This added awareness will strongly influence my teaching upon return to Ohio State.

What does the Fulbright mission mean to you?
While my Czech students have told me many times that they have learned a lot from my lectures, I am 100 percent certain that I have learned more from them. Much of this learning goes beyond the subject matter of the course into other dimensions of life in the US and the Czech Republic. There is a clear synergy of mutual understanding!

Professor Jennifer Harding 

 

Professor Jennifer Harding
Prague’s Charles University is hosting a new US Fulbright Scholar this semester, Professor Jennifer Harding, an Associate Professor from the Department of English at Washington and Jefferson College, Pennsylvania. Professor Harding first fell in love with Prague on a previous trip through the capital, and is delighted to be working this semester in the Faculty of Arts at Charles. Here, she discusses the courses she is teaching this semester, as well as why international education and exchanges and the Fulbright mission are important to her. 

-------------------------------------- Fast Facts ----------------------------------------
  • U.S. Position: Associate Professor, Department of English, Washington and Jefferson College, Washington, PA
  • Czech Affiliation: Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague
  • Project: Interdisciplinary Connections in American Literature
  • Major Discipline/Specialization: Literature/American Literature
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What work are you doing this semester at Charles University?
This semester I am teaching two courses, ‘African American Women's Literature’ and ‘American Literature Civil War - WWII.’ The first one is a Masters' level course that I designed, and is similar to a course I offer regularly at my home institution. In the course, the students are reading a slave narrative, studying poets from Phillis Wheatley to Elizabeth Alexander, and reading classic novels by black women including Passing and The Color Purple. So far, we've discussed topics that include endurance, racial identity, and struggles for power.

The other course is a standard undergraduate course offered by Charles University, and I am teaching some of the standard texts, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and As I Lay Dying. We've had many interesting discussions about American Realism, and the use of colloquial dialects, regional themes, and distinctive narrators.

I am also offering lectures at Charles University, and throughout the Czech Republic on American literature and figurative language, which is the subject of my recent book, Similes, Puns, and Counterfactuals in Literary Narrative. By the end of the semester, I will have traveled to Ostrava, Ústí nad Labem, Brno, and Pilsen to give lectures. I will also give a lecture to my home department at Charles University in May.

And why did you choose to do a Fulbright to the Czech Republic?
I had visited Prague before and knew I loved it. I really wanted to teach American literature, and the Czech Republic offered the opportunity to do this with two teaching positions in American Studies. Altogether, it seemed like a great fit for me and my family, who are spending the semester here with me.

Why do you think international education and exchanges are important for people to experience?
The chance to have open discussions provides a forum for comparing cultural differences and similarities. Studying a literary text is a perfect way to do this, because literary texts are all, on some level, about the human condition and the types of things we all experience, like relationships and emotions and the desire to tell stories. But works of literature are also culturally situated, so they can enhance cultural awareness and sharing.

For example, my students read a slave narrative about a woman who stays in hiding for seven years to escape a sexually abusive master. This text provided an opportunity for me to teach the students about the slave system and the sexual powerlessness of enslaved women. But we also compared this situation to situations in other countries in which people had been hidden for significant lengths of time, such as Jews during the Holocaust. This provided a wider opportunity to consider what motivates people to take the risk to hide someone, what it must be like to live in fear of being discovered, and how people can have the emotional endurance to remain in hiding for years and years. I've learned a lot from my students, who are mostly Czech, but also from countries including Korea, Belgium, Germany, and Scotland.

And what does the Fulbright mission mean to you?
This is one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. I have already met so many interesting people, and have had so many amazing discussions, especially in my classes. I hope my students are learning a lot from my perspective and expertise as well.

There are many authors and texts who are like great friends to me. It is a pleasure to introduce Czech students to American authors like Sojourner Truth, Charles Chesnutt, and William Faulkner.

Professor Jeff Frolik 

 

Professor Jeff Frolik
Professor Jeff Frolik of the University of Vermont is serving this semester as a US Fulbright Scholar to Czech Technical University, in Prague, Czech Republic. Professor Frolik serves as Professor and Fulbright Distinguished Chair to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and is involved in a multitude of projects. Here, he discusses these endeavors, along with why he believes international education and exchanges are important for all people to experience, and what the Fulbright mission means to him.

