Take Someone Else’s Advice (Please!)

Take Someone Else’s Advice (Please!)

Usually in this space, I offer my insights as a career coach and someone who has participated in the Fulbright Program.  Hopefully through my writing, I have provided some helpful views and suggestions that might help you in pursuing a career or other professional interests.

I thought this month, I’d let others “do the talking” so to speak.  I regularly read articles that I receive through online publications and listservs that I subscribe to.   Some of these pieces offer valuable recommendations or sometimes just good ideas to ponder!   So here are a few I’ve read recently that I feel are worth passing on.

Flexjobs posted a noteworthy piece written by Adrianne Bibby on 10/12/20 about “How Fresh Air Can Help with Your Job Search.”  Get out and take in the fresh air!

Are you using the right “sign-off” in your emails? Jacob Took writes in Ladders, “20 Email Sign-Offs So Compelling They’ll Have to Write Back,” (9/2/20) that a better sign-off can motivate the receiver to answer back.

Sociologist Tracy Brower in Fast Company offers some basic advice on “How to Use Your Network to Survive a Bad Job Market,” (7/31/20).

I’m really tired at the end of day.  How about you? Could it be Zoom fatigue? Read “Zoom Fatigue is Real – Here’s Why Video Calls Are So Draining,” by Libby Sander (5/19/20) in Ideas.Ted.Com.

Does your resume beat the Bots?  This piece by Amanda Augustine in TopResume (N.D.) provides some good advice.  Read “What Is an ATS? How to Write a Resume to Beat the Bots.”

Networking is not so easy today.   This piece by Kristi Faulkner in Forbes provides some good advice: “How to Network Gracefully in the Time of Social Distancing,” (5/27/20).

My colleague and friend (and Fulbright ETA alum!) Sarah McLewin writes in PCDN.Global about onboarding in the virtual world: “You Landed a Social Impact Job in a Pandemic…Now What?: How to Make the Most of Remote Onboarding in “These Uncertain Times,” (10/7/20).

And are you thinking about a great idea now? You must be!  Read this piece by Laura Vanderkam in Forge to consider where to take it next: “The Perfect Conditions for a Great Idea,” (7/16/20).

And the last piece of advice (my advice here!) is that if you participated in a U.S. Fulbright program (or any other State Department sponsored program or the Peace Corps) as a U.S. citizen and are between 18-35, you should join the Career Connections Program.  Career Connections brings together U.S. alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs with expert career coaches, professionals from diverse fields, and international leaders. Whether you’re changing careers, looking to advance, or just starting out, these seminars provide invaluable opportunities to network.  The starting point in joining is visiting the International Exchange Alumni site (alumni.state.gov) and making sure you are a member, then going to the U.S. Alumni page. Career Connections events are all online right now!

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at davidjsmithconsulting.com. He can reached at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.

October 29, 2020 0

2020 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Janaki Patrik

2020 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Janaki Patrik

Janaki Patrik

Artistic Director, The Kathak Ensemble & Friends/CARAVAN, Inc.

Trained in both modern dance (Merce Cunningham studio scholarship, 1971 to 79) and classical north Indian Kathak dance (Pt. Birju Maharaj, Kathak Kendra and Kalashram, New Delhi, ongoing from 1967), Janaki Patrik has choreographed thirty full-evening productions and numerous smaller works. Her knowledge of Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Brij Bhasha and Bengali poetry has inspired dances as diverse as MANDALA X / The Hymn of Creation (1997) in Vedic Sanskrit, AGAMONI / Return of the Daughter in Bengali (2012) and WE SINFUL WOMEN (2017), based on Urdu feminist poetry. The musicality which is fundamental to her creativity in dance was developed in childhood during thirteen years of training in classical flute, culminating in lessons from Donald Peck, Principal Flutist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Artistic Director and Founder (1978) of The Kathak Ensemble & Friends, Janaki has presented solo and group productions in Canada, India, Sri Lanka and the United States at venues including Lincoln Center, Out-of-Doors Festival, Carnegie Hall/Silk Road Project, American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Danspace Project, Brooklyn Museum and Asia Society in New York City; Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; Premier Dance Theatre in Toronto; Carver Center in Austin, Texas; Philadelphia Museum; Indian International Center in New Delhi, and Indian Cultural Center in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
A dedicated teacher, Janaki’s ongoing technique and repertoire classes prepare students to perform an extensive selection of classical Kathak, as well as her new choreography, including MOZARTAYANA (Allegro from Mozart’s Symphony No. 41); FLASHPOINT (W.H.Auden’s LULLABY w Samuel Barber and John Adams’ Violin Concertos); CHEATING LYING STEALING (David Lang’s music of the same name); and BOLLYWOOD GOES CLASSICAL, restaging some of Bollywood’s most popular songs in classical Kathak style. She has been active in arts-in-education for three decades, leading in-school workshops and performing through Young Audiences/NY with a four-artist ensemble named CARAVAN.

