Global Impact: UH College of Education Faculty Expand Reach with Fulbright Awards - University of Houston
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Global Impact: UH College of Education Faculty Expand Reach with Fulbright Awards

Posted May 18, 2023 — Fulbright scholars and specialists study, teach and conduct research around the world, bound by a common desire to find solutions to problems and make a difference locally and globally.

The work is a perfect fit for the University of Houston College of Education, where four faculty members are part of the selective exchange program. In February, Associate Professor Mikel W. Cole was named a Fulbright Specialist, joining incoming Dean Cathy Horn and Associate Professors Dave A. Louis and Lyle McKinney, who are at various stages with their international projects.

Incoming Dean Cathy Horn traveled to Santiago, Chile in 2012 as a Fulbright Scholar and continues to collaborate with researchers there a decade later.

“Changed my life,” said Horn, who spent six months in Chile in 2012 as a Fulbright Scholar and continues to collaborate with colleagues there about one of her passions — finding ways to help low-income, historically underrepresented students succeed in higher education.

The Fulbright Program, operated by the U.S. State Department, is the government’s flagship educational and cultural exchange program, awarding 1,700 fellowships each year to send U.S. scholars abroad and to bring international scholars here. The Fulbright Specialist program allows U.S. academics and professionals to engage in shorter-term projects at institutions around the world.

There are Fulbright programs for students, too, and over the past five years, more than 60 UH faculty, students and staff have participated in or are currently part of the program.

Learn more about the involvement from College of Education faculty in the following Q&As.

Cathy Horn (right) with Betty Castor (center), then a member of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, in 2012

Incoming Dean Cathy Horn 
Fulbright Scholar

Tell us about your experience with the Fulbright Program.

I was a Fulbright Scholar in Chile for six months in 2012, hosted by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago. It is an amazing institution with brilliant, equity-centered scholars. 

Chile was undertaking college admissions policy work similar to the work that Texas, California and Florida had been trying for several years as a way of advancing equity in higher education. I wanted to work with my colleagues in Chile to understand whether the programs there had similar impacts. 

What did you achieve as a Fulbright Scholar?  

I have worked with my colleagues in Chile to understand the various admissions and support strategies being used with the goal of expanding access and success for financially vulnerable students. We continue to work together, even after my time as an official Fulbright Scholar ended, and have produced dozens of papers and two books. Parallel to findings in the U.S., we have found through this work that strategic financial aid (both loans and grants) and providing useful information allows Chilean students to access college who might not otherwise.

What did you learn from the experience?  

I learned that people are generous with their willingness to share knowledge and support, and that I have an opportunity and a privilege every day to do the same.

What advice do you have for faculty and staff who wish to be involved in the Fulbright Program?

As Nike says, just do it. Changed my life and will change yours, too.

Associate Professor Lyle McKinney traveled to Colombia in February 2023 to launch his collaborative research on student financial aid policies.

Associate Professor Lyle McKinney 
Fulbright Specialist

Tell us about your experience with the Fulbright Program.

I am on the U.S. Fulbright Specialist roster until fall of 2024. I was selected for the roster back in 2019 for a three-year term, but my time was extended because of travel restrictions caused by the COVID pandemic. I believe Fulbright is a valuable way to share and exchange ideas with colleagues in other parts of the world. My goal is to apply what I’ve learned from teaching and studying about the U.S. higher education system to help improve college access and completion rates in other countries around the world. 

What does your Fulbright project involve?

I am conducting collaborative research with faculty and administrators at Corporación Universitaria Minuto de Dios (UNIMINUTO) in Bogotá, Colombia. UNIMINUTO is a private and progressive Catholic institution and is the largest university in the country, serving around 110,000 predominantly low-income students.

I traveled to UNIMINUTO in February 2023 to develop a joint research agenda with colleagues there, and we are currently co-authoring a comparative study of student financial aid policies in Colombia and the United States. In addition, as part of my future research, I will be consulting on issues related to student transfer from Colombian technical/vocational colleges to four-year institutions.

I also hope to host my UNIMINUTO colleagues in Houston within the next year so they can learn more about the U.S. higher education system.

What advice do you have for faculty and staff who wish to be involved in the Fulbright Program?

