Community Engagement: My Key to Success as a Fulbrighter

Paulo Roberto Silva, Professor of Education, Federal University of Sergipe, Brazil
2016-2017 Fulbright Visiting Scholar to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Being a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan has been an incredible experience. I could never imagine that such an experience could change our lives forever. Now I am pretty sure about it.

I am a professor of English and Applied Linguistics at the Federal University of Sergipe, Brazil.Last year, I decided to apply for the Fulbright Junior Faculty Member Award, from the Fulbright Commission in Brazil, in order to conduct research at the U of M School of Education, supervised by Prof. Dr. Donald Freeman. My research proposal focused on the Fulbright English Teaching Assistants from the United States who go to Brazil. I am interested in analyzing their conceptions of language, teaching and teacher education, and the impact of their practices on Brazilian students’ learning.  Following my success in