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Faculty Fulbright Scholars bring international experience to the classroom

by Cynthia Hess, special to UofL Today last modified Jan 27, 2011 10:11 AM

University of Louisville law professor Lars Smith didn’t know much about the Fulbright Scholar Program until a colleague — who traveled abroad in 2008 as a scholar— told him about it.

Faculty Fulbright Scholars bring international experience to the classroom

Lars Smith is heading to China on a faculty Fulbright.

Now, three years later, Smith is packing his bags to spend five months at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, China, as a Fulbright winner. He will teach graduate students about intellectual property laws in the United States.

Winning a Fulbright is tough. The application process is arduous and competition is stiff. But the rewards are great. Faculty members who teach and conduct research in other countries bring a first-person, international perspective to the classroom-an important benefit in an increasingly global society.

“There’s no question that China’s influence on the market and world requires greater academic understanding,” Smith said. “I want to incorporate what I learn into my teaching.”

Smith isn’t alone.

Typically, anywhere from two to six UofL faculty members are selected for the program each year. Recent Fulbright winners are:

Robert Jacobs, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. He has been teaching in Chengdu, China, since last August.

Wendy Pfeffer, Department of Modern Languages. She is conducting research on medieval literature in Toulouse, France.

Daya Sandhu, College of Education and Human Development. On his second Fulbright grant, Sandhu spent five months last year in Punjab, India, conducting research on suicide.

Hank Savitch, School of Urban and Public Affairs. He spent last spring in Santiago, Chile, conducting research on urban development in Chile, Argentina and Peru.

For Smith, the value of a global education hits close to home. His wife, Barbara, and daughters, Lindsey and Alison, both under age 10, will accompany him to China. The girls will attend school there and work on their mastery of Mandarin Chinese.

To prepare for the trip, the Smiths tapped into the knowledge of Chang yuan Liu, a visiting professor from Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China. With Liu as their coach, the Smiths learned some Chinese, got advice on ordering food and tips for avoiding common cultural faux pas.

To reciprocate, the Smiths introduced Liu to the “real” Louisville by taking him to lunch at Mark’s Feed Store, a shopping trip on Bardstown Road and a tour of Cherokee Park.

Smith said the family is ready to go but will make one more purchase before leaving — a travel guide known as “Point It.” The guide contains photos of common items such as food, trains, buses and money so that travelers can simply point to the item needed.

“Just to be sure …” Smith said.

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