Since 1946, Fulbright Scholar awards have supported the work of U.S. researchers and teachers around the world, while inviting some of the best and brightest scholars from other nations to share their work in the U.S., including at Idaho institutions.
As our nation’s premier international educational-exchange program, Fulbright awards allow recipients to contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns and increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.
The program is highly competitive. Fulbright alumni have occupied key roles in government, academia and industry. Of the 325,000-plus alumni to date, 131 have received Pulitzer or Nobel prizes. Eighteen have served as heads of state or government.
Boise State University was designated a top U.S. university in producing student and faculty Fulbright Scholars. The designation, by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, puts Boise State on a list topped by the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard.
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Several other Idaho universities also have Fulbright Scholars among their faculty, including Idaho State University, the University of Idaho and Brigham Young University-Idaho.
The projects supported by these awards are impressive. They span disciplines ranging from geosciences, physics, engineering and biology to history, literature and nutrition.
While in their host countries, many Fulbright Scholars also give lectures, conduct research and partner on fieldwork with other schools. And nothing compares with being on location when it matters most.
That became apparent when Chile’s Villarrica volcano erupted in March 2015 while Boise State geoscientist Jeffrey Johnson was living and conducting research as a Fulbright Scholar in Pucón, Chile, just 10 miles from the volcano. With his children gathered close, he watched the “fire fountain” from his patio while the sensors he had installed to monitor the mountain’s movements recorded enormous amounts of data.
During his five months in Chile, Johnson gathered data not only from Villarrica, but also seven weeks later from the Calbuco volcano that erupted about 200 miles to the south. Using ground-based instruments such as seismometers, tilt meters and infrasonic microphones, he measured the low-frequency sounds volcanoes make leading up to eruptions.
While not all Fulbright awards can promise this kind of immediacy, they do allow researchers to make valuable connections while gathering important data and shining a light on Idaho research.
For instance, in a few weeks Boise State’s Evelyn Johnson, a special-education professor and director of the Lee Pesky Learning Center in Boise, will take the Every Child Ready to Learn project developed at the center to Qatar. While laying the foundation for translating the program into Arabic, she also is teaching in Qatar University’s special-education and teacher-preparation programs.
And Idaho State geomatics professor Rajendra Bajracharya taught geodesy courses in Nepal related to land-surveying and data-handling techniques. Geomatics is the collection, analysis and interpretation of data relating to the earth’s surface. Bajracharya also worked with the Nepalese government to establish survey control points all over the country.
Other current or recent projects from Idaho include:
▪ BYU-Idaho physicist Stephen McNeil taught astrophysics at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil. He also taught a faculty workshop on the use of “clickers” in classrooms to enhance student engagement and understanding.
▪ Boise State biologist Jennifer Forbey is in Sweden studying the relationship between certain plants and the herbivores that eat them. Forbey hopes to speed the discovery of new and more effective drugs to treat disease and overcome multidrug resistance.
▪ While a dance professor at Idaho State, Josephine Girabaldi taught course work in choreography, interdisciplinary and collaborative practices, and world dance in Latvia. Students in Latvia and Pocatello were able to collaborate on creative and scholarly projects online.
▪ Boise State historian Lynn Lubamersky traveled to Lithuania last year to digitally reconstruct households of the past using census, birth, marriage, death and other public records. Much of the history of that area was lost in the Nazi and Soviet occupations during World War II.
▪ University of Idaho mechanical engineer John Crepeau taught classes about fluid mechanics in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He also helped a research group study how to make engineering systems more efficient by manipulating additives to the properties of fluids.
▪ Idaho State dietitian Cynthia Blanton studied nutrition at the Institute for Nutriscience and Health at University of Prince Edward Island in Canada. Blanton looked at whether the blood pressure-lowering effect of blueberry consumption is improved by co-ingestion of probiotics, beneficial live bacteria.
Mark Rudin is vice president for research and economic development at Boise State University, where he oversees the Office of Sponsored Programs, the Office of Research Compliance, and other administrative and technical offices. His column looks at the state of scientific discovery and economic development in Idaho and beyond.