Pelgy Vaz selected for month-long Fulbright seminar in Brazil

Multiculturalism and internationalization at Fort Hays State University got a big boost last week when the U.S. Department of Education notified Dr. Pelgy Vaz (pronounced PEL-jie VAHZ), associate professor of sociology, that she has been selected for the Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program.

Vaz will spend the month of July in Brazil, attending lectures, conferences and field trips in five states.

"I am looking forward to this exotic cross-cultural journey," she said. "The award will help me facilitate my cross-cultural teaching, research and professional interests."

Vaz will travel in Brazil with 15 other educators from across the country who were selected for this seminar. Nine other Fulbright-Hays seminars in other countries are also planned for summer 2011.

The Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program provides opportunities for selected educators in the social sciences and humanities to participate in short-term study and travel seminars abroad. The purpose is to improve their understanding and knowledge of the peoples and cultures of other countries. Support is generally made available through interagency agreements. The Department of Education transfers funds through the U.S. State Department to Fulbright commissions in various countries to pay the costs.

A requirement in the application process is to submit a curriculum project or unit that is relevant to the applicant's teaching responsibilities, said Vaz.

Noting the purpose and requirement, and referencing FHSU's creed of "Forward thinking. World ready.," Vaz said, "The information and knowledge from this seminar about the historical, social, cultural, political, economic and other aspects of Brazilian society will be incorporated into my courses, which focus on how individuals are affected by the broader social context in which they live."

Her courses are Comparative Cultures and Society, Introduction to Sociology, and Multiculturalism in the United States.

"Through the process of comparison and contrast," she said, "students will learn more about U.S. culture and society and that of Brazil and other Latin-American countries."

She said she will also present a paper at the National Social Science Meeting in spring 2012 on the social and economic development, sustainability and poverty reduction in Brazil. The experience in Brazil will also inform other public presentations on campus and in the community.

Terms of the award include a round-trip coach airfare, room and board, tuition and fees, and program-related travel within the host country.

"I am humbled and honored to be selected for this program," said Vaz. "I appreciate the support I got from my department, my colleagues and the university."

"Internationalization is the process of becoming an international university. Pelgy’s success is an excellent example of the great resources available to FHSU faculty through the Fulbright program. FHSU faculty are competitive applicants and the university is proud of her display of initiative. She is a model faculty member for the university’s internationalization efforts," said Dr. Tim Crowley, dean of FHSU's Graduate School and assistant provost for internationalization.

"She's been a champion of internationalization at Fort Hays State, and we look forward to sharing in the knowledge she will gain," he said.

He said that Vaz's award "propels the university's internationalization efforts further." The Graduate School has placed an emphasis on Fulbright programs, encouraging faculty and students to apply, "both where our faculty go abroad and where visiting faculty come here," he said.

The application period is open for faculty to go abroad in the 2012-13 cycle until Aug. 1, 2011. The application deadline for faculty to come to Hays is October 2011, he said.

"We are also encouraging our students to apply for the Fulbright student grant programs," he said. The deadline for the student Fulbright program is Oct. 18, 2011.

"A good way for faculty and students to learn about all the Fulbright programs is to follow 'Internationalization at FHSU' on Facebook, where several opportunities are highlighted every week," said Crowley. "There are many other scholarships available for students to study abroad for which our students never apply."

Other recent successes are Dr. Avi Kempinski, assistant professor of modern languages, who will teach for a semester at FHSU's partner school in Germany, the University of Duisberg-Essen, and the College of Education and Technology's Fulbright Scholar in Residence next year.

The scholar in residence, who will come from either Mexico or Costa Rica, will teach at FHSU for a year and perform in-service presentations at two regional K-12 service centers, Smoky Hill, in Salina, and Southwest Plains, in Sublette.

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