-------------------------------------- Fast Facts ----------------------------------------
  • U.S. Position: Professor and Chair, Department of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
  • Czech Affiliation: Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Czech Technical University, Prague
  • Project: Channel Characterization and Antennas for Future Wireless Systems
  • Major Discipline/Specialization: Engineering/Communications Engineering
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What work are you doing this semester at Czech Technical University?
I’m doing a variety of things. For teaching, I have two classes. One is for Master students in Electrical Engineering, and is related to how wireless signals travel in various environments. This is a new variation on a course I’ve taught several times in the States; so it’s nice to revisit how I present this material. The second class is a scientific writing course for Ph.D. students in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. My goal is that by the end of that class, students will be ready to submit their research results to a conference or journal. I’m also meeting faculty throughout Electrical Engineering to learn about the curriculum and research, and to see if student exchanges might be possible between UVM and ČVUT. Finally, I’m doing some research in the Department of Electromagnetic Fields, where I am advising a bachelor student working on his thesis, and working with a couple of the research engineers conducting channel measurements.

And how do you think your semester here in Prague will effect or influence your teaching back at the University of Vermont?
I’m teaching material I’m very familiar with, but from a different perspective, and that has been quite refreshing. Hopefully, this experience will encourage me to revisit my well-worn class notes for my UVM classes.

Why are international education and exchanges important for people to experience?
I think it is important for people to have all sorts of experiences, including ones that put them in unfamiliar environments. It has been very interesting being here when there’s so much change going on in the States. The Czech faculty, who well remember communism, have interesting perspectives on what is happening; ones I would not have heard back in the States. So, I think the main benefit of such exchanges is that you don’t really know what is going to happen, but it’s bound to be eye opening.

And what does the Fulbright mission mean to you?
Because of the mission, being here is certainly unique as compared to interactions that would be had if you were traveling abroad as a tourist, for business, or even for a sabbatical. In those scenarios, I would say one’s view is to take care of your own business be it recreation, job tasks, or one’s research, respectively. I view my position differently, and am trying to understand how I might contribute in some way beyond writing a research paper or teaching a class. I don’t know if I’ll be successful, but that is my mindset.

Professor Russell Goodman 

 

Professor Russell Goodman
American Professor Russell Goodman, Ph.D. is serving this semester as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic. A Professor Emeritus back home at the University of New Mexico, Professor Goodman specializes in philosophy, and is teaching two courses in Olomouc centered on American philosophy. Read below to find out how living in Olomouc differs from living in Albuquerque, why international education exchanges are important, and what the Fulbright mission means to Professor Goodman. 


-------------------------------------- Fast Facts ----------------------------------------
  • U.S. Position: Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, University of New Mexico, NM
  • Czech Affiliation: Faculty of Arts, Palacký University, Olomouc
  • Project: Philosophy before Pragmatism
  • Major Discipline/Specialization: Philosophy/History of American Philosophy, Pragmatism, Wittgenstein
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What work are you doing this semester at Palacký University?
I’m teaching two courses, one called ‘American Philosophy before Pragmatism’ (based on my 2015 book of that title), covering Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. The other course, more expansive, is called ‘Voices of American Philosophy.’ It includes some of the pragmatists, as well as the contemporary philosophers Stanley Cavell and Cora Diamond. I’m also working on some new essays on Emerson, and have given papers here to the Philosophy department and the American literature program.

How is living in Olomouc, Czech Republic different from living in Albuquerque, New Mexico?
It’s colder on the whole! I really like it. It’s a great place to walk, with lots of interesting places and little nooks. My wife and I are relying on public transportation entirely, something we never do (do airplanes count?) in New Mexico. It’s a great tram system here and we’ve traveled all over the Czech Republic.

People are more restrained, but really friendly and considerate. You encounter more people if you’re not always driving around in your car. I like watching Czech families talk to and with their children in the park or tram; and note the comparative absence of electronic gadgets for the kids. The architecture is of course fantastic. I like the colors of the buildings, the carvings and ornamentation, the older winding streets up the hill to the university area.

Why are international education and exchanges important for people to experience?
William James wrote an essay that I’ve been teaching called “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings.” It’s about our blindness to the reality of life for others—including animals. Some people may prefer not to know too much about others, and other ways of life, and that’s fine. There’s a limit to this, of course. But I do think, as James suggests, that learning about others (and others’ learning about us) offers us all some lessons in understanding, to respect other ways of life as equally satisfactory to our own, and to see our common humanity, how much of the American way of life and the Czech way of life are mutually comprehensible.

