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Fulbright scholars act as ‘cultural ambassadors’

By : Nicole Borawski

Thirteen Fulbright scholars from across the world are connecting cultures to achieve mutual understanding and communication at Binghamton University. Eight of the 13 arrived this fall, the largest number of new scholars to enter the University at once.

“These scholars recognize their role as goodwill ambassadors and represent their cultures with inquisitive and open minds,” said Ellen Badger, director of International Student and Scholar Services.

The program benefits the University by diversifying the student body in majors such as English, anthropology and economics.

“It is an excellent way to expand the geographic distribution of international students, and enables our university to receive highly qualified students from all over the world,” Badger said.

Ban S. Salih, a student from Baghdad University studying for a master’s in English and literature, is one of 40 Fulbright scholars from Iraq who came to the United States.

“Through this experience, I want to act as a cultural ambassador and bridge the gaps between Iraq and the U.S. to achieve peace and make Iraq democratic,” Salih said.

Salih has been struck by Binghamton’s rich resources as well as books, professors and helpful students.

Deniz M. Erdemlioglu, a Fulbright scholar from Istanbul, Turkey, chose Binghamton University because the location relates to his research in economics and finance. “The university is prominent to the state and close enough to New York City, which I believe is the brain of international economics,” Erdemlioglu said.

Rodrigo Navarrete, a doctoral student at Binghamton, introduced Johan Rodriguez, a student from Venezuela studying for a master’s degree in anthropology, to the Fulbright program.

“I came to Binghamton because there are many anthropology experts here, including Dawnie Steadman and Peter Stahl,” both associate professors in anthropology, Rodriguez said.

The Fulbright scholars recognize their responsibility in tying together American culture with their own beliefs. The first place this occurs is inside the classroom, where the scholars, faculty and classmates learn from one another.

“These scholars are the best and the brightest,” Badger said. “They enrich the classroom experience for professors and enhance not only their own research but the faculty research as well.”

This is Salih, Erdemlioglu and Rodriguez’s first time adjusting to a curriculum entirely in English. The University accommodates them with the same programs that other international students receive.

“This is my first time living among and sharing the English language regularly,” Rodriguez said. “I take everyday tasks as ways to practice because I have always wanted to study in a new place and culture.”

Rodriguez’s research is focused on studying people’s biology through their bones to determine their nutrition and daily activities.

“I worked as an archaeologist in a Venezuelan Indian cemetery and did my undergraduate study at Universidad Central de Venezuela, which is the one college [in Venezuela] that offers anthropology,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez hopes to obtain tools and field techniques in Binghamton that he can bring back to Venezuela, where he plans to establish his own lab to study and teach about bones.

Erdemlioglu did some of his graduate work at Bogaziši University in Turkey and hopes to gain a doctorate in economics. Binghamton is the first place he has been where he speaks English all day.

“In Istanbul, some of my education was in English,” he said. “I came with other Turkish-speaking scholars and we were observant of the university. People’s daily lives are different here, and there is more focus on time management.”

Like Rodriguez and Erdemlioglu, Salih also found it vital to her studies to expand to another culture.

“I think it is important that if you are going for a degree in English, you should study in an English-speaking country,” said Salih, who hopes to strengthen her English skills so that she can teach Arabic at Binghamton next semester and help Binghamton students learn more about Arabic and Mesopotamian culture.

Rodriguez is pleased with the Fulbright experience so far. “I encourage students to apply for all of the benefits and experiences it has to offer,” he said. “It helps you if you need funding for your studies and it can open doors to your future.”

The scholars pursue a two-year curriculum through Fulbright in order to enhance their research and receive a master’s degree. They are expected to return home afterward to share their knowledge.

Badger said some scholars stay longer in the degree programs than their contract periods.

“It is always a plus for the college if students stay longer than two years,” Badger said. “Scholars can return home as ambassadors for the U.S. with firsthand knowledge of our culture based on a positive experience at Binghamton University.”

New Fulbright scholars this semester include: Faculty member Senem Zeybekoglu of Turkey, art history; and graduate students Deniz M. Erdemlioglu of Turkey, economics and finance; Johan A. Rodriguez of Venezuela, anthropology; Ban S. Salih of Iraq, English; Ozker Kocadal of Cyprus, political science; Jakob Feinig of Austria, sociology; Gonzalo J. Rodriguez of Peru, anthropology; and Juan G. Ramirez Giraldo of Colombia, comparative literature.

Two Binghamton graduate students and one faculty member are overseas this semester, participating in the other component of the Fulbright program, which sends American scholars abroad. Another faculty member will join the program next semester.

For more information about that element of the program, contact Susannah Gal, associate professor of biology, at sgal@binghamton.edu.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08