Northwestern Welcomes Fulbright Scholars this Summer

University selected to host orientation for prestigious exchange program with global reach

By Roger AndersonMay 14, 2018

Well recognized for its production of innovative knowledge, Northwestern’s Program of African Studies (PAS) will host more than 150 young scholars, students, and English teaching assistants this summer for a Fulbright Program Pre-Departure Orientation. Sponsored by the US Department of State, the July orientation is co-hosted by Northwestern’s Office of the Vice President for International Relations and will prepare the Fulbrighters, who are faculty and graduates of higher education institutions from across the United States, for success in their extended research and teaching engagements in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This year marks the first time in six years that the Fulbright US.Program — the US government’s flagship international educational exchange program that sends American graduates, faculty, and professionals abroad for individually designed study, research projects, faculty lecturing, or English Teaching Assistantships — is holding PDOs outside of Washington, DC. Northwestern will host individuals heading to Sub-Saharan Africa, while the University of Texas at Austin will welcome Fulbright US Student and US Scholar grantees traveling to the Western Hemisphere. PDOs for Fulbrighters traveling to East Asia and the Pacific, South and Central Asia, Europe and Eurasia, and the Middle East and North Africa will be held in Washington, DC.

“These students, scholars, artists, and professionals will benefit from the Program of African Study's extensive personal and institutional connections to the continent that we have built during our program's 70-year history,” says political scientist Will Reno, PAS director. “The exchange of people, skills, and ideas between the US and Africa is integral to sustaining our scholarly community and the Fulbright Program promotes the openness and mutual exchange upon which good scholarship depends.”

Caitlin Monroe, a third-year doctoral student in the Department of History, is one of 50 Fulbright Student Researchers who will participate in the on-campus meetings held July 11-13. She will do so alongside 70 new Fulbright scholars — typically college or university faculty and administrators, as well as professionals, artists, journalists, scientists, lawyers, and independent scholars — and 25 previous Fulbright winners. Thirty-five English Teaching Assistant grantees heading to Africa will arrive in Evanston July 8 for an intensive teacher training workshop before the general orientation begins.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to carry out sustained research on a topic I love, thanks to Fulbright support,” says Monroe, a Mellon Cluster Fellow at PAS who will be spending a year in Uganda conducting research on women’s historical knowledge, education initiatives, and group identity in the 19th and 20th centuries. “Spending time in Ugandan archives and conducting interviews in the western part of the country is the most essential aspect of my dissertation, so I’m really grateful to have the support.”

Monroe belongs to a successful lineage of students and alumni who comprise the University’s Fulbright US Student Program winners. For more than a decade, Northwestern has ranked among only a handful of universities to appear on every “top producing” Fulbright US Student Program list published by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Fulbright US Student competition is administered at Northwestern through the Office of Fellowships. The annual application deadline is in early September for awards beginning almost a year later. Graduating seniors, alumni, and graduate students with US passports are eligible to apply for student awards.

Attendees at July’s orientation will be traveling to more than two dozen African nations. The workshop will offer the new Fulbright grantees practical information about living, teaching, and researching in Sub-Saharan Africa. Participants will have the opportunity to meet with State Department and US embassy staff and engage with regional experts from Northwestern and other institutions.

“Hosting this orientation provides an opportunity for Northwestern to engage a broader academic community, to make connections with the next generation of scholars working on international issues, and to draw attention to the important resources available here,” says Kim Rapp, assistant vice president for International Relations. “Our deep faculty expertise in African Studies, the vast scope of the Herskovitz Library of African Studies, and our prime geographic location with access to Chicago-area museums and cultural activities will all make a lasting impression on the students and scholars spending time here preparing for their Fulbright year abroad.”

Throughout 2018, Northwestern’s Herskovits Library exhibits have focused on the Program of African Studies’ history, highlighting how PAS alumni have advanced scholarship about Africa in the US and on the continent itself. Since 1948, PAS has provided a global hub for research on Africa and the Diaspora, and some of its scholars have been deeply involved in African governance and diplomacy.

“Being a part of Northwestern’s broad African Studies community and having access to the Herskovits Library has been amazing,” says Monroe, who will be making her third research trip to Uganda as a doctoral student. “PAS has also supported my language training and preliminary research, and that support has played a crucial role in helping me develop my project.” While at Northwestern, Monroe has learned to speak Swahili and Rutooro, a language spoken in western Uganda. Her doctoral research has been supported with grants from PAS, the Department of History, and The Graduate School.