Two faculty named Fulbright scholars

South Dakota State University faculty members Molly Krueger Enz and MaryJo Benton Lee were recently named 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholars. Enz was chosen as a Fulbright Research Scholar to Senegal, and Lee was selected as a Fulbright Teaching Scholar to China.

“The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government,” said Kathleen Fairfax, SDSU’s assistant vice president for international affairs and outreach. “SDSU is thrilled to have two faculty members selected as Fulbright Scholars for the 2016-17 academic year. The Fulbright program allows our faculty to not only explore their academic discipline in an international context, but also offers them a chance to serve as ambassadors for SDSU and South Dakota.”

The Core Fulbright Scholar Program offers approximately 500 teaching, research or combination teaching/research awards in more than 125 countries each year.

Molly Krueger Enz

Enz, associate professor of French and coordinator of global studies, was familiar with the Fulbright Scholar Program when she applied for a grant to Senegal through the Africa Regional Research Program. Enz Enz,-Mollystarted to explore Fulbright Scholar grants a few years ago and quickly discovered her passion for and compatibility with the program and its mission to promote peace. “Fulbright offers a great deal of flexibility and a wide variety of options in terms of geographical location, grant length and academic discipline.  I attempted to identify the program that best aligned with my personal and professional objectives,” Enz stated.

Senegal was the obvious choice for Enz’s research destination. Having previously led two study-abroad programs to Senegal, Enz developed connections with the West African Research Center in Dakar. The center’s broad mandate is to foster the production and dissemination of current research on West Africa and the diaspora and to promote collaboration between American and West African institutions and scholars.  Enz was intrigued by the prospect of a long-term stay in the country she felt had so much to offer.
Enz will be based in Dakar, the country’s capital. She described the city as vibrant and full of life.

“The people are friendly, open and willing to share their culture with visitors,” Enz said. “Senegal is aptly referred to
as ‘le pays de la téranga,’ or the ‘country of hospitality.’ In my previous visits, I felt very welcomed and at home.”

During her five-month stay, Enz will be conducting a research project that examines “how Senegalese filmmakers employ engaged cinema to strike against injustice, provide a voice to the marginalized, inspire social engagement among their audience and promote change.” Enz will interview filmmakers and learn about the issues depicted in their films.

“My goal is to immerse myself in Senegalese culture,” Enz said. “I hope to form both lifelong personal relationships and professional connections that will promote mutual cultural learning and understanding.”

Enz intends to share her perspectives and experiences with her students in French and global studies so they “gain knowledge about contemporary Senegal and a richer understanding of Africa that extends beyond the stereotypes often portrayed negatively in the media.”

Enz stated the news came as a surprise.

“I am incredibly excited, honored and grateful to have been selected as a Fulbright Scholar. I anticipate that the experience will be life-changing,” Enz said.

MaryJo Benton Lee

“You can’t be the same person after a Fulbright assignment as you were before. I know I will be a better teacher, a better researcher and a better human being for having had this p24-MaryJo-B.-Lee-(4c300)experience,” said Lee, an adjunct assistant professor of sociology and rural studies.

Having previously spent a significant amount of time in China, Lee knew her research interests in race, ethnicity and education made Yunnan University in Kunming, China, a perfect fit for her Fulbright assignment.

“Yunnan Province is one of the most ethnically diverse provinces in China,” Lee said. “One-third of Yunnan’s population is made up of ethnic minority people. China, as a whole, has 9 percent ethnic minority population.

“What defines my academic life and my life in general is a great general interest in ethnic minority education in China and in Native American education in the U.S. That interest is what has led me to Yunnan and back again,” she continued.

Lee and her husband, Professor Emeritus of journalism Richard W. Lee, taught at Yunnan Normal (Teachers) University in Kunming during the spring semester of 1991. The Lees were among the 16 SDSU professors and 12 YNU professors to participate in the SDSU-YNU exchange program that began in 1987 and ended in 2002.

The Lees returned to Kunming during the summer of 1997 for three months so MaryJo could collect data for her doctoral dissertation. Based on this research she published a book titled “Ethnicity, Education and Empowerment: How Minority Students in Southwest China Construct Identities.”

As co-founder and coordinator of the SDSU-Flandreau Indian School Success Academy from 2000 to 2012, Lee’s interest in the similarities and differences between Native American education in the U.S. and ethnic minority education in China grew. She has been asked to give a series of lectures on this topic as part of her Fulbright work in China.

During her six months at Yunnan University, starting in March 2017, Lee will teach two graduate-level courses: Qualitative Research Methods and Writing for the Social Sciences.

She hopes to be able to involve some of her students in a research project planned for summer 2017.

The focus of that research will be on ethnic minority teachers and social change in Yunnan.

“We have an urgent need for quality teaching of research methods, especially for qualitative, as we are lacking well-trained qualitative teachers,” said Mei Wu of the Research Institute of Higher Education at Yunnan University, with whom Lee will be working.

“Being chosen as a Fulbright Scholar is the best thing that has ever happened to me, with the exception of marrying my husband and having children,” Lee said. “ I feel like I’ve won the lottery.”

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