A variety of programs and activities brings together Fulbright Visiting Scholars in Southern California
The winter quarter for the Fulbright Scholar Enrichment Program is always a busy one after we have spent the fall identifying and tracking down accurate addresses for about seventy scholars in universities around southern California from Fresno to the Mexican border. Opening fall dinners in Los Angeles and San Diego and a holiday lunch at my home helped the Scholars to get to know each other, which is an important part of the Fulbright mission. I also host smaller gatherings of Fulbright Scholars at my home, as did some of our Advisory Board members, in order to give Scholars an opportunity to meet people with whom they have common interests.
Through the affiliations of our Advisory Board members, we have had excellent programs this winter at the RAND Corporation and at JPL and Caltech. At RAND we heard briefings on their K-12 educational revision project in Qatar (for which I had attended the opening in Doha in October) and another on improving health care for the elderly. At JPL we were shown films of the Mars Rover landings in the room where unmanned space flights are monitored and then had a tour of the huge workroom where space ships are constructed. As a special treat, we viewed the latest photos of deep space, taken by Caltech's infrared telescope. The range of colors was incredibly beautiful and the effect of seeing stars so old and incomprehensively distant was mind boggling. One could feel either like an insignificant speck in the galaxies or like part of the universe, knowing that we are all made from the same atoms of which the stars are composed, or stardust as our guide described it. On January 24, I was invited to attend the JPL celebration of the Mars Rover Opportunity landing and brought with me a UCLA Fulbright graduate student in Earth and Space Science. He was taking a class about Mars, and provided a running account of what was happening.
During the winter quarter, we had three Fulbright-sponsored lectures, the first by my son-in-law, Hans van de Ven, a specialist in modern Chinese history at Cambridge University, who reported on the archival project he directs on the maritime records in Chinese port cities from 1850 to 1950.(Click here for the project website.) Next was a panel discussion on What Americans Need to Know about Africa, jointly sponsored by the Center for African Studies and the International Institute. Five of our Fulbright Scholars from Africa spoke about their respective countries, which include Chad, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania. The von Grunebaum Center for Near East Studies and the Fulbright Program jointly sponsored a talk by George and Laurie King Irani on conflict resolution in the Middle East entitled Policing the Past; Are Truth and Reconciliation Possible in the Arab-Israeli Dispute?
The annual UCLA Affiliates Dinner honoring the Fulbright Scholars was held on February 12 at the Faculty Center. With around a hundred guests, this dinner is always an opportunity for the Scholars to interact with members of the community from a variety of backgrounds. At the beginning of the evening the Scholars introduce themselves and told a bit about where they are from and their work here. I played double duty that night as the Fulbright Coordinator and the guest speaker. I spoke on my book Painting the Middle East and showed slides of my watercolors from Lebanon, North Africa, Egypt, and the Holy Land.
The main activity each winter quarter is a seminar I give in the Fiat Lux Program for undergraduates entitled Perceptions of Americans Abroad: Discussions with Visiting Fulbright Scholars. The purpose of this seminar is to build awareness of our need as Americans to know more about the rest of the world and to understand how we are perceived by others. Each Wednesday afternoon, a different Scholar speaks on his or her country and perceptions of America there. The second half of the hour is devoted to class discussion and, at the end of the quarter, we have a dinner seminar at my home for all the Scholars and students where there is a chance to have more informal discussions.
During this past quarter, I have attended board meetings for two international institutions, EARTH University in Costa Rica, which has students from thirty countries specializing in environmentally sensitive agriculture and biodiversity, and the American University of Beirut in their New York office. AUB was founded in 1866 and has been a place of East-West cultural and educational exchange throughout the ups and downs in the region, never closing even in the midst of civil war. I will attend a meeting of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees on the campus in Beirut in May after a week in Uzbekistan as the guest of a former Fulbright Scholar at Westminister International University.
I am ably assisted in my work by Lorraine Pratt, a graduate student in Islamic Studies. We are in our office in 11347 Bunche Hall Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons when Fulbright Scholars and prospective Fulbrighters or others interested in study abroad stop by. Our office mate is Gohar Grigorian, Director of the International Visitors Program, with whom we coordinate activities whenever opportunities present themselves.
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[Ann Kerr, a native of Southern California, has spent nearly twenty years living, studying and teaching in the Middle East. She coordinates the International Institute's Fulbright Visiting Scholar Enrichment Program, is a trustee of the American University of Beirut, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is the author of Come with Me From Lebanon: An American Family Odyssey (Syracuse University Press, 1994), a moving personal account of the tragic loss of Dr. Malcolm Kerr, husband, father, and international renowned Middle Eastern scholar, president of the American University of Beirut and professor of political science at UCLA. She has also published Painting the Middle East (Syracuse University Press, 2002), which the Midwest Book Review described as "a full-color compilation of watercolors [by Ann Kerr] and photographs combined with an engaging text . . . that bring life to the author's love of the Middle East, and reflect upon her travels and experiences in the varied Middle Eastern landscape from the 1950's down to the present day. Extensive commentaries and personal memoir-based observations add a very special depth to the hidden history behind the soothing, gentle, and vibrant pictures showcased in this memorable body of art." ]
Published: Friday, April 02, 2004
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