Dr. Shelby F. Lewis, vice chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, a 12-member group appointed by the President of the United States, was a keynote presenter at a U.S. Department of State-sponsored Fulbright Gateway Orientation held at Berkeley City College Aug. 16-19.
“When you say Fulbright, it’s an entrée into many stories and lives and it breaks down many barriers,” Dr. Lewis noted. “There is a need for Americans to engage with people around the world. This type of engagement helps people from other countries better understand the United States and American foreign policy and helps Americans understand the cultures and policies of other countries.”
Dr. Lewis’s first experience as an international educator took place in 1962 when she became part of a Teachers for East Africa Program in Uganda. She noted that back then, when there was no Facebook, no fax machines, and no Twitter, families back home had to wait weeks to receive a letter.
Twenty years later, in 1982, Dr. Lewis received a Fulbright Scholar Program lecturing award at the National University of Lesotho. Her husband, also a Fulbrighter, two young sons, a three-year-old daughter and the family dog all were part of the entourage.
“Being a Fulbrighter means joining a special community of friends and associates who will be with you throughout your life,” Dr. Lewis observed. “The late Senator J. William Fulbright, for whom the program is named, noted that it was a ‘modest program with an immodest aim.’”
This is the second year that Berkeley City College was chosen to host a Fulbright Gateway Orientation for more than 75 international graduate students. Two week-long sessions were held Aug. 9-12 and Aug. 16-19 at the college’s downtown Berkeley campus.
Each summer, these pre-academic workshops help prepare new Fulbright international students for academic life in dozens of American universities. BCC is the only California community college, and one of only two in the United States, to host the international orientations. Eleven were held this year at colleges and universities throughout America.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), the Fulbright Gateway Orientations introduce the graduate students to life as a Fulbrighter, to American social and cultural life, and to political issues.
Fulbright Foreign Student Program participants must usually complete a bachelor’s degree before they can apply and be considered for the award. Approximately 600 international students participated this year, the 65th anniversary of the Fulbright Program and the 11th year of the Fulbright Gateway Orientations.
Dr. May Chen, the college’s vice president of student services first brought a Fulbright Gateway Orientation to the college in summer 2010. Her extensive international background combined with the college’s reputation as a top-notch transfer institution encouraged her to write proposals to host the group.
“People around the world believe that Berkeley City College is a gateway to help them learn about the United States,” she said. “The Fulbright orientation groups are comprised of young scholars who represent dozens of countries.” The Berkeley group included participants from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and Central and South America.
“We tend to think that Berkeley is an international gateway to the nation; this will further our experience in working directly with citizens of other countries,” Chen observed. “We learn as much from them as they do from us.”
BCC faculty, students, administrators and staff welcomed the students with tours, lectures and panel discussions, which centered on higher education and life in the United States. Presenters included two BCC Fulbright Scholars: internationally known muralist Juana Alicia Araiza (Art instructor) and Dr. Laura Ruberto (Humanities instructor).
Other participants were Nimota Abina, Student; Leon Chan, Student; Sharon Clegg Student; Dr. Pieter de Haan, Biology instructor; Victor Flint, Student Ambassador Outreach Coordinator; Matthew Freeman, Political Science instructor; Betty Inclan, BCC President; Krista Johns, J.D., Vice President of Instruction; Brenda Johnson, Dean of Student Services; Edison Lin, Student; Cleavon Smith, English instructor; Stephanie Sanders-Badt, Health Education and Occupations instructor; Terry Tricomi, Title III U.S. Department of Education grant administrator; Allene H. Young, Counseling Dept. Chair; and members of the college’s Student Ambassador Corps.
“When I finish graduate school, I want to do a number of things in my country,” said Fulbrighter Washington Chimuzu of Malawi, who plans to earn a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Dallas in Texas. “I probably will go into consulting or join government service. Fulbright is great. I’m getting to know people from other countries and experience new cultures.”
Fulbrighter Caroline Kerchner of Germany is on her way to a master’s degree in cinema from San Francisco State University.
“I always wanted to go to the United States because I’m interested in American films, and I want to teach cinema in my country. In Europe, they think that Europeans only make good films,” she observed. “Fulbright is the best there is; they take care of their students and the students connect so that they can help each other. At San Francisco State, my professors give me the opportunity to teach and there is close communication among professors and students.”
The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program and is supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world. Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 310,000 participants from over 155 countries with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. For more information, visit http://fulbright.state.gov.
Berkeley City College is located at 2050 Center St. between Shattuck Ave. & Milvia St., in Berkeley, only one-half block from BART and AC Transit lines. The college is part of the Peralta Community College District which serves the communities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont. The district also includes College of Alameda, Laney College and Merritt College. In addition to providing two-year programs that prepare students for long-term educational goals, Peralta also offers specialized life-long learning opportunities to Bay Area residents.