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Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2011

School of Education faculty members chosen as Fulbright Specialists

Sept. 28, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.--Two faculty members from the Indiana University School of Education were selected by the U.S. State Department and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board for Fulbright Specialist awards. Both professors are consulting in countries hoping to further develop higher education after a tumultuous history.

Vasti Torres, professor of educational leadership and policy studies and director of IU's Center for Postsecondary Research, has just begun 21 days in South Africa. Robert Arnove, Chancellor's Professor emeritus and a leading scholar of comparative and international education, completed three weeks of work in Argentina in July. The selections are just a year after Victor M.H. Borden spent time working as a Fulbright Specialist last fall, also in South Africa.

Torres will be based at University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, located in the central part of South Africa, but will also deliver presentations at other places across the country and deliver a keynote address to the South African Council on Higher Education, focusing on issues of student success. She will spend much of her time working with researchers on developing long-term studies on college student experiences and development.

The University of the Free State submitted a Fulbright grant request for Torres to come after she visited South Africa last year to speak on diversity and student development issues.

"And while I was there, I realized that they were using U.S. theories -- old U.S. theories," Torres said, regarding how South African institutions were examining student success.

She said teaching was still couched in beliefs from the days of apartheid, the legal racial segregation policy that ended in 1994. Learning more about how today's South African students navigate higher education is particularly important on the Free State campus, where a racial incident attracted national attention in 2008.

"I made the comment that I had some concerns about their using U.S. theories because the context was just so vastly different," Torres said. "They need to create their own understanding about their own students and not just use theories from outside South Africa."

Arnove returned to Argentina this summer at the request of the National University Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aries. Arnove has frequently worked with Argentine institutions over the last 15 years, four times serving as the UNESCO Chair in Higher Education at Palermo University and helping to found the Argentine Comparative Education society. During his Fulbright Specialist program, Arnove delivered a conference paper and a separate seminar on comparative education; helped with the preparation for the XV World Congress of Comparative Education Societies, which will be held in Buenos Aires in June 2013; and mentored graduate students on their theses and dissertation, something he did during his past appointments.

Arnove said working with the graduate students was particularly important to help build higher education faculty in Argentina, where military rule in past decades stifled growth.

"Some of them were former university presidents and university deans, but because of the military dictatorship, they'd been in exile or in jail," he said. "So now they're coming back to get their degrees."

He said it also is important for current faculty to add credentials because Argentina is trying to increase its higher education standing across the globe.

Arnove has won numerous service and teaching awards from IU and has served as a visiting scholar in many countries, including China, Spain, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. He is the author of Talent Abounds: Profiles of Master Teachers and Peak Performers, a book about how the best teachers in disciplines ranging from music to mathematics to culinary arts conduct their work to produce the top performers in their fields.

The Fulbright Program, America's flagship international educational exchange activity, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. During its 60 years of existence, thousands of U.S. faculty and professionals have taught, studied or conducted research abroad, and thousands of their counterparts from other countries have engaged in similar activities in the United States. More than 285,000 emerging leaders in their professional fields have received Fulbright awards, including individuals who later became heads of government, Nobel Prize winners, and leaders in education, business, journalism, the arts and other fields.