In collaboration with
Larry E. Erickson – Department of Chemical Engineering, Kansas State University
Ganga M. Hettiarachchi – Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University
Lawrence C. Davis – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Kansas State University
In 1979-80, the US government, in exchanges with the Cameroon government, decided to provide assistance to University Center of Dschang (UCD). In 1981, the University of Florida was selected on a competitive basis to design that assistance, through what was named the Agricultural Education Project. The US government committed $44 million USD to fund the Dschang project, and the Cameroon government made a contribution of about $74 million USD that covered the salaries of Cameroonian staff and infrastructure. During the period of the project, over fifty Cameroonian professionals were trained abroad. In 1993, the UCD was transformed into the University of Dschang. I spent over 2 decades in the University of Dschang, firstly, as a student and later as a colleague.
From 2014 to 2020, I have been working on the Fulbright scholarship. This abstract will show the role of the Fulbright commission, campus and community in the success of my Fulbright Program.
In October 2014, I was told that Fulbright scholarship was a long, rigorous and fair process but will be assisted by Fulbright Alumni which the Embassy assisted me with some of the contacts. These Alumni that Mr. Gerald Chilla connected us with were very useful especially Professor Stephen Bishop from the University of New Mexico who gave us a seminar from the beginning of the process and replied to more than 5 of my important emails. I appreciate the Embassy for the farewell luncheon, round ticket, J-1 visa and travel allowance offered to me.
I received invitation letters from the University of Georgia, Kansas State University (KSU) and the University of Michigan. The Fulbright Scholarship Board selected KSU. Professor Larry Erickson, Faculty Associate worked in collaboration with Professors Ganga Hettiarachchi and Lawrence Davis to make my stay profitable. Together, we co-authored an article titled, “Phytoremediation and Bioremediation of Pesticide-Contaminated Soil” in addition to scientists from Kazakhstan, Czech Republic and Nigeria. During my stay, KSU provided my tickets and accommodation allowances for me to participate in professional activities out of Manhattan, KS.
I remain grateful for my farewell dinner from KSU. Professor Erickson also gave me a check as I left the campus, and he has never stopped following up on my activities in Cameroon. (See photos above)
The International Institute of Education’s Council for International Exchange of Scholars sponsored my trip to the welcome dinner with the best accommodation at the heart of Washington D.C. It was an opportunity to meet with other African scholars. (See photos above)
I also had many formal and informal meetings within the campus with international students from 100+ nationalities.
From KSU, the Outreach Lecture Fund provided me with a grant to travel to the University of Fairbanks, Alaska where I spent a week talking about Cameroon.
I also participated in the enrichment seminar in Minneapolis, Minnesota together with 90+ scholars from close to 60 nations. This seminar was funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Exchange from the Department of State.
The greatest impediment of coming to a majority non-black community was the fear of life after school. Professor Erickson took me for community meals in First Lutheran, Men’s’ Fellowship, Christmas and square dancing. Helping International Students (HIS) Manhattan led by Terry Cole (whom I affectionately called Daddy) connected me to Bob Reader as community mentor. For mentorship, Bob took me as a friend and a family member. He was responsible for my rides especially when I was travelling out of the city. He connected me to his network of friends, largely from Grace Baptist Church. Connie Satzler and Ben Claar are some of those wonderful friends who showed me American kindness during my program and beyond. I have been invited to speak at HIS partners Fundraising Dinner twice, an honor and privilege that I am not taking for granted. Together with these community friends, we have funded faith-based projects worth $20,000+ and remained focused on creating a food security initiative for Cameroonians of all tribes, race, religion or creed.
Finally, I worked with the Fulbright Commission, came to America as a citizen Ambassador and was treated as an honored guest of the American government. I returned home to Cameroon with the information gathered and shared with friends and colleagues for more than 2 years while teaching and conducting research.
Consequently, I am a proud advocate (#StandForFulbright) of the Fulbright Association and a Lifetime member. I regularly post on Facebook and twitter. The Embassy confirmed that more applications have been received from my university after my award than before.
Divine N. Tarla – Fulbright to USA 2016