UM brings international perspective

By SUZANNE OZMENT / Guest Columnist

One of the objectives identified in the University of Montevallo’s strategic plan is to “generate a climate and culture that is welcoming to diverse populations and supports an international perspective.”

One way we have sought to fulfill this objective this year is by participating in the Fulbright Scholar program, which has allowed us to send a UM faculty member overseas and to welcome an international faculty member to Montevallo.

Named for Sen. J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright program is sponsored by the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of Education.

In January, Karen Graffeo, an associate professor of art at the University of Montevallo, left for Romania, where she is serving as a Senior Fulbright Scholar. Last fall, Marli Rosa, who holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from the State University of Campinas, arrived from Brazil to serve as Fulbright-Scholar-in-Residence at UM.

Professor Graffeo reports that her work in Romania has been very fulfilling. While she has been visiting and photographing Roma communities for 11 years, her previous trips have been short ones.

Her Fulbright scholarship has provided the opportunity for her to travel throughout Romania and to “become intimate with the culture and people.” As she puts it, “I am no longer a visitor, thanks to the Fulbright program. I am a participant and have a structure to give back to the great human experience.”

One of the ways she is giving back is by collaborating with youth leaders in organizing a festival to celebrate Roma culture in Bucharest, held on April 8, the International Day of Roma.

Dr. Rosa has found her time in the United States to be equally positive. She has lived on the Montevallo campus and immersed herself in university and regional life. She has taught courses in Brazilian culture and Portuguese; contributed guest lectures in business, history, communications and English classes; offered a Brazilian film series; and organized a Brazilian Festival featuring dance, music and food. She is quick to say that what she has enjoyed most is her interaction with UM students.

Graffeo and Rosa will return to their respective homes at the end of this semester with rich experiences to share with their students and colleagues and with the assurance that they in turn have enriched the experiences of those they came to know through the Fulbright program.

Suzanne Ozment is the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Montevallo.