Talk with as many former and current Fulbright Specialists and Scholars as they can. Learning about their experiences really increased my desire to engage in this type of collaborative international work. In addition, the UH Office of Global Engagement is an amazing resource — the staff have tons of expertise that made the process so much smoother.

The time commitment to deeply engage and build meaningful, long-term partnerships can be significant, so I would encourage faculty to keep that in mind before charting this path. I quickly realized I would have to say “no” to some local projects in order to have the time and bandwidth to carry out these international projects. 

“If you have the dream or opportunity to partner with an international entity, do it,” said Associate Professor Dave A. Louis, who as a Fulbright awardee plans to expand on his previous work with a German university.

Associate Professor Dave A. Louis
Fulbright Scholar Recipient

Tell us about your experience as a Fulbright Scholar.

I was named a Fulbright Scholar in 2020 for a project at the Universität Bremen in Germany. I had to delay it because of the COVID pandemic, and then last spring it was put on hold again because of the invasion of Ukraine. We’re now trying to see if I can do some of the work this fall.

I applied for the Fulbright to continue work I had been doing previously involving a partnership between the Universität Bremen, Jimma University in Ethiopia and the institution I was with previously, Texas Tech University. That work spanned three years; the goal was to help develop a system that produced top-quality academic staff, well-trained in research and scholarly activity, teaching and professional service — not just competent engineers. (The Tech partnership involved the colleges of education and engineering.)

What are some of the highlights from that partnership?

That would be the relationships between faculty, staff and students in Ethiopia, Germany and the United States. You write reports on the program’s activities, outcomes and successes, but it is the people with whom you interact — witnessing students’ development, strategizing and creating with professionals from different countries and institutions — that are the greatest achievements.

A book chapter resulted from the partnership (“Dynamics in Logistics” was published in 2021), but it is the essence of the experience that lingers with me and will impact my worldview for the rest of my life.

What will you work on as a Fulbright Scholar?

For the earlier project, I worked with graduate engineering students from Jimma University in Ethiopia, and part of the experience for those students was international travel. We partnered with Universität Bremen for that component. Bremen then asked me to work with some of their students. I am working with their director and dean in developing ways in which they could help international students acclimatize to graduate school in Germany — programming, strategic planning, and teaching, working with students on their writing, including how to get their research ready for publication.

What advice do you have for faculty and staff who wish to be involved in the Fulbright Program?

If you have the dream or opportunity to partner with an international entity, do it. It will be a life-changing experience.

Associate Professor Mikel W. Cole, named a Fulbright Specialist in spring 2023, hopes to focus his exchange on topics such as language education and immigration.

Associate Professor Mikel W. Cole
Fulbright Specialist

Tell us about your experience with the Fulbright Program.

My official title is Fulbright Specialist. I was named to the program this spring. I will be in the corps for three years, and each project will cover a two- to six-week period.

I’m very much interested in the kinds of work Fulbright Specialists do with international partners. I’m hoping to build relationships with the Fulbright organization and attract more Fulbright recipients to UH. International students who receive Fulbrights to study in the United States are the kind of people we’re hoping to attract to our bilingual/ESL program, but also more broadly to our curriculum and instruction department.

What do you hope to achieve during your time with the program?

I’m hopeful there will be the opportunity for both short-term and long-term impact, the most immediate being whatever the need is in the host institution. The opportunity to lend expertise to help solve a concrete problem is very appealing. I also hope what comes out of that are potential long-term partnerships between the University of Houston and a university abroad or a department of education and an NGO abroad.

What is your dream opportunity?

In places like Romania, there’s a lot of focus on language education. My particular focus on language education is culturally responsive and translanguaging pedagogies, which encourage teachers to change typical instruction to utilize students’ home languages and culturally informed practices in instruction. I would love to work with an institution in Romania that’s trying to build student-centered bilingual programming at scale. That would be fantastic.

The work I’m doing in Mexico currently is around immigration. I would love to work with the U.S. federal, state or even local Mexican governments to build educational opportunities and resources for folks awaiting asylum.

What advice do you have for faculty and staff who want to be involved in the Fulbright Program?

I would encourage folks to attend information sessions held at UH. I’ve also found that the Fulbright organization has been fantastic.

— By Lillian Hoang