By SUE WUETCHER
Published June 30, 2023
UB faculty members Edith Gonzalez, Daniel Hess, Katarzyna “Kasia” Kordas and Amy VanScoy have received prestigious Fulbright Scholar Awards to study and teach abroad during the coming year.
In addition, Georg Rafailidis, associate professor in the Department of Architecture, School of Architecture and Planning, has been named to the Fulbright Specialist Roster for a three-year tenure. As a member of the roster, Rafailidis is part of a pool of candidates who can be matched to a Fulbright project designed by host institutions from over 150 countries.
The Fulbright program, coordinated by the U.S. Department of State, is devoted to improving intercultural relations, diplomacy and competence between the people of the U.S. and other nations through educational exchange.
Gonzalez, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences, has received a U.S.-UK Fulbright Commission award to the British Library – Eccles Centre for American Studies. She will spend six months at the London library — and at other libraries around the country — conducting archival research on the traditional ecological knowledge of the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda.
Gonzalez explains that a lot of the colonial records of Antigua and Barbuda cannot be accessed in the country. Rather, they can be found in the British Library, which has a large collection of 18th-century documents, and at libraries and archives around Britain. The British consider the history of the English-speaking Caribbean — Antigua and Barbuda are among several Caribbean islands that are independent Commonwealth countries — to be shared history, she says, and so Britain retains artifacts, such as colonial records, as British cultural heritage resources.
Gonzalez notes the British Parliament in 1835 declared Barbudans to be Indigenous because of their relationship to the land. The island’s culture had developed around communal ownership of land, and “through this comes deep ecological knowledge” in areas such as farming, cattle ranching and medicine, she says. But after Hurricane Irma devastated the island in 2017, the central government in Antigua privatized land ownership which, she says, will effectively eradicate Barbudan culture in favor of Antiguan culture.
Many are now questioning how Barbudans can be Indigenous when they are descendants of African slaves. During her Fulbright stint, she’ll bring the historical evidence forward to support Barbudans engaged in a fight to save their way of life, as well as document traditional ecological knowledge of Barbudans that has been handed down from their ancestors and further developed in close communion with the land since the 17th century.
Hess, professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, School of Architecture and Planning, will spend the 2023-24 academic year at Tadeusz Kościuszko Cracow University of Technology in Poland, teaching urban planning and urban design courses, and continuing his research on the large, standardized apartment buildings built during the socialist era.
This is Hess’ second Fulbright Scholar Award: He was awarded a Fulbright in Estonia in 2010 at Tallinn University of Technology.
Hess says he will examine “housing estates” — what we in the U.S. call “housing projects” — that were rapidly built in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II and are estimated to still house as much as one-third to one-half of the population in these countries. The goal is to assess the potential for renovating this segment of the housing system in Poland, which would include upgrading it for energy efficiency, “giving it new life” and making it ready for new residents, he says.
As an urban planner, Hess says he also will be looking at “neighborhood amenities” that make housing attractive to residents, as well as how neighborhoods are able to absorb migrants from Ukraine.
He notes that 1.5 million Ukrainians have fled their country for Poland since the Russian invasion in February 2020. While many have since returned to their homeland despite the ongoing war, at one point Poland needed to house hundreds of thousands of additional residents, he says, adding that this influx comes on top of a general housing crisis in the country, where inflation has dramatically increased housing costs.
In addition to extending his research, Hess says he hopes his time in Poland will enable him to find and develop research collaborators in the country, noting that he had had difficulty finding collaborators in Poland while doing similar pan-European research a few years ago.
Kordas, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health (EEH), School of Public Health and Health Professions, has received a Distinguished Scholar Award to Masaryk University in the Czech Republic. She will spend the upcoming fall semester at the Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment (RECETOX), an internationally recognized center in environmental chemistry and toxicology at Masaryk University.
RECETOX offers multidisciplinary bachelor’s and master’s programs in environmental health sciences, and computational biology and biomedicine, with specializations in epidemiology and population modeling, and environmental health. It also offers a PhD program in environmental health.
Kordas notes that Masaryk University is one of only three Czech universities offering programs in epidemiology — and the first to include a sub-specialization in environmental epidemiology.
Kordas, who served as co-director of the Community for Global Health Equity (2018-23) and director of the MPH Epi concentration in EEH, will contribute to the review and further development of the new educational and research programs in environmental epidemiology at RECETOX, as well as teach and mentor students in environmental health, and give a public lecture on her environmental epidemiology research.
She will also develop research collaborations with RECETOX scientists working on exposure assessment and population health science.
Kordas says the major long-term goal of her Fulbright award is to establish joint research projects with Czech scientists and foster student exchange — both of which would benefit society through “collaborative international knowledge advancement to address the health effects of environmental exposures — a problem that knows no borders.”
Maria Almanza, director of faculty recognition in the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, notes that Distinguished Scholar Awards, such as the one that Kordas received, are viewed as the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program.
VanScoy, associate professor of information science, Graduate School of Education, will spend the spring 2024 semester at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana to help develop a library and information science program at the university. She will also mentor librarians currently working on their doctorates and provide lectures and workshops to support these students and encourage more librarians to become involved in research and pursue doctoral studies.
In addition, as part of the teaching/research fellowship, she will collaborate with local scholars on research projects of mutual interest, including expanding her ongoing research on the professional orientations of librarians to the Ghanian context.
VanScoy explains that there currently is only one library and information science program in the entire nation of Ghana — at the University of Ghana Legon — which leaves the country with not enough librarians to serve the information needs of its population.
“A side effect of this deficit is that the library and information services infrastructure, which provides information access, data literacy education and knowledge management, is not as robust as it could be,” she says. “This infrastructure is a critical component of sustainability and innovation, and requires professionally educated librarians to build and maintain it.”
VanScoy, who helped to develop UB’s first information science doctoral program, will serve as a consultant, offering her insight and expertise as the University of Cape Coast develops its new program.
For the research component of the award, VanScoy plans to continue research into the professional orientations of librarians that she has previously conducted in Slovenia, South Africa and the United States. She will interview Ghanian librarians from different regions of the country and from different types of libraries, and hopes to collaborate with these local librarians to further their own research.
“My previous work in other countries has taught me that I need local collaborators to do effective research,” she says.
UB faculty members interested in applying for a Fulbright award can attend workshop on Aug. 10 hosted by Faculty Affairs. During the session, scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. in 310 Silverman Library, applicants can receive feedback on application materials from UB Fulbright alumni, as well as from Almanza and Tilman Baumstark, UB’s Fulbright faculty liaison. The workshop is designed for applicants for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program's 2024-25 cycle, which has an application deadline of Sept. 15, 2023.
Those attending must register by July 25. Questions regarding the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program and/or application support can be directed to Almanza email@example.com and/or Baumstark firstname.lastname@example.org.