Janaki’s writing includes the manuscript “KATHAK in AMERICA”, published in NARTANAM, A Quarterly Journal of Indian Dance, 4th Quarter 2011, Hyderabad, India; and a monograph entitled “PRODUCING ASIAN ARTS IN THE UNITED STATES : An American Triumvirate : Beate Gordon of Asia Society, Alan Pally of the NY Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Robert & Helene Browning of World Music Institute ” published in the January / March 2014 issue of NARTANAM. She writes for NARTHAKI, Indian Dance Online, Dr. Anita Ratnam, Founding Editor, Chennai. Her column is entitled CHOREOGRAPHING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: India and the United States.

Significant awards include a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, 1988/89 to research Kathak’s poetic repertoire, and a Senior Performing & Creative Artist Fellowship 2008/09 from The American Institute of Indian Studies for research in India to study the curricula, syllabi and methodology for teaching Kathak, and to observe new developments in Kathak choreography.

Since poetry is the well-spring of Kathak’s storytelling techniques and repertoire, Janaki has acquired facility in many of the major languages and dialects of north India, including Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Brij Bhasha, Maithili and Avadhi. Ms.Patrik received a Bachelor of Arts degree, Phi Beta Kappa in Russian Language and Literature from Swarthmore College in 1966, and a Master of Arts from Columbia University, The Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures in May 2000.

October 10, 2020 0

Ron du Bois – Nigeria 1987

Ron du Bois – Nigeria 1987

Making a Film Documentary on African Ceramics
by Ron du Bois, Professor Emeritus of Art, Oklahoma State University

From the start, our Nigerian Saga was ruled by chance, by luck, by indeterminacy. We were led by forces whose effects could never have been foreseen or predicted, such as a chance meeting in a type of local eatery called a buka. My wife and I were the only Westerners in a group of Nigerians gathered there for a noon meal. They were curious to know about us and what we were doing in a local buka. We told them we were from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, and were in Nigeria under Fulbright support. We were overwhelmed when one of them said, “I graduated from O.S.U. with a Ph.D. in Epidemiology.” His wife and children lived in Stillwater! While I had never seen or met him in our university community, our paths crossed in that buka on the campus of the University of Ile Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). This meeting (no doubt arranged by the Eshu, the Yoruba deity of chance) proved to be crucial and auspicious to the film documentation of Yoruba women potters. His name was Dr. Julius Afolabi, an engaging Nigerian whose grandmother was a potter. His uncle, Sam Osashure, was an official in the city of Ilorin, a major pottery production center about 60 miles northwest of Ile Ife. His mother lived in a small village close to Ilorin. Julius visited her on a regular basis. Would we like to come along and meet his mother and his uncle and visit Dada Compound, where a community of women potters worked year round? His uncle could introduce me to the potters and strike some sort of arrangement regarding filming them at work. It was the perfect opportunity to begin fieldwork.

Left: Mayor Sam Osashure and wife in their Ilorin, Nigeria, home. Center: Ron du Bois, OSU Emeritus Professor and Fulbright researcher. Right: Dr. Julius Afolabi, Oklahoma State University graduate student from Nigeria.

Prof. Igbibami, Head, Ceramics Dept. Ile Ice University, Nigeria. He was my hospitable host
and colleague.

The University of Ile Ife was our host institution and the heart of the support system that made the project possible. The university had an interesting and active ceramics program, headed by Ralph Ibigbami, a potter, ceramic sculptor, and scholar. I would eventually visit his home in Eshan Ekiti and record potters in that area. My initial Fulbright proposal had been reviewed and approved both by Professor Ibigbami and Dr. Rowland Abiodun, Art Department Chair. They reported to the Fulbright program that they would take responsibility for our welfare and accommodations, even though these matters had not yet been formally accepted by the slow-moving university administration. Despite their efforts, living accommodations were not available. Instead we were housed in the university hotel for nearly three months before finally securing a regular apartment where we could unpack our luggage and I could prepare for my field research.

