FANTASTIC VOYAGES
FIT’s Fulbright Scholars studied all over the world. Here’s what they learned

In the prestigious Fulbright Program, scholars travel around the world to do research and carry out projects that improve understanding between nations. Some grants last a few weeks; others may be extended over years. FIT currently has nine faculty members and administrators who have benefited from various types of Fulbright funding, and who have, in turn, spread knowledge of their field in faraway places. Hue asked them to share their stories in brief.

ANNA BLUME

Professor, History of Art, and Associate Chair, Art History and Museum Professions

For two years, I traveled throughout the mountainous northern landscape of Guatemala to learn about how and why the Maya of the region used images of Catholic saints in their church and home altars. This research became the basis for my Yale University History of Art doctoral thesis, The Afterlife of Images. Through this immersion into rural Guatemala, I learned about the importance of images in people’s everyday struggle for self-expression and survival.  I also learned about how the Maya continue to find ways to remain connected to their long and complex past through images and ideas. To witness these kinds of intentional and aesthetic negotiations of the past, present, and future was a profoundly humbling experience that has shaped every aspect of my understanding.

 SUSANNE GOETZ

Assistant Professor, Textile/Surface Design

After graduating with a BA in textile design from a university in Germany, I earned a Fulbright to study at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. I graduated with an MS in textile and apparel technology management. I had never been to the United States before. I learned a lot about American culture, Puerto Rican culture (from my roommate), and the South. The degree was also something of a new direction for me: I had studied design at a tiny, 200-year-old university of applied science and moved on to a management degree at a brand new, expansive campus of a big, state university.

 STEVEN FRUMKIN

Dean, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology

When I received my Fulbright in Kyrgyzstan, I had worked in Central Asia previously and was to continue my Department of State, United States Agency for International Development initiatives by educating local business owners and bringing sophisticated business best practices to the region. Having used the Soviet Union planning model for decades, the region was lacking in business modeling, strategic thinking, and managerial controls, as the concept of privatization was still new. My role was to educate business leaders in how to make and implement a business plan within a free market system. I worked with farmers, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, personal service companies, and large factories. One such large factory had an average of 25,000 employees per shift, while one organization had three employees, all family members. For the farm project, my mission was to dividea large state farm into ten smaller workable farms, create a business model, and craft an organizational plan.

Kyrgystan

Kyrgystan

PATRICE GEORGE

Assistant Professor, Textile Development and Marketing

I spent a winter at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland as a Fulbright Guest Lecturer in computer-aided textile design. Although I had lived and studied in Sweden, I was surprised to find that Finland was very different. The local Fulbright officers introduced us to the history of Finland and its long struggle to be an independent nation. To teach design in Finland it is essential to understand sisu, the Finnish spirit of strength and resilience. Finns believe beautifully designed products are a human right, not just an assortment of products.

ERIKA ROHRBACH

Assistant Director, Admissions, and Director, International Student Services

I applied for the Fulbright International Education Administrators Program in Japan to learn why FIT’s Japanese enrollment had been plummeting and what could be done to reverse that trend. We visited colleges and universities and cultural sites, met with representatives from the Japanese Ministry of Education, and heard lectures by experts on the Japanese educational system. I learned that our drop in Japanese enrollment was part of a nationwide trend—and may be attributable to a number of factors, most of them out of our control: a number of Japanese corporations looking to hire recent college graduates do not look favorably on students taking time from studies at home to be educated abroad; the timing of the Japanese academic calendar doesn’t mesh well with the Western calendar; and the expense of study at FIT is significantly more than the cost of Japanese higher education. However, our alumni association in Japan is very active (over 300 strong). Their efforts and enthusiasm have helped our Japanese enrollment rebound a bit. In 2012, we had 28 Japanese students; today we have 51, and we’d like to see that number continue to rise.

Japan

Japan

AMY WERBEL

Associate Professor, History of Art

My Fulbright Scholar post was at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, China, where I taught courses on American studies and American art history for undergraduate and graduate students. The program also sent me over to mainland China and Hong Kong to give lectures. I couldn’t possibly sum up everything I learned abroad in short form, so I wrote a book: Lessons From China: America in the Hearts and Minds of the World’s Most Important Rising Generation. Every day of my year in China brought new realizations regarding both the vast differences and similarities between China and the U.S.

RENEE COOPER

Professor and Assistant Chair, Fashion Merchandising Management

I was a guest lecturer at the Copenhagen School of Design and Technology (KEA) in Denmark. I collaborated with design and marketing lecturers on an interdisciplinary project in which I taught fashion marketing and sales, presentation skills, and business planning. I also participated in an industry panel about English as the language of business and was the key speaker at an event titled Retail Revolution, where I discussed embracing omni-channel. I came to regard Denmark with respect and admiration; there’s a reason it’s been rated the happiest place on earth to live.

MELANIE REIM

Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Illustration MFA

The entire Fulbright experience is a rich learning experience. It begins when you apply—you learn what you have to offer, and what you yearn to seek in your own life’s work. I was awarded a specialist grant in the Dominican Republic at Altos de Chavon School of Design. I was asked to help develop an assessment plan and curriculum, as well as teach an intensive drawing workshop, a workshop on the design and illustration of the poster, and lectures on the history of American illustration, both in La Romana and Santo Domingo. Additionally, I continued my personal visual documentary on the process of sugar cane production and life in the bateyes (sugar workers’ communities). My experience expanded my appreciation of the beauty of communication through art, gesture, smiles, and acts of kindness when language differences impede our usual means of communication.

greyline2

Illustrations by Stephen Gardner MFA ’11