Barry McNamara  |   Published February 24, 2016

Fulbright Specialist

Monmouth’s Draxler partnered with University of Tromsø in Norway
Monmouth College faculty member Bridget Draxler saw a little bit of everything on her recent two-week trip to Norway – reindeer games, the Northern Lights and, perhaps most important, students in a University of Tromsø class that are part of a course exchange with her Monmouth students.
  Draxler experienced it all as part of her stint as a Fulbright Specialist, a prestigious academic program she first applied for in 2013.   “(Associate dean) Bren Tooley told me about this great Fulbright opportunity and helped me apply,” said Draxler, who coordinates Monmouth’s Communication Across the Curriculum (CAC) program. Draxler explained that while she was notified of her acceptance as a participant in 2014, “It’s a five-year window to be involved in two or more projects. The host institution pays for housing and food, and the Fulbright organization pays for the travel.”   The program awards grants to U.S. faculty and professionals approved to join the Specialist Roster in select disciplines to engage in short-term collaborative projects at eligible institutions in more than 140 countries worldwide. Shorter grant lengths give specialists greater flexibility to pursue projects that work best with their current academic or professional commitments.   Draxler’s connection with Tromsø dates back to her days as an undergraduate student at St. Olaf College. The school has a connection with the Norwegian university, and that proved helpful in partnering with a member of Tromsø’s faculty.   A major cultural hub with a population over 70,000, Tromsø is located in “far northern Norway between Oslo and the North Pole, 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle,” explained Draxler, whose trip was in late January and early February.   One might guess that the weather in that part of the Northern Hemisphere would be severe at that time of year, but   Draxler explained that the nearby Gulf Stream helped keep temperatures around 20 degrees. So while there was a little warmth, what was missing was daylight. “The sun was up only 15 minutes a day,” she reported. Draxler’s introductory-level communication studies students have been working with their peers at Tromsø, blogging and chatting online.
  “The class in Tromsø is very international, so their course is taught in English, and we communicate with them in English,” she said.   In addition to meeting the students in the course exchange, Draxler was tasked with presenting a series of workshops for writing center tutors and giving lectures on public digital humanities.   “This exchange was a really great opportunity to share the work I do as CAC coordinator – particularly in terms of public scholarship and digital writing – with a new community,” said Draxler. “It also gave me new ideas and partnerships that have already improved the way I teach COMM 101 and mentor our Writing Center tutors. Maybe most importantly, it gave me a good dose of the liberal arts: a boost of curiosity, interdisciplinary collaboration and lifelong learning.”   “Curiosity” is a focus for this year’s freshman class at Monmouth, and Draxler got to satisfy hers with numerous cultural opportunities in Tromsø, including attending Sami Fest, which celebrated the heritage of that region’s indigenous people. She also attended the Nordic reindeer championships, visited museums, ate reindeer stew and, on her final weekend there, went to the Northern Lights Music Festival.   “On any clear night, you could see them,” she said of the natural spectacle. “They were just out the living room window, as I looked over the fjord. The sky was a bright, vibrant green.”   With one adventure behind her, Draxler is now searching for the next institution with which to partner as a Fulbright Specialist.
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