Spotlight On: Jacobson Brings Back Global Perspectives from Bishkek
Galloway, N.J. – Kristin Jacobson, professor of American Literature at Stockton University, was a Fulbright Specialist from Feb. 15-March 19 at the International University of Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. This was the second Fulbright experience for Jacobson, who taught American Environmental Literature and Research Methods in Spring 2018 at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The Fulbright Specialist program operates with a roster of specialists in different concentrations. Based on Jacobson’s expertise in American Studies, she was matched and asked to apply to University of Kyrgyzstan’s (IUK) request.
“International work builds a global network of connections: connections that contribute to Stockton’s global initiatives,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson had the primary role of reviewing the International University of Kyrgyzstan’s American Studies program and offering faculty development workshops on academic freedom, academic honesty and critical thinking.
“I wrote a series of reports, worked with the dean to revise the curriculum and made recommendations for future assessment. While in residence, I also taught classes, gave public presentations, met with university faculty, staff and students, participated in student recruitment, explored the possibility of a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Stockton University, and assisted faculty research by editing manuscripts,” Jacobson said.
These unique international experiences not only enrich those who the specialist is advising, but also give new perspectives to the participating faculty member. Jacobson reflected on how her teaching of American Literature and culture, as well as Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies benefit from being able to observe how the content is taught abroad and from her own experience of teaching to non-native English speakers and non-U.S. residents.
“Both U.S. Studies and Feminist Studies increasingly emphasize the value international perspectives bring to their fields. The Fulbright scholar and specialist programs have allowed me to put into practice these ‘transnational turns.’ When I return from sabbatical in fall, I will bring to my classrooms new insights into American literature and culture as well as women’s, gender and sexuality studies,” said Jacobson, who has taught at Stockton for 13 years. Her research, which examines American Environmental Literature, also benefited because she was able to see how other cultures respond to environmental challenges and climate change.
Jacobson also noted that IUK faculty there do significant work with limited curricular resources, such as having easy access to U.S. texts. “An important outcome of the project is a revised U.S. Studies curriculum that more clearly highlights the program’s interdisciplinary and transnational strengths, and revises course titles and course sequencing to systematically achieve program learning outcomes and match English course title language used by U.S. institutions,” she said.
The landscape and spirit of the people also resonated with Jacobson. “Kyrgyzstan’s beautiful mountains and generous hospitality impacted me the most. I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to visit Bishkek and learn about Kyrgyz culture and education at IUK. These are opportunities that I would not have without the Fulbright program,” she said.
Reported by Mandee McCullough