Four Texas Tech faculty members have been chosen as Fulbright Scholars this year.
True to its five-year Quality Enhancement Plan, aptly named "Bear Our Banners Far and Wide: Communicating in a Global Society," Texas Tech University is working to increase its global presence and awareness by building relationships between faculty members here and their peers at universities around the world.
That focus makes Texas Tech's faculty a perfect fit for the Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Fulbright offers a variety of opportunities for those looking to expand their horizons. The Fulbright Scholar Program offers grants for U.S. faculty, administrators and professionals to lecture, conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields, or participate in seminars.
Natalia Velikova, an associate professor in the Department of Hospitality and Retail Management and associate director of the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute, traveled to the country of Georgia last year as a Fulbright Scholar to conduct consumer research that would help the Georgian wine industry develop marketing strategies to more effectively promote its wines.
"A semester that I spent in the Republic of Georgia was the most enriching and transformative experience of my life," she said. "This country taught me so much more than I expected to learn; Fulbright gave me a rare chance to experience a different culture by soaking it in, and helped me develop as a researcher and educator."
Four Texas Tech faculty members have been chosen as Fulbright Scholars for the 2017-18 academic year:
- Cristina Bradatan, an associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts & Sciences' Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work and a faculty member in the Climate Science Center, will travel to Romania to study how three rural communities are adapting to climate
- Yuan Shu, an associate professor in the College of Arts & Sciences' Department of English and director of Texas Tech's Asian Studies program, will travel to Singapore to teach transnational American studies.
- Elizabeth Trejos-Castillo, an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies within the College of Human Sciences, will travel to Brazil to work with youth in the foster care and juvenile justice
- James Yang, an associate professor, associate chair and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Mechanical Engineering within the Whitacre College of Engineering, will travel to Spain to teach biomechanics and vehicle ergonomics to sailors in the Spanish naval academy.
In all, more than 90 Texas Tech faculty members have taken advantage of what Fulbright has to offer, but the program isn't just for U.S. educators looking to go elsewhere.
Each year, some 800 faculty and professionals from around the world receive Fulbright Visiting Scholar grants for advanced research and university lecturing in the United States. Individual grants are available to scholars from more than 155 countries. Individuals who meet the eligibility requirements apply for grants through the Fulbright commission/foundation or public affairs section of the U.S. embassy in their home countries.
Texas Tech, which has hosted more than 30 visiting scholars, will receive its newest two this fall. Tana Joseph, an outreach astronomer for the South African Astronomical Observatory, will come to Texas Tech to study black holes and neutron stars in nearby galaxies. She'll work with Tom Maccarone in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, focusing specifically on a black hole that Maccarone discovered in 2007.
Pati Mamardashvili is the head of the Agricultural Policy Research Center at ISET Policy Institute, one of the first university-based think-tanks in the South Caucasus, which is based at the International School of Economics (ISET) at Tbilisi State University in the country of Georgia. Mamardashvili will travel from Georgia to collaborate with Texas Tech's Department of Hospitality and Retail Management and the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute.
As an agricultural economist, Mamardashvili will conduct research on the economic impact of wine festivals. For such a topic, she easily could have studied in California's wine-rich Napa Valley region, but instead she chose Texas Tech. Why?
Because of the relationship she'd already formed with a Texas Tech faculty member: Velikova.
While Velikova was in Georgia last year, she met Mamardashvili and the two bonded. At the end of Velikova's time in Georgia, she encouraged Mamardashvili to apply for the Visiting Scholar program so the two could continue and expand their research.
"I truly enjoyed working with Dr. Mamardashvili in Georgia," Velikova said. "I greatly value her expertise in wine economics research. Our further collaboration with her and other researchers at Texas Tech will positively contribute to the development of a solid research program that will benefit both regions' wine industries. I also hope that as a result of this collaboration Texas Tech and the International School of Economics in Georgia will establish a larger institutional collaboration, including joint research projects as well as student and faculty exchange."
Velikova said her experience as a Fulbright Scholar transcended her expectations, and that's precisely what she wants for her friend.
"I can only hope Dr. Mamardashvili will have a similar experience here at Texas Tech," she said.
"When the Fulbright program was initiated in 1946, Sen. J. William Fulbright said, 'Of all the joint ventures in which we might engage, the most productive, in my view, is educational exchange.' This statement still holds its value today. Through scholarships, fellowships and related programs, Fulbright enhances mutual understanding between people. Fulbright Visiting Scholars enrich Texas Tech University's intellectual and research endeavors, contribute to the development of strong international connections and bring global perspectives to our community."