What Does a Fulbright Specialist Do?

global

The Fulbright Specialist Program links U.S. academics and professionals and their counterparts at host institutions overseas. Qualified academics receive grants to engage in collaborative two- to six-week projects at host institutions in over 100 countries. International travel costs and a stipend are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating host institutions cover grantee in-country expenses or provide in-kind services.

Communication sciences and disorders professionals are among those who participate in the program. In this post, I (Robert Goldfarb) and my colleague Florence Ling Myers recount our experiences in it.

Florence was a specialist in education and worked at the University of Hong Kong in 2011 for two weeks. She received approval for the five-year placement on the specialist roster. I was a specialist in applied linguistics/TEFL at Universidad Pedigogica Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia for six weeks, with the latter half of the commitment completed online after returning to the United States.

Our experiences were different enough to provide a sense of what a prospective Fulbrighter can expect.

Florence’s experience: Fluency disorders and returning to my roots

My mission in going to HKU was to reinforce the importance of fluency disorders in the family of speech-language pathologies. I gave workshops to students and professionals on cluttering, cluttering/stuttering, and stuttering. I met with academic and clinical faculty and reviewed curricula. Of particular interest was learning the problem-based learning paradigm used by faculty. The pedagogical philosophy is that students need to acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills, to pose clinical hypotheses based on independent library research and come up with evidence-based therapy approaches for various case studies.

I had the pleasure of co-mentoring a senior thesis in stuttering. The student was bright, responsive and competent. HKU is definitely a high-power university, with great expectations for faculty and graduate students to publish in premier journals.

I also had a personal mission: to return to my roots and give back to my motherland. I escaped to Hong Kong as a refugee from mainland China in 1949 with literally nothing but the reassuring hands of my mother. I took not so much a “slow boat from China,” but a creaky leaky junk under the blackened nocturnal skies from Canton. I now wonder if I had been an illegal child alien. My dad was already in the United States to earn his doctorate in physics from the University of Missouri. Much has changed in Hong Kong since the 1940s, yet there is still this undefinable yet undeniable human spirit—to survive and thrive—among the people there.

Having been in the United States for nearly 60 years, I, too, have changed, though there is still very much a Chinese core in me. Whether or not one is from the East or West, the common bond that motivated me to return to my homeland as a Fulbright Specialist was a passion for cluttering and stuttering, and to instill this passion in the next generation of speech-language pathologists in China.

Robert’s experience: Helping with research methods/professional writing

I committed to teach two intensive graduate courses in research methods and in academic writing to advanced students working on thesis projects. In preparation for the visit, I arranged for my publisher to send some relevant books I had authored, and added others I thought might be useful. In addition, I prepared course packs in English and Spanish (with the help of a graduate student from South America) regarding local idioms. I learned, for example, that people in Colombia expressed something very positive as “the last Coca-Cola in the desert.”

Students also received feedback on their research projects in various stages, from proposals to data collection. Another commitment was a keynote address, called the Foro Fulbright, to local universities and other Fulbright scholars in the country. The students and young faculty were all bright, hard-working and dedicated, but their exposure to research design and international perspectives was provincial. Most students and faculty were open and eager to learn what the global academic community had to offer.

Not all experiences were positive. I was given Thursdays off, because it was known as “riot day,” when vigilantes stormed local universities. Sure enough, on the first Thursday of my visit and the Wednesday of the second week, I was ordered out of the office I shared with colleagues as vigilantes bombed the institution for hours. These events were followed by riot police storming the university. The tear gas they discharged lingered in the air for days.

Finally, on the Sunday before I left for home, I was robbed by a policeman while walking to the supermarket. The executive director of Fulbright Colombia called it a perfect storm of crime and civil unrest, and approved my decision to teach the remainder of my courses online.

Ongoing ties

Our students continue to keep in touch. I have helped several students write master’s theses of which they could be justifiably proud, and the thesis that Florence co-mentored was published the following year in the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

Working as Fulbright Specialists allowed us to interact with colleagues and students abroad, while serving our country as ambassadors of scholarship. While there were some unwelcome experiences for me, we have many positive memories. We encourage you to apply to be on the roster, but note that you will need a bodyguard in some countries.

 
Robert Goldfarb, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor of communication sciences and disorders at Adelphi University. He is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders, and 4, Fluency and Fluency Disorders.

Florence Ling Myers, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor of communication sciences and disorders at Adelphi University. She is an affiliate of ASHA SIG 4.

A Handful of Post-Graduate Retrospection

S in the Road

(photo credit)

With daylight savings time fast approaching, I am reminded that spring is nearly upon us. For the current graduate student, spring often means comps season. It always seems to be the time that never ends, until the next thing you know, it’s three years later and you look back and marvel about the relativity of time.

One of the hardest things about any new endeavor is getting started. Everyone has to start somewhere, and much as we would prefer to think otherwise, the best place to start is at the beginning. Much as I don’t want to admit it, I hated starting at the beginning. But I did it (and I’m glad I did it), and here’s a handful of things I’ve learned so far.

You’re going to make mistakes. Embrace them, learn from them, and use them for good.

