Niharika Kulshresth – Oregon, USA 2011

Niharika Kulshresth – Oregon, USA 2011

The letter I got in the month of June 2011 from the J William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, besides congratulating me for my selection also went on to inform me that, as a Fulbrighter, I joined the ranks of some 261,000 alumni of the programme who have gone on to become heads of states, judges, ambassadors, CEOs, journalists, educational leader, etc. and have been awarded 34 Nobel prizes. My sense of achievement and elation was at its peak!

There was no way we were going to be sent to U.S.A. unprepared. We had rigorous, exhaustive and extensive Workshops and pre-departure orientations. Online discussion forums were set up for all of us, 70 Fulbright exchange teachers from all across the globe. We had workshops in Goa. Washington DC and a mid-exchange in Boston. The issues covered were endless- effective teaching learning strategies, classroom management, student motivation, crossing the culture, interacting with parents and more. We had some wonderfully educative lectures/ presentations by experts and resource persons. On the on-line forum, all of us teachers shared best teaching practices, motivational tools, cultural differences and classroom management strategies.

To be able to teach in the state of Oregon, you are required to get a teacher’s license after getting your credentials endorsed by Teachers Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC). A Process which normally would have taken three months was expedited for me thanks to my Fulbright recommendations.

My host school was Health and Science School (HS2) in Beaverton, Oregon which was following one of the latest models of learning-Expeditionary Learning (EL). I also attended the orientation program of the school and was exposed to some innovative trends in teaching and assessment. I was provided a constant support of a mentor teacher as well as that of a special education teacher.

I found the classrooms in USA to be extremely structured and student friendly. The issues of teenage problems, discipline and behaviour are very effectively handled in an extremely professional manner. The teachers were trained and restrained enough to deal with any discipline problems through appropriate choice of words. I rarely saw a grown-up losing self-control in front of the students. One of the methods involved not sounding accusatory, using more ‘I s’ than ‘You s’ while confronting a difficult student. For example instead of telling the student “You were distracting the class”, the appropriate choice of words included being direct and telling him “I was distracted by your behaviour. Please don’t repeat it”. This did not put the student on defensive and most of the times the confrontation was amicably settled. The self-discipline of the students and involvement of the teachers really impressed me.

Teaching in the US was the best professional development opportunity I have ever had. Their educational system is different and sometimes even better than our own. Science teaching followed the Discovery method. Instead of being taught a concept and performing experiments on it, like we do in India, the curriculum facilitated the students to discover the concepts through experiments designed by teachers. Students were given hand-outs and then left to perform the activity on their own. The teacher just facilitated the learning. It was a challenge for me to come up to the expectations of my host school. In the process, I learnt new teaching practices like designing experiments for the topic being taught; making thought provoking worksheets and reflected on my own methodologies. I could compare and contrast the two educational systems to evolve a new one. While our education system is more theory based and we rely a lot on text books, the American system relies more on activities and hand-outs designed by teachers. What amused me were the students using calculators even for some simple numerical calculations. The students were very creative but lacked curiosity and presentation skills. A very encouraging attitude of the staff and a supportive one of my students made the exchange an enormously true learning experience for me.

Personally also, the exchange opened my eyes to a range of possibilities. I felt more independent and took some great risks. The consequences at times were overwhelmingly challenging, but made me emerge a stronger person.

My children had a wonderful learning experience. We forged new friendships, learnt to live in a new culture and celebrated all their festivals with equal gaiety. Be it Halloween, Navratras, Diwali, Thanksgiving or Christmas- we didn’t miss any opportunity to make merry. We explored museums, libraries, harvest markets, pumpkin patch, berry-picking, public transport systems, and entertainment parks- at times on foot to save a few bucks. We imbibed American culture by going to free Operas by the park, symphony orchestra by the riverfront and other music festivals. Portland is rightfully called ‘The Culture Capital of Oregon’.

In retrospection, taking kids along was a wise step on my part. Kids are a spontaneous and an expeditious bridge to a new culture. It might have been a little setback to our finances, but a great investment into the memories of my children. Everyone that we came across was ready to help us explore the American way of living. We had no dearth of friends, or outdoor activities to do on a weekend.

Not that we didn’t face loneliness, insecurity and vulnerability at times, but we took it in our stride. We had gone for the exchange with very few expectations and a lot of hope. I rediscovered my love for teaching, my kids discovered a culture and we came back enriched with an experience and friends to last us for a lifetime.

 

-Niharika Kulshresth

Fulbright Exchange Teacher to Oregon, USA in 2011

January 19, 2021 0

Tim Perry – South Africa 2002

Tim Perry – South Africa 2002

An Ordinary Country?

