FALCON HEIGHTS FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR IS OFF TO GUATEMALA, WITH FAMILY IN TOW
Falcon Heights resident and Fulbright scholar Jonathan Stuart is set to report to his Fulbright teaching assignment in Guatemala by Sept. 1, though there are still some details to iron out, such as where he and his family will live and if he’ll drive down or fly.
“Right now there’s a lot of unknowns,” Stuart says, heading into his September-to-May posting at Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, the fourth oldest university in the Western Hemisphere.
Stuart, a faculty member at Hennepin Technical College working in customized training services who also teaches mediation courses at Bethel University, applied to the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program last August, was accepted in March and just got back from program orientation in Washington, D.C., last month.
Having previously taught in South Korea and South Africa, Stuart, 42, says he’s prepared for the surprises that can come along with international teaching, though this coming stretch in Guatemala will be different than the previous posts in a significant way.
“I’m ready for the unknown,” he says, “I’ve never quite done it with three kids before, though.”
‘53 Nobel Prizes’
Stuart’s admission into the scholar program is significant. Established by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1946, it’s a highly competitive international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.
In Stuart’s letter of acceptance, Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board chair Betty Castor put plainly the program’s legacy.
“Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientist and teachers,” Castor wrote. “They have been awarded 53 Nobel Prizes.”
Stuart describes the experience of being selected as both “humbling and “intimidating;” looking back at the program’s orientation in June, he says other scholars there were professors from Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley. He’s says he’s the first Fulbright scholar to come out of Hennepin Technical College.
At Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, Stuart, who has a Ph.D. in organizational leadership from the University of Minnesota, will put his skills to the test, teaching, consulting and doing outreach projects through the San Carlos language center.
Stuart met his wife, Colette Campbell, also a teacher, while living in South Korea, and says the Fulbright is an opportunity to do something he’s long had in mind with Colette, and their three children, Lillyan, 13, Samuel, 11, and Miles, 8.
“They don’t quite know what expect,” Stuart says of the children, though he adds that Samuel is quite a bird lover and is eager to see the many unique tropical species living in Guatemala. “He checks out almost every bird book from the library.” Miles, Stuart adds, has been making headway learning Spanish from an app.
A fellow traveler told Stuart that even if the kids experience some discomfort in their nine months living abroad, that hopefully, in the long run, they appreciate the experience, and Stuart says he agrees.
Plus, he’s hoping to be challenged, himself, along the way. “[I want to] take something away that gives understanding and empathy ... giving me some insight and stretching me a bit.”
Stuart says he hopes to apply some of the knowledge he’ll gain there to his volunteer work as a refugee mentor. Three years ago he met a Bhutanese refugee family upon their arrival at the airport, and since then he’s done his best to help them navigate life in Minnesota.
“I can see [things] from their perspective but I’m not them,” Stuart says, adding that he expects his Guatemalan experience to make him a better mentor, in the end.
Cherie Rollings, associate dean of customized training services at Hennepin Technical College and North Hennepin Community College, supported Stuart’s Fulbright application process and says she thinks he’s just right for the program.
“He’s a perfect fit for the Fulbright scholars program,” Rollings says. “He’s already worked abroad, he’s a very global thinker and he would be a great ambassador for our country, our state and, I expect, for our college as well.”
It’s a great opportunity for Stuart, she says, adding that while he is away, “We are going to miss him terribly; it’s a big hole for us to fill for a year.
“I’m really excited about [his Fulbright opportunity] and hoping the year will go quickly.”
Overall, Rollings says, she thinks the experience will benefit Stuart, as well as the college.
“It will really, I think, continue to enhance his ability to work with our diverse population in Minnesota,” she says, adding that the state’s diversity is only going to increase. “The more we can understand that personally, we can enhance our programming and outreach.”
The long haul
One of the most pressing issues Stuart needs to figure out in the near term, he says, is how to get to Guatemala City.
Because of the “Fly America Act” and the fact the Fulbright program is administered by the federal government, he says he’s limited to using American carriers to fly, which limits his number of flight options.
Between that and hearing Guatemala’s public transportation has a reputation for neither being that good nor safe, Stuart is considering making the nearly 3,000 mile one-way drive, which would begin familiarly enough, by hopping on southbound Interstate 35.
“It’s less dramatic or daunting than we would think,” he emphasizes, adding that he’s an accomplished road-tripper, having driven in all of the lower 48 states.
His biggest concern, he says, are the road conditions he and his 2011 Kia Sportage would face along the way. Stuart also says authorities fumigate your vehicle as you cross from Mexico into Guatemala, and that he’d likely link up with others making the trip, forming a caravan.
If he decides to make the drive, he says Samuel would come along, and the rest of the family would fly.
There are other details to figure out, Stuart says, like what to do with the family’s mail while they are away, and who will look after their Falcon Heights home.
“I could go on; I’ve got a notebook full of these details,” Stuart says, before returning to the bigger picture of what he and his family will gain from the Fulbright experience.
“Hopefully, it gives us all more understanding of cultures and languages.”
Mike Munzenrider, LillieNews.com
Last updated by drogalla : 2015-08-13 14:44:04