It’s often said that a student’s undergraduate years are some of the best of their life. Sometimes, this is attributed to the student taking advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. But what about the university faculty or staff members who did not get this opportunity? Do they have to sit in the “what ifs” and watch their students embark on these educational, transformational journeys?
No, thanks to the opportunities within the Fulbright Scholar Program.
The Fulbright Scholar program is the United States government’s flagship program of international educational and cultural exchange. Scholars can apply for various award types depending on their level of expertise, academic status and scholarly intentions. Some awards focus on teaching and research, while others focus on research only.
At Texas Tech University, two of Davis College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources’ very own have been named as Fulbright Scholar recipients, and both work in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications.
In 2022, Courtney Meyers, Ph.D., a professor of agricultural communications, completed a Fulbright Scholar Award to conduct research at Charles Sturt University in Australia. Her award was sponsored by Fulbright Australia and the Australian Regional Universities Network.
“I was really curious about [asking], ‘What does the agricultural communications landscape look like in Australia?’” Meyers said.
For her project, “Exploring Agricultural Communications in Australia,” Meyers spent July-December in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, conducting exploratory research such as content analysis, monitoring online medias, watching news programs, reading media coverage and talking to people who worked in agricultural communications roles.
“What I confirmed on this trip is they don’t have agricultural communications as a standalone academic area focus in tertiary education,” Meyers said. “So, for me, it was researching, ‘Well, what could that look like?’”
David Lawver, Ph.D., professor of agricultural education, was awarded his 2009 Fulbright Scholar grant to teach while conducting research at a university in Africa, making his experience vastly different from Meyers.’
Lawver taught extension methods while spending the fall semester at Egerton University in Kenya. His project entitled “Extension Education in Kenya: Farmer Field Schools as an Alternative Approach,” aimed to more effectively disseminate knowledge generated by researchers to farmers.
“What I learned as a result of that Fulbright really shaped the way I teach AGED 5311,” Lawver said, referring to his time teaching Human Dimensions of International Agricultural Development.
In addition to research-only and combined teaching and research awards, the Fulbright Commission also grants teaching-only and professional project awards. None of the Fulbright Scholar process would be possible without the support of Davis College itself, something for which Meyers said she is “forever grateful.”
“I could not have done this incredible opportunity without the support of my department, Davis College and the university,” Meyers said. “I felt like I was supported every step of the way.”
Meyers credited the university with their support because she received professional development leave so she could participate in the Fulbright program. She also noted the Department of Agricultural Education & Communications made it possible for her to go because they shifted roles and responsibilities around so she could focus solely on her work in Australia.
According to the official program website, the application process for a Fulbright Scholar award is extensive. Applicants must verify their application eligibility, select the award they wish to apply for and complete the rest of the application process. Applications open for awards over a year in advance, meaning current applicants are applying for projects to take place during the 2024-2025 academic year.
It is clear that those who receive a prestigious Fulbright award bring back just as much as they took with them, and with the Fulbright Scholar Program’s help, it is never too late for faculty to study abroad.