Langa Township, Human Rights Day, Tim Perry interacts with students

When we close the books on 2020, it will be measured not just in tragic loss of life to covid-19, but by a summer of Black Lives Matter protests, and the continued decline of democracy worldwide. Amid these trends, my thoughts have turned to the late Dr. Neville Alexander, the anti-Apartheid activist and political prisoner, who supervised my Fulbright year. He was a man who knew something about protest and democracy.

Dr. Neville Alexander, by Jummai – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7762114

A “coloured” intellectual, Dr. Alexander grew up in rural Eastern Cape, attended the University of Cape Town, and traveled abroad to the University of Tübingen for his PhD. Rather than live the life of a European academic, he returned to South Africa in the early 1960s to join the anti-Apartheid movement. In 1963, after the authorities infiltrated two activist groups he had founded, Dr. Alexander was convicted of conspiracy to commit sabotage, and imprisoned, alongside Nelson Mandela and others, on Robben Island.

By the time I met Dr. Alexander, South Africa was still in its first decade of democracy, but he hadn’t shed his dissident’s outlook. A committed Marxist, he vocally criticized the ANC for neglecting the poor, not to mention its “superstitious” approach to a raging AIDS epidemic. He regarded me, a State Department-funded American, with some skepticism, and once teasingly suggested I must be a CIA mole—a joke, once suspects, that masked a hard-earned circumspection.

Dr. Neville Alexander, From Dr. Neville Edward Alexander, South African History Online, http://www.sahistory.org.za

Dr. Alexander held sharp views about America’s role in the world, and he would occasionally unspool an indictment of American imperialism in our meetings. For him, American Exceptionalism was propaganda; the U.S. was no City on a Hill.

A little less predictably, he thought the same about South Africa. He rejected the “rainbow nation” rhetoric as glib, arguing that South African Exceptionalism was every bit as illusory as America’s. South Africa’s destiny, he posited, was to become an “Ordinary Country”—also the title of a book he authored—shackled by its racist past and held down by the ANC’s embrace of free market economics. The continent’s autocratic patterns would eventually tug at the ANC’s elites, he thought, who would struggle to fight an out-of-control epidemic. This was an unpopular view at the time. I admit I found it unnecessarily gloomy.

Now, twenty years later, in the midst of a global pandemic when Freedom House gauges that democracy is in decline, I cannot help but wonder whether Dr. Alexander’s dire predictions for South Africa presaged some of what besets the U.S. today: Pandemic denialism, widespread protests on race and justice, and authoritarian and nationalist strains in our political discourse. If he were alive today, I fear Dr. Alexander would be writing a second volume about another “ordinary country”—my own.

But Dr. Alexander was not a knee-jerk pessimist, and I owe it to him to share an anecdote that proves it. One day, we were discussing contemporary South African politics. Dr. Alexander diverted from the topic to tell me his “only crime” under Apartheid was to join a study group and that Robben Island was “actually fun.”

Tim Perry, 20 years later, speaking to a law enforcement group about intelligence-sharing and election protection

I was surprised. Neither of these assertions was true. Though I’d agree he was morally innocent for resisting Apartheid, his “just a study group” defense was a bit rich. Despite some silver linings, Robben Island was a brutal place—something that Dr. Alexander has acknowledged in published interviews. But I think I know what he was doing. He intended these misdirections provocatively, theatrically, even defiantly, as if still sticking his thumb in the eye of the oppressor.

Yet the choice was curiously atemporal. Why relitigate the past when you’ve already won history? What did Robben Island have to do with the problems of the new South Africa, a country quite literally run by the men once imprisoned there? The answer is that, to Dr. Alexander, majority rule was a milestone rather than a finish line. In his mind, the transition from Apartheid to democracy was forever a work in progress, so it made perfect sense to marshal his anti-Apartheid past in a critique of his democratic government. It was all a single fight for him, and he would never stop fighting. There is nothing more optimistic than that.

I still believe America is a City on a Hill. But in an era when democracy is under threat, we may have to fight like South Africans to keep it that way.

-Tim Perry

Fulbright to South Africa – 2002

December 8, 2020 0

Reflections on the Virtual Annual Conference: A new digital Fulbright world

Reflections on the Virtual Annual Conference: A new digital Fulbright world

As the pandemic was declared in March 2020, and countries started closing borders, the enormity of the situation hit us hard, and we slowly started cancelling in-person, scheduled events. We realized not only spring and summer events but all in-person events for the year would need to be cancelled. One by one, from Advocacy Day, to travel programs, chapter events, the Fulbright Prize and ultimately the Annual Conference scheduled to be held in Taiwan came to a slow halt. All headlines read – cancelled due to the pandemic.

Session # 1 – Race, Racism, and Diversity

The work from home protocols were adopted and quickly we became a remote workplace. Online video conferencing, FaceTime calls and all things digital became the new norm. With the return of newly minted Fulbrighters, we were presented with a unique opportunity to fill a gap – the lack of programming, professional development, and providing a new alumni community to many disappointed and disheartened U.S. Grantees.

This led to creating a series of zoom webinars, and the idea for providing a virtual conference to our members. We all struggled to understand what was globally happening, with the health crisis, Black Lives Matter movement galvanized by shocking displays of police brutality, increasing racism and the financial crash of global economies. With this statement in mind–“The Fulbright Association is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  We stand in solidarity with our Black community, and we will continue to advocate for peace, respect and cultural understanding within our local communities and around the world.”–we started planning our virtual conference. At the suggestion of Board vice chair Cynthia Baldwin, we adopted the theme “Where Does the World Go from Here?”, inspired the book written by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pictured from top left clockwise is Caroline Levander, Krishna Guha, Shakira Simley, Maulik Pancholy and John Sargent.

The ongoing crisis determined the direction and content of the opening plenary – Global Crisis: Health, Finance, Racial Equity and Education. Celebrities like Maulik Pancholy (actor and activist) spoke on activism, bullying and growing up gay in America and Shakira Simley (Fulbrighter, food jammer and director of racial equity in the city of san Francisco) spoke on race relations and diversity. Shakira noted that, “Systemic racism is the joint operation of institutions to produce racialized outcomes, even in the absence of racist intent.”

Krishna Guha, Vice Chairman of Evercore ISI, Fulbrighter, and former national board member spoke on the economic and financial experience the world is going through. “This is an unpreceded economic shock as well as a health crisis. Devasting economic shock’s hardest burden has fallen on the most disadvantaged group of people around the world.”

John Sargent, Co-Founder, BroadReach Healthcare, Fulbrighter, and former national board member spoke on healthcare access and equality. His presentation addressed the healthcare perspective tackling COVID 19, stating, “the case for optimism is that COVID 19 while tragic has pushed many health systems to innovate and adopt for the industrial revolution technology.”

Caroline Levander,  Vice President for Global and Digital Strategy at Rice University, (Fulbrighter and National Board of Director member) played a dual role of moderator and speaker on International education, “higher ed as an industry, is seeing a cause for hope and cause for concern, with universities opening and closing, dispersing students and juggling protecting health. The industry anticipates a contraction in the US.”

Session #2 – Environmental/Addressing Current Challenges

Session #3 – The Arts as a Way Forward

The conference sessions and posters were divided into themes: Race, Racism and Diversity; Impact of the Pandemic; Environmental/Addressing Current Challenges ; The Arts as a Way Forward ; Peace, Education, and Social Justice ; COVID-19/Health; Teaching and Education; Education; International Exchange; Activism and Change. Presenters logged in from all over the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Columbia, Russia, and Vietnam.

The diversity in topics and presenters was central to the conference and the virtual platform made attendance and presenting innovative, and easier for attendees to engage. Presenters talked about racism, diversity, equal access, and using comics to create a deeper understanding of the pandemic and race. They discussed international educational exchange impacts, to dance, music and film. This conference had all the elements of relevant content for our growing Fulbright community. A session by IIE also guided on, “How alumni can help support student and scholar recruitment.” Click here to see screen shots of presenters – presenter pictures.

The 2020 Cohen dance lecture awardee was Janaki Patrik. Her talk titled, “Improvisation in Kathak,” led the audience through a captivating journey of meditation, and dance rooted in one of the oldest sub-continent (South Asian) dance forms, Kathak.

This year’s conference would not be successful if not for the support of our major donors and sponsors. Each year, donors contribute towards a scholarship fund that allows young professionals and faculty lacking institutional support to attend. National Board member Bruce Fowler and former board chair, Manfred Philipp, supported the 2020 scholarship fund.

Sponsors included institutional members, Rice University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Alabama, Auburn University and University of Arkansas. Other organizations like the National Peace Corps Association, Institute of International Education (IIE) and Strangers Guide sponsored as well.

If you attended the conference, we invite you to fill out the survey. We hope you all plan to keep updated with all our 2021 programming. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary for the Fulbright program, we will be offering a lot of unique digital programming for all our members. We would also love to hear from you all on any suggestions and ideas as well as your exchange stories for our 75th celebration planning. Please email info@fulbright.org

-Shaz Akram, Deputy Director

 

November 2, 2020 0

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