Thora A. du Bois, Ph.D. Piano Performance, served as musical ambassador to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria.

During this time my wife, Thora, a pianist, became a valued member of the highly active music department and I began to get my bearings at the university. It was located a short way from the ancient city of Ile Ife, the place where, according to Yoruba belief, all human beings were created. The city is famous for its production of both terra cotta and brass-cast images of Yoruba kings and queens during the middle ages. It is the center of the Yoruba spiritual world. I had to abandon my preconceptions on the first visit. The paved streets, heavy traffic of buses, cars, trucks, taxis, and motorcycles immediately dispelled the image of Ile Ife as an African city of the past. Instead I found, as did the early Portuguese, that the city was bustling with industry, energy and street life. In spite of the influence of Western religions, traditional Yoruba religion was still vital. The ancient festivals were still being performed. I was able to interview an Ifa priest – a revealing experience in it’s own right. As I videotaped daily life and festivals in Ile Ife, I had no specific understanding of how the scenes would be used, and several of them became important sections of the documentaries, providing a striking contrast between contemporary city life and the traditional pace and practices of the women potters.

The United States Information Service was a crucial part of our support system. The Lagos office received our ten boxes of luggage and the critical shipment of ECN (Eastman Kodak Color Negative) 16 mm film. These were then transferred to the Ibaden USIS office. USIS personnel arranged for accommodations in Ibaden and the final stage of our trip by car to the University of Ile Ife. We had no transportation of our own and the prospect of buying and car and driving in Nigeria was daunting. Eventually, by chance, we did acquire a Volvo station wagon and I was able to make regular trips to Ilorin. I even learned to drive in Lagos. The driving conditions are so scary in that city that I preferred to maintain an illusion of control and safety by claiming the wheel myself. The initial trip to Ilorin was made in Julius’ car. His mother welcomed us with warm hospitality and a hearty bowl of famous Yoruba stew. Then we visited Julius’ uncle, Sam Osashure. He knew the head mistress of the potters at Dada Compound and made arrangements on my behalf for filming and videotaping throughout the compound. The head mistress asked for and received a cash payment in return for this arrangement.

A hereditary Yoruba woman potter can produce some five immense clay water vessels a day. When carefully dried they will be stacked and fired in the largest open field firing system in the world.

Once the word went out that payment had been made, the normally reserved and camera-shy women allowed me complete freedom to roam the compound, to photograph, and to film. Normally they do not welcome strangers. They live in a closed society that protects their craft secrets. They believe that if they share their craft, the ancestors who taught them might not approve. Pottery is their only means of livelihood and the processes are traditionally taught only to those born into the hereditary profession of potter. I believe the women made an exception for me because of the way I had gained admission, i.e., through influential Yoruba friends who followed the correct procedures and spoke their language. Julius’ and Sam’s negotiations and preparations were crucial to successfully documenting this famous pottery community.

I needed a base of operations in Ilorin, food and shelter, and a place to store my equipment. The United Church of West Africa maintained economical living quarters in the city. Dr. Afolabi made arrangements for me to stay there during the week until the project was completed. On weekends I returned to the campus in Ile Ife to visit my wife, and catch up on campus life. These arrangements worked perfectly. My UCWA room was a fraction of the cost of a hotel. It had a bed, table and chair, and most importantly, a shower. The gates were closed at night, so it was a safe place to park my Volvo.

My schedule was the same, week after week. I got up, ate, picked up Dr. Afolabi’s brother, Shola, who was my translator, and went to Dada Compound to observe, study, ask questions, and film until sunset. Sometimes I gave a few of the potters a ride home. (They usually walked to work in the morning and left the compound well after dark, taking a bus home.) I established rapport with the women in a number of ways. Initially, rather than taking the large 16 mm camera into the compound, I began shooting with my small 8 mm video camera. When they saw themselves in the playback mode, they understood what I was doing, and the ice was broken.

