Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Fulbright Meeting

The last couple of days I was in Old San Juan for a Fulbright Ambassador meeting (for one day) and a meeting of Campus Representatives (the next day).

Interesting Fulbright-related topics included that 1) the Fulbright program is extremely cost effective: in over 60 years of implementation and over 310,000 scholar and students the total cost of the Fulbright program has amounted to just three days of the current U.S. defense budget. I'm for soft diplomacy and butter not bombs, any day. 2) Hot off the press: your short term Specialist grants do not count towards your two lifetime Fulbright Scholar grants. That's right, you can have nearly an unlimited number of Specialist or other short term (under 60 days) Fulbright Scholar grants. The only stipulation is you have to wait a certain number of years between grants. Look for more information on this in 2013.
And 3) again, hot of the press and no web link to point you to... if you have an unmarried partner who, for all intents and purposes is like your "spouse," you can now bring him or her with you on your Fulbright as your accompanying partner which means you get a little extra stipend money, just like the married folks have always gotten. This goes for same-sex couple and the living-in-sin straight people. That Is Big, people! Look for news in 2013.

So, bottom line and refresher on the Fulbright Ambassador program, we Ambassadors go out to colleges, universities, conferences, and other places where scholar-types dwell, and give talks on the Fulbright Scholar program. CIES and Fulbright wants to increase the number of applicants and increase the diversity of the applicant pool. But by "diversity" think geographic diversity, institutional diversity, diversity of one's rank (or in my case, non-rank) of the applicant, and demographic diversity. Really, if you meet the short list of eligibility criteria, they want YOU to apply for a Fulbright Scholar grant.

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Hotel El Convento (see the map above) where we also used the conference rooms (in the photos shown above).  This hotel is registered as an historic hotel, and is as lovely as these pictures can attest to....

And then Old San Juan was incredible to look at and very walk-able.

I was taken with all the seemingly stray cats all around, although none seemed to be too wild or too thin.

And finally one aspect of Old San Juan that I think was especially ingenious is the wall around the city. Built in the 1500's by the Spanish, the wall was designed to keep out marauders. There are only a few doorways that people can pass through (like the red door below).

 But nowadays it seems a wall around a small island like Puerto Rico may be just the infrastructure to ward off surging seas as they rise with the melting ice caps. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg should take note.


Have You Thought About a Fulbright Scholarship Lately?

So, it's official. I'm excited to say that I will be acting as a Fulbright Ambassador for 2012-14 and maybe even longer. I get to do what come easily for about the Fulbright program, what my experiences were like and how the Fulbright affected my life and the lives of my family. This is a start:

The following is a re-posting of a post I sent to the TED Fellows blog.

I'm writing this for you scholars who read this TED Fellows blog. Chances are you’ve thought about applying for a Fulbright scholarship but for whatever reason, you haven’t. It’s never the right time in your life. It’s never the right place in the world. You can’t take the kids with you. You can’t get the time off of work. You don’t teach, do research, work at an elite institution. You don’t have a Ph.D. You’re a biologist and they only want humanists. You’re an art historian and they only want scientists. All of these are fallacies. All of these excuses are known to CIES, the organization that oversees the Fulbright program, as roadblocks that keep you scholars from applying for a Fulbright.

Recently, I was invited to be a Fulbright Ambassador for 2012-2014 and that means CIES has asked me to talk up my Fulbright experience and, hopefully, inspire a diverse and wide-ranging applicant pool. Here goes!

The story of my road to a Fulbright grant starts with a master’s degree in geology. When I submitted my application for a Fulbright scholarship, I was working at a small liberal arts college as an educational technologist specializing in GIS. I was not then nor am I now a professor, though I did my share of college teaching as an adjunct. I’ve given lots of conference talks and written a few papers. I am what is known as an alternative-career academic or in twitter parlance I’m an #alt-ac. If I can do it, if I can secure a Fulbright grant, you can certainly do it too.

Here is what you absolutely need for a viable Fulbright application: 1) a desire to live in another country sharing your knowledge, traveling as a citizen-diplomat, 2) a project idea that jumps off the page and is readable by informed non-specialist reviewers, 3) an institutional contact in the country for which you are applying to, 4) if you desire a teaching award, you need teaching experience, and 5) if you seek a research-based award, you should have research experience. That’s kind of it. Here are more ideas for your application that I’ve developed in the past.

My Fulbright was spent at the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies or CERMES at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. I did geospatial and GIS research, co-taught a GIS class, contributed to the department ‘s community outreach, worked with the one instructional technologist at the UWI giving seminars, I wrote a paper from one of the projects that I worked on, which is in press. I went to Belize to assist students and faculty with blogging, tablet PCs and video in a field-based class and I went to the Grenadine Islands to give Google Earth community workshops. My family and I lived in Barbados for eleven months where my kids learned how to sail, seek baby sea turtles, swim with the Alpha Sharks swim club, surf and snorkel. My wife (who is a professor and was on sabbatical) wrote every day and learned how to windsurf. I wrote four additional papers, learned more about the quirky (to an American) game of cricket and took thousands of pictures. I was nurtured, needed and warmly accepted into the CERMES family. The Fulbright experience was positively life-changing for me and my family.

If you’ve ever thought about a Fulbright, now is the time to give it a try. Why wait? Here is the catalogue and see for yourself. Get going, the application is due August 1, 2012.


Fulbright Ambassador Program

I may be involved with the Fulbright program again. I was nominated to be a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador for 2012-14. Now, I have no idea what that means, so I went to an orientation meeting in Washington D.C. last week and got the scoop. I took the picture you see to the right just in case it's my last opportunity.

What I found out is the Ambassador program was developed in 2009 as part of an outreach program on the part of CIES (Council for International Exchange of Scholars). Former Fulbrighters go out and talk about their experiences and what the Fulbright program is all about to audiences of interested people. Sounds easy, right?

Here's more. The Fulbright Ambassador program is a U.S. State Department Public Diplomacy program, although this, like the Fulbright Scholar experience itself, is not political. The program is still to promote "mutual understanding," and Ambassadors are educational and cultural ambassadors. Secondly, this effort that began in 2009 was part of trying to diversify the Fulbright applicant pool. Who knew but many people have the false idea that the Fulbright is for elites and is unattainable. Well, I am here to tell you that you do not need to be a tenured faculty member with a fancy PhD background. The Fulbright program is looking for regional diversity, cultural diversity, and institutional diversity.

On the left, I took a picture of some of the ideas tossed out by recent Fulbright Ambassadors on what to do or expect while "out in the field." All of these bullet points spoke to me and are useful but "People will come armed with excuses" is one I've already heard. Since I was awarded a Fulbright in early 2009, I've talked up the program with all sorts of people, especially non-traditional academics, also known as #alt-ac types, whom I feel would be perfect for a Fulbright. Most have some sort of excuse for why not to apply. People, if I get to do this Fulbright Ambassador thing, I am coming after YOU.

So, I really hope I can do this program. I will be the first in line to cheer-lead for Fulbright. The Fulbright experience is a remarkable program in countless ways. Oh, and I was put up at the Sofitel Hotel (TripAdvisor review) right next to #OccupyDC (before it was shut down).

More soon.