I, like many I suspect, envisioned all sorts of things going smoothly when I first started. This daydream was quickly put to rest as I realized that getting the hang of things takes time.

What’s more, sometimes the only way to really learn something is to make certain mistakes along the way. The key is to realize that you can harness a lot of knowledge from mistakes. Try to think of your clinical fellowship not as a place where you need to be perfect, but a place where it can be safe to make mistakes. Keep an open line of communication with your clinical supervisor, and be realistic about what you feel comfortable doing. Think big, but don’t be afraid about starting small.

Try a little bit of everything. You never know what might end up capturing your attention.

I spent much of graduate school being grossed out by anything related to swallowing. Still, I resigned myself to trying it out because I wanted to have some experience in every aspect of the field. While at first I was wary of what I termed the ick factor, I found that I loved working with the patients. It certainly took some time to acclimate to things I found uncomfortable, but I find myself wanting to do more so I could keep working with those patients.

Think of graduate school not as the last chance to learn everything. Think of it as the place where you’re finally given the tools you need to really learn, both in terms of actual resources as well as the capacity to make sense of them.

Half of what I learned in graduate school didn’t make sense to me until the very end. Even three years out, I’m still marveling at how pieces are slowly starting to fall into place. I find myself frequently poring over text books, reading and re-reading things and making connections for what seems like the very first time.

One thing I cherish about this field, and its practitioners, is a passion for life-long learning. I talk to colleagues about things I see with patients that challenge how I had, up until that moment, thought about things. I debate things with the #SLPeeps on Twitter. I ask questions of doctors and nurses that seem at first unrelated to speech and swallowing, but which ultimately deepen my understanding of what a patient might be experiencing.

Try not to think in cliches. That said, practice makes perfect. (Or rather, perfect-ish.)

I generally shy away from the word ‘perfect’, but find this saying apt in many ways. I started playing the guitar when I was in first grade, and the violin in fourth grade. In undergrad, I did theater for two years. In every creative avenue, I found myself in awe of what others could do, of how amazing their words or their music flowed.

I used to think of those I admired while I practiced. I wanted to be able to simply pick up my instrument, or say my lines, with as much ease and grace as them. “How nice it must be not to have to practice much,” I thought, “and to have such ease of talent.”

But I was wrong on one point. They did have talent, absolutely, but they, like me, had to practice to get there. The best way to get good at something is to do it, over and over and over again, until you become just a little bit better at it each time.

It is a journey. One filled with frustration, joy, and emotion, but one worth taking. I no longer strive for perfection, not because I don’t think it’s possible, but because I never want to stop trying to learn and grow. I always want to keep aiming to get just a little bit better every step of the way.

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Phillip Guillory, MS, CCC-SLP, NIC is an SLP and certified sign language interpreter. As an SLP, he specializes in acute care and especially critical care issues. As an interpreter, he specializes in post-secondary settings as well as community and, increasingly, medical settings. Phil can frequently be found on Twitter @ProjectSLP and on his website www.ProjectSLP.com. He is an affiliate of ASHA’s Special Interest Group 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders and Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia).

Student Focus: Things To Consider When Choosing a Graduate School

Chairs in a classroom

Photo by alamosbasement

By this time next year, I will be one of thousands of graduate school applicants crossing my fingers and hoping to be accepted into the school of my choice. In the here and now, I need to focus on determining which graduate programs I will apply to. A little thought today could go a long way toward helping me make informed decisions in the future. As I narrow my graduate school prospects and begin the application process, I plan to take the following criteria into careful consideration:

Program Focus and Features

Some programs boast a broad education that prepares graduates to work in any setting, while others offer a medical or educational domain focus. One school might feature a clinic with an outstanding reputation in the community, while another might offer opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research. I need to be sure I understand the focus of each program in order to determine whether it would be a good fit for me.

Clinical Facilities

In our field, facilities are a huge concern since so much of our education revolves around clinical labs and service to our communities. I need to think about the populations served by the clinics connected to each program I consider, as well as the condition, quality, and modernity of clinic buildings and equipment.

Location

If I am open to the possibility of relocating for a program, I need to consider moving and living costs as part of my decision. If were to relocate for a program under the assumption that I would come home when finished, I also need to consider the possibility that moving after grad school could mean turning down job opportunities and leaving newfound friends.

Cost

It would be nice if comparing the cost of various programs were as simple as comparing the price of tuition, but it is not. While some programs seem, at first glance, to be far more expensive than others, I need to consider opportunities for scholarships, grants, and assistantships. A program whose cost seems prohibitive to me now could turn out to be the most affordable program for me if I am lucky enough to be offered funding.

Surrounding Community

I need to be sure I’ll be happy spending at least three years living in the community my graduate school is a part of. Would I be comfortable moving to a city that is a different size than my own? Will I be able to find the comfort foods I am accustomed to in my new city? Will I fit in well with the general lifestyle?

I would like to encourage readers to comment and discuss additional criteria important in making graduate school choices. May we all find the perfect program and enjoy success in our future endeavors!

Jane Lapham is a student in the California State University, Dominguez Hills Post-Baccalaureate Communication Sciences and Disorders program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Language and Linguistics from Cal State Dominguez Hills, and looks forward to entering graduate school in the Fall of 2012.