They understood I was a potter because I helped them with their clay and wedging tasks. I was not able to keep up with them. Their strength and stamina came from wedging clay every day since childhood. As potters, they performed amazing feats of endurance and strength. They must have thought it odd that a male was a potter. Yoruba culture traditionally has been gender specific regarding work, insisting that women perform tasks associated with hearth and home and that men perform tasks outside the home. When questioned, master- potter Alhaja said she was not aware that men were potters in Northern Nigeria. She believed that custom and tradition call women to pottery, yet couldn’t think of any specific restriction against men becoming potters. The question had never come up.

Ron and Alhaja, Dada Compound, Ilorin, Nigeria, 1987

My contacts at the University of Ile Ife referred me to Dr. N.A. Olaoye, a specialist in craft technologies at the University of Ilorin. Much of the narration was based on the information and research he provided.

It seems impossible to pick out any one of many interacting factors of chance and luck as being most important, but the departure of my department head, Rowland Abiodun, for the U.S. was a crucial breakthrough. His leave of absence made it possible for him to loan me his Volvo station wagon for over four months. The project would have been far more difficult without Roland’s trusty Volvo. I’m happy to report that I was able to return it to him in better condition than when he left.

In 1988 I returned from Nigeria with 10,000 feet of 16 mm Eastman Kodak Color Negative motion picture film. The film was developed in the U.S. I also had considerable 8 mm videotape that was to prove extremely valuable. With the advent of digital technology, we were able to digitize both film and video for editing purposes. Without the digital technology that came into use well after my return from Nigeria, the documentaries in their present form would have been more complex and expensive.

In 2002, fifteen years later, I was able to complete three film/video documentaries on the women potters in the city of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. One, entitled Yoruba Potters: Mothers and Daughters – Dada Compound, documents the construction of ekoko amu, huge water-storage vessels essential to daily life, especially in rural areas where there is no plumbing. The video now exists in two versions:

1. The initial 30-minute version, which I financed myself. It was the basis for additional funding by the Ford Foundation and was awarded an Honorable Mention at the film festival, “A Century of Ceramics on Film and Video,” Amsterdam, 1999.

2. An expanded and improved 38-minute version, financed by Fulbright and the Ford Foundation.

A third program, Yoruba Potters: Mothers and Daughters – Ogbena Compound, approximately 35 minutes, documents the production of lidded soup bowls, called isasun, used in rural areas for cooking over an open fire.

Both the ekoko amu and the isasun are produced with hand-building skills alone. The entire processes for both are documented in these videos. The Dada Compound video demonstrates and explains the construction of huge ekoko amu, from digging and working the clay to the dramatic “open field” firing of more than a thousand perfectly symmetrical water vessels made without a potter’s wheel. The women and girls, ages 5 to 65, work at their profession from dawn to dusk, year-round. Because of rapidly changing conditions in Nigeria – the infatuation with modern technology and plastics – these skills could pass away, victims of Western technology and notions of “progress”.

I had gone to Nigeria with the view that the work had to be done by “a single researcher with a camera” who could learn about the culture, the potters and the process, and document them as they were learned. I wanted to use the “indirect method” of the creative process, in which the final result is not known at the outset. It is the only practical method of filming in a situation where there is little, if any, pre-existing knowledge of what is to be documented.

The “direct method” is one in which the information is already known, so that a script can be written listing the sequence of camera shots. The “direct method” might be more efficient for a professional film crew after the research and observation have been completed. But there is no doubt, especially in a remote area, that the footage a lone cameraman can gather over the course of several months or a year is far more substantial.

The video documentary is available for rent or purchase at http://www.angelfire.com/ok2/dubois

-Ron du Bois, Professor Emeritus of Art, Oklahoma State University

Fulbright Scholar
South Korea – 1973
India – 1979
Nigeria – 1987

October 1, 2020 0

Chapter Spotlight: Chicago

Chapter Spotlight: Chicago

Fulbright Alumni and Friends at the Chicago Chapter Winter Wonderland Event

Across the country, our Fulbright Association chapters are providing excellent opportunities to bring together alumni and friends of the Fulbright Program. Last month, the Chicago Chapter and the Institute of International Education co-hosted the annual “Winter Wonderland” reception, which brings the Fulbright community together for a night of networking and socializing. The event brought together 70 guests representing 22 different countries, highlighting the vibrant and diverse members of the Fulbright community.

