Seven University of Florida scholars received Fulbright grants for 2021-2022, placing the university in a tie for fourth place for most Fulbright U.S. scholars this year.
Fulbright is a cultural exchange program between the U.S. and more than 150 countries. The program’s scholars will foster connections with their host country to establish open communication and cooperative relationships.
UF awardee Maria Bedard will travel to Poland, Kathleen Colverson will travel to Ecuador, Joel Correia will travel to Paraguay, Gregory MacDonald will travel to Guyana, Fiona McLaughlin will travel to Algeria and Heidi Powell will travel to the Dominican Republic. A seventh UF scholar did not accept their award.
Heidi Powell, an associate professor of art education, has been in the Dominican Republic for eight weeks on a Fulbright Scholar Flex award and is scheduled to return in the fall. Scholars in this program will have multiple short-term stays in their host country instead of staying for one extended period of time.
Powell conducts creative research that focuses on local and national identity fostered through the arts. She said she was inspired to create cat sculptures to present in an art exhibit after witnessing feral cats roam around the country. The sculptures create advocacy about the role cats play in keeping other animals out of communities where cats roam.
“You have to go in with a service mindset,” she said. “It’s not what you can take from a culture, but it’s really what you learn from a culture and what you hope to bring.”
Leonardo Villalón, dean of the UF International Center and the Office of Provost, said his offices support faculty interested in exploring the Fulbright program.
“Given the challenges the whole world has faced in the pandemic, the Fulbright mission of promoting international cooperation and exchange is more relevant than ever,” Villalón said in a press release.
The International Center collaborated with the UF Fulbright Lectures Committee March 23-30 to host a Fulbright Awareness Week. The week consisted of informational sessions for students and faculty interested in the application process and experiences while abroad.
Gregory MacDonald, a UF professor of weed science and agronomy, was a panelist at a March 24 event. He spent August to December 2021 in Guyana and talked about the application process.
“It was basically so they could evaluate whether or not you were a good fit, whether or not you had the expertise to be able to provide benefit to the host institution,” he said.
MacDonald said some of the application questions encompassed the applicant’s plan, what they hope to accomplish and the relationship established with the host country.
The Faculty Fulbright Support Program allows faculty to receive full UF benefits, full salaries and Fulbright funding during their grant, said David Reed, associate provost for strategic initiatives.
Ethan Rosenzweig, deputy assistant secretary of state for academic programs in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, thanks the leadership of institutions that support Fulbright scholars who are faculty members.
“These institutions benefit from new, global perspectives and new international collaborations, which can positively impact local and global communities,” Rosenzweig said in a press release. “Fulbright U.S. Scholars expand the scope and reach of their research, expand networks, and further development of sectors which work to address local and global challenges.”
Joel Correia, an assistant professor with UF’s Center for Latin American Studies, was awarded the Fulbright Flex grant for the 2022-2023 cycle. His research in Paraguay will focus on construction of some of Latin America’s largest road building projects.
“I think [Fulbright is] something that’s really important in this day and age given our global connections and also given the fact that it’s really important to deepen cross cultural understanding and communication in meaningful ways,” Correia said.
Fulbright is a wonderful opportunity for both faculty and students to support their research programs and to try something new to expand their horizons, Correia said.
Hear directly from a trio of the scholars below: