A Fulbright scholarship is a prestigious international educational exchange program funded by the U.S. government that provides grants to individuals, both American and foreign, to study, teach, or conduct research abroad. The opportunity allows for cross-cultural understanding, fosters academic collaboration and helps develop global leaders by facilitating educational opportunities and cultural exchanges between countries.
EXPLORING IRISH EDUCATION
Assistant Professor Courtenay Barrett will spend the Fall 2023 semester studying how research is disseminated and implemented to improve school programs in Ireland through a Fulbright Scholar Award.
In partnership with University College Cork’s College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences, Barrett will conduct qualitative research through individual interviews with local school administrators, teachers and national policymakers and researchers to evaluate how their practices improve academic, behavioral and social-emotional outcomes for K-12 students.
“Ireland has always performed among the best in terms of educational outcomes on international measures,” said Barrett.
Barrett will measure effective communication channels to disseminate research and the cultural values that inform decision-making on educational programs that have been implemented in Ireland.
She will utilize her findings on Irish education to influence decision making in the United States.
The research, said Barrett, “will lend itself to different types of policies or professional development among educators and administrators.”
She continued: “The goal is to help them enact practices that help leverage values to get everyone on the same page and motivate people to do what’s in the best interest of kids.”
Barrett has also taken the Fulbright opportunity to immerse her own family into Irish culture. Her two children – who are enrolled in the Irish public school system – and husband are accompanying her during the experience.
“I’m so excited to go over and learn from an educational leader along with giving my family the opportunity to experience day-to-day life in another country. I’m very thankful,” she said.
Aside from research, Barrett instructs two doctoral-level courses in the School Psychology program.
PROMOTING BILINGUALISM IN MEXICO
Curiosity and wonder have been the driving force for Gavin Stockton – a recent graduate of the Teacher Preparation Program (TPP) and recipient of an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) scholarship funded through Fulbright. For the entire 2023-24 academic year, Stockton will teach English in Mexico and embark on a comprehensive community service project.
Though he has yet to find out where he will be teaching, Stockton is excited to build on his bilingual teaching experiences. At the Academy of the Americas (AoA) – a dual-language immersion K-12 school in Southwest Detroit, Mich. – Stockton spent nine months not only teaching, but creating and maintaining a community garden for elementary-aged students.
The experience, which was provided by a College of Education initiative, caused Stockton to question his previous perceptions of the world, and in return fueled a love for curiosity, he said.
“For me, teaching is a two-way street. Something that I’ve learned is that you need to learn from your students equally as much as teaching them,” he said. “My students have taught me so much and given me a different perspective. It’s given me a new lens to the world, and I find it completely fascinating.”
In addition to his work at AoA, Stockton’s time as a student granted him five years teaching at urban schools.
Each year, the ETA program places its members in international classrooms to assist local English teachers ranging from kindergarten to university level. The program addresses the needs for bilingual field instructors around the globe as places of learning become increasingly diverse.
“We’re not in a monocultural world. The U.S. is continuing to become a multicultural, multi dynamic and multilingual country and it’s important that our future generations begin to take those steps at becoming bilingual,” he continued. “Fulbright has become an opportunity for me to develop my skills to actually bring back to the United States.”
Once Stockton receives notification of his teaching assignment, he will have the chance to create and develop his own community service project. The nature and specifics of the project will be determined based on the location where he will be teaching.
Upon returning from his Fulbright experience, Stockton plans on continuing his teaching in a bilingual environment.
TEACHING MATHEMATICS WITH INDIGENOUS PERSPECTIVES IN OAXACA
Associate Professor Higinio Dominguez will relocate for nine months to Oaxaca, Mexico, where he will collaborate with elementary teachers and their students in his Fulbright Scholar project “Animating mathematical concepts with movement, philosophy and art.” Drawing on Oaxaca’s thriving art scene and richness of Indigenous languages, Dominguez and participating teachers will work together to bring an educational “restart” to teaching and research communities in Mexico and the U.S. This “restart” is intended to re-energize how mathematics is taught by learning to reconnect the mind, the moving/sensing body and the physical world.
The Fulbright Scholar Award provides continuity to Dominguez’ research goals, which seek to interrupt the domination of Eurocentric approaches to teaching mathematics across the globe. One theme of Eurocentrism in mathematics is the normalization of absolute truths and certainty.
“When most people think of zero,” Dominguez explained as an example, “they think of nothing, of an absence, which reflects absolutist and static thought. But if you allow yourself to re-encounter the concept of zero from an Indigenous perspective, zero is, as suggested by its circular shape, the continuous beginning and end of a regenerating cycle.”
Raised on the U.S.–Mexico border, Dominguez completed both elementary and secondary school in Mexico before earning his Ph.D. degree in Bilingual Mathematics Education at the University of Texas at Austin. His research collaborations seek to flatten the hierarchical structures of Eurocentric humanities research, “Structures so strong and tall that they suffocate the diverse and relational ways in which humans create and share knowledge,” he said. Through movement, philosophy and art, Dominguez hopes to continue developing a moving theory of how teachers learn to emancipate their own teaching from the regime of rigor, causality and rationality while re-encountering love, reciprocity and possibility.
“In my research collaborations locally and abroad, I have found among teachers and students a strong desire to experience the teaching and learning of mathematics in more colorful, dynamic and creative ways,” he said. “For a long time, learning the subject of mathematics has remained hostage to neoliberal systems, and I know that, for me and the students and teachers that I work with in public schools, we want something different.”
Dominguez is grateful for the opportunity to become a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Oaxaca. “One of the attractive aspects of Fulbright is the idea of cocreating and exchanging cultural and academic knowledge,” he concluded. “It truly resonates with my approach to research, which resists imposing knowledge from the outside and instead seeks to build knowledge from the inside, with others, and returning that knowledge to where it was cocreated.”