The programming featured vocalist and Jazz performer Tina Crawley, who performed with pianist Amr Fahmy. The music was a special treat, as Crawley was voted the Best Gospel Entertainer in 2015 by the Chicago Music Awards. She performed her interpretation of an array of pop songs with a jazz feel. Students and scholars alike were brought to their feet dancing and singing along to her jazzy beats. The event was an exceptional opportunity for Fulbrighters and friends to celebrate last year’s accomplishments as well as recharge for the start of a new semester.

Both new and existing members of the Fulbright Association joined the Chicago Chapter as they welcomed the newly elected Chicago Chapter board. During this event, the former president of the Chapter, Meredith McNeil, introduced the new president, Dr. Edel Marie Jose. Edel Marie is looking forward to working with the new team of board members, claiming, “Their invigorating spirit and excitement for the upcoming year will bring many new goals and events to the Chicago Chapter.” Guests were encouraged to ask questions and inform the new board members of how the chapter can better serve its members.

Board members Adan Fuss, Marilyn Sussman, Suzanne McBride, Edel Marie Jose, Meredith McNeil, Teuta Peja and past Fulbright Chicago Chapter President Don Garner

In the upcoming year, the newly elected board hopes to highlight the achievements of the Fulbright alumni and showcase their expertise in ways that give back to the community. They plan to do this by hosting a variety of workshops and speaker series in different locations to expand their reach of alumni in the area. An event they are most looking forward to is their Spring Symposium. The event, which will commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference of Women, invites Fulbright alumni and friends to celebrate women’s empowerment and encourage others to continue working towards gender equality.

The Fulbright Association national office is proud to work with dedicated chapter leaders like those on the Chicago team. Those interested in joining their local chapter can click here to log in or join the Fulbright Association today. To view a complete list of our national chapter network, please click here.


February 26, 2020 0

Career Fairs: How to Prepare, How to Engage

Career Fairs: How to Prepare, How to Engage

Looking for work demands different strategies and forms of engagement.   Some individuals are comfortable networking and looking for opportunities at events including career fairs.   Others are not as sociable and would rather more discreetly apply for jobs online.  Still others are looking for more direct referrals for jobs and seek informational interviews and one on one meetings with people who can make connections.   Ideally, looking for work should include all of these approaches.  In some cases, you might need to do more of one than the other.  For instance, if you are looking for work in a field that is narrowly focused with only a limited number of employers, one on one connections might make most sense.  If on the other hand, the types of jobs you are looking for are seemingly plentiful, and then online might be a viable approach (although you should also include other strategies).

Career fairs are typical venues for identifying potential employers.  These opportunities can be good places to get a “lay of the land” so to speak.  By attending, rather than applying for jobs at the fair (which you can do at times), you should be more focused on the types of employers who are there.  Are they small firms or international groups?  Not for profits, or for profits?  Local or federal government?   Getting a handle of who exactly is hiring should result in your better honing a pitch and revising your resume.

If you are fairly sure about what you are looking for at a career fair, then attending with the intent to engage an employer at a fair is important.  In that case, dressing for an interview, bringing resumes, and having business cards would be in order.  Though your conversation with a representative of an employer might be short and in the midst of other conversations and crowd noise, making a good first impression is important and critical.  Representatives tend to be either (1) human resources staff who might have only a general sense of what the firm is hiring for, but can provide specific guidance on the process or (2) program specific staff, who know more about specific needs, but might have less insight into the hiring steps.  In either case, your initial conversation can leave an important lasting impression and help advance you to the formal application process.

David J. Smith, Adjunct Faculty, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Career Fairs can be intimidating.   There is much a buzz, they can be crowded, and as a result might cause some anxiety and stress.  Try to find a quiet place to take notes, review your resume, grab coffee, and then reengage.   A good outcome is meeting someone, possibly someone also looking for work who you can share notes with, or a more senior professional who might offer you some advice.   Get their contact information and try to connect with them later through LinkedIn,  for coffee or a Skype call.

In any case, you should not shy away from a career fair.   Some are general and deal with a range of employers such as a specific kind (e.g., not for profit work) or governmental sector.  Others might be more specific as to a field such as international development, or peacebuilding, or for a specific group, like State Department program alums (like Fulbright!).  As you can see, I linked to a few I’ve attended lately.   They are a good opportunity to get your feet wet and see what opportunities you should be considering.

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at davidjsmithconsulting.com. He can reached at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.

February 20, 2020 0