And what does the Fulbright mission mean to you?
It’s an honor to have the chance to present some ideas and ways of thinking that are natural for me as an American scholar; I cherish the opportunity to be in the classroom with the dedicated students who are working with me, and to live in a country I’ve always admired.

Professor Schuyler Foerster

 

Professor Schuyler Foerster
American Professor Schuyler Foerster, Ph.D. is teaching Political Science this semester at Masaryk University as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar. Foerster is the former Brent Scowcroft Professor for National Security Studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and is currently a Visiting Professor to Colorado College, both located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Professor Foerster is teaching three courses this semester, and conducting a number of lectures throughout the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland. Below, Professor Foerster details his work at Masaryk, the differences and similarities between the various institutions he has taught at, and why the Fulbright Program and other international education exchange programs “are more important now than ever before.”

-------------------------------------- Fast Facts ----------------------------------------
  • U.S. Position: Former Brent Scowcroft Professor for National Security Studies, US Air Force Academy; Visiting Professor, Colorado College, and Principal, CGST Solutions
  • Czech Affiliation: Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University, Brno
  • Project: Strengthening Education on 21st Century Global and Regional Security Challenges, U.S. Foreign and Security Policy, and the Role of NATO in Europe
  • Major Discipline/Specialization: Political Science/Security Studies, Strategic Studies, U.S. Foreign & Security Policy, European Politics
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What work are you doing this semester at Masaryk University?
My work has principally been teaching. Three courses in varying formats during the semester: US Foreign and Security Policy, NATO and European Security, and a Seminar on Managing International Conflict. Within Masaryk itself, I have also lectured in other courses in the Strategic and Security Studies program and participated on a conference panel.

Outside the university, I have done lectures and media appearances in Slovakia (Bratislava, Košice, and Prešov) through the American Embassy in Bratislava; presented at the America Center in Prague; presented at a conference at Metropolitan University in Prague; and lecturing at the University of Lodz and the America Center in Lodz, plus meetings in Warsaw.

How is your host institution, Masaryk University, different from your home institution, the United States Air Force Academy?
The USAF Academy is my former home institution, since I left there in May 2016. I am now a Visiting Professor at Colorado College, a small liberal arts college.

The differences from the Academy are substantial, owing to the fact that the latter is a military academy as well as an undergraduate institution. But Masaryk is not entirely different from Colorado College (CC). Both of these are undergraduate institutions, whereas my classes in Masaryk are a mix of graduate and undergraduate students. Also about a third of my students at Masaryk are from other countries, drawing from the Erasmus and other programs, which makes for interesting discussions on foreign policy issues.

The biggest pedagogical difference is that students at Masaryk are not as accustomed to an interactive classroom environment, although they seem to prefer it. We have had excellent discussions, plus we have had the opportunity to engage in classroom simulations to give students an experiential sense of the difficulties of making policy in a crisis. These prove to be very useful teaching tools, but not ones that are common at Masaryk or, apparently, elsewhere in universities in this part of the world.

In one respect, students are the same the world over — if they are hungry to learn and willing to do the work, teaching is a most fulfilling experience. And I have found many students who fit that description. It has been a delight to work with them.

And why are international education and exchanges important for people to experience?
They are more important now than ever before. Most conflicts in this world stem from communities of people who know little about others who are different from they, which often engenders fear, promotes stereotypes, and blocks productive human interaction. The more we interact with people who are different, speak differently, believe differently, look different, the more we realize our common humanity. In truth, when we work with those who are different from us, think differently, and see the world differently, we gain a better understanding of the world around us, see things differently ourselves, and find ourselves more creative.

This realization is best accomplished by “doing” it. It is a lesson grounded in experience, when one has to adapt to a world dominated by another language, culture, etc. Then we realize that we and those like “us” are not the center of the universe, but one important part among many others. An important lesson.

And lastly, what does the Fulbright mission mean to you?
Just that … an opportunity to encourage an exchange of ideas and views, to build transnational networks of colleagues, to see the world differently, and to get out of one’s “comfort zone” to experience another person’s or community’s reality. This and similar programs are the single most important contributor to peace that I can imagine.


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