Barry McNamara  |   Published August 24, 2015

Fulbright visitor enriches modern languages department

Martin to serve as cultural envoy from Argentina
  • Victoria Martin
Through the prestigious Fulbright Program, Maria Victoria Martin of Buenos Aires, Argentina, will spend the 2015-16 academic year at Monmouth College.

Martin’s Fulbright award enables her to “spend a year with us at Monmouth, contributing to her host department, interacting with colleagues and students, and exploring the structure and content of undergraduate education at a selective, residential liberal arts college in the U.S,” said associate academic dean Bren Tooley, who was encouraged to apply on behalf of Monmouth to the foreign language teaching assistant (FLTA) program by State Department colleagues at the annual EducationUSA Forum last year in Washington, D.C. Martin will live on campus this academic year and take several courses each semester, focusing on American history, politics and literature.

The FLTA award is highly competitive, as Fulbright FLTAs apply to the program through the Fulbright Commission/Foundation or U.S. Embassy in their home countries. The Institute of International Education (IIE) arranges academic placement for Fulbright FLTA nominees and supervises participants during their stay in the United States.

“Colleges and universities in the United States apply to serve as hosts for the FLTAs,” explained Tooley. “Selection as a host institution is also very competitive, and Monmouth College is fortunate to be a host for an FLTA this year.”

As Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, said in his welcome to all of this year’s Fulbright FLTAs at the Department of State and Institute of International Education Orientation held in South Bend, Ind., “Languages are the key to cultural and mutual understanding. As we encourage our students to excel in a globalized culture, embracing linguistic diversity and mastering language proficiency is essential.”

The Fulbright FLTA Program is designed to develop Americans’ knowledge of foreign cultures and languages by supporting teaching assistantships in more than 30 languages at hundreds of U.S. institutions of higher education. The program offers educators from more than 50 countries the opportunity to develop their professional skills and gain first-hand knowledge of the U.S., its culture and its people. Through this program, U.S. campuses enhance their teaching of languages and expose students to a true understanding of people of different nations.

FLTAs are outgoing and energetic representatives of their native cultures who, by participating in community events and campus activities, increase their knowledge of American culture while sharing the values and customs of their own countries.

Martin, who teaches English as a foreign language to high school students in Argentina, applied to the Fulbright FLTA program in hope of immersing herself in an English-language. Her particular Fulbright award is enhanced by funding provided by the City of Buenos Aires in partnership with the Fulbright Commission of Argentina.

“I expect to acquire more experience in the language teaching field and to broaden my knowledge of American culture,” said Martin. “Also, I am eager to make my contribution to the modern languages, literatures and cultures (MLLC) department by teaching my native language and culture, as well as enriching the students’ knowledge of other cultures.”

Martin is well situated for a productive and enjoyable year. Monmouth’s MLLC department includes faculty from Argentina, with family in the Monmouth community also from Argentina. The college offers short-term travel-study opportunities for students in South America, and as a result of exactly such a faculty-led trip this summer, Martin met two Monmouth faculty members, Tim Gaster and Carina Olaru, when they were in Argentina with Monmouth students.

Tooley is excited about what hosting a Fulbright FLTA might mean for Monmouth beyond Martin’s year on campus.

“The positive connections with students and faculty that we hope will develop for our Fulbright visit over the course of the year will help us to open doors for new program partnerships, international internships and outreach to prospective students,” said Tooley, who was a natural to coordinate the efforts to bring Martin to campus, since she also serves the college as director of the grants program and director of international initiatives and recruitment.

Gaster provided important detail about the department’s plan to welcome the FLTA, and Dean David Timmerman offered strong administrative support over the two years in which the proposal to IIE developed. The department hopes that Martin is the first in a series of FLTA visitors to the college.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” With this goal as a starting point, the Fulbright Program has provided almost 300,000 participants – chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
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