Fulbright Scholar faculty members discuss traveling abroad to teach

Two of Eastern’s faculty, David Gracon and Frances Murphy, were recognized as Fulbright Scholars and traveled abroad to teach in the school year of August 2017-April 2018.

A Fulbright Scholar is a grant awarded to students, scholars or professors and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. There are around 8,000 grants awarded annually.

Frances Murphy, a professor of human services and community leadership, went to the Republic of Moldova, a former soviet republic between Romania and Ukraine. There she gave presentations to college students about some area of human development or services.

Murphy said being a Fulbright Scholar is more than just teaching a certain subject matter.

“As Fulbright Scholars, we are ‘Goodwill Ambassadors,’ not just teachers,” Murphy said. “We are there to represent the United States and our culture and to make friends for the U.S., especially certain parts of the world.”

David Gracon is an associate professor of communication studies and specializes in film communication and media studies. He went abroad to Ukraine to give teaching presentations over Introduction to Media Studies and Introduction to Media Literacy.

Before traveling abroad, all Fulbright Scholars were invited to a conference in Washington D.C., where they could meet with the people who traveled to their same locations in the prior year.

Gracon said meeting with his mentor was very informative.

“I met with a woman named Martha, and it was extremely helpful to talk to her,” he said. “I literally spent hours on the phone with her before I went to Ukraine to cover the details of what’s its like in the class, do we have projectors, is there internet access,” he said. “I wanted to be as prepared as possible before going.”

Murphy said going abroad greatly enhanced her curriculum when she came back this semester to teach.

“Study abroad programs allows you to bring back the stories and comparisons between cultures,” she said. “In so many ways, people are just like us, even if they may say things differently or speak a different language.”

Both Gracon and Murphy agree that going abroad is a huge experience that they would recommend to others.

“You will learn significantly more by going to another country than you will through any book, course, film,” Gracon said. “The things you learn are incomprehensible, and the only way to do that is by going somewhere else.”

Being recognized as a Fulbright Scholar can be achieved by filling out an online application and can take several months to be completed.

Abby Carpenter can be reached at 581-2812 or accarpenter@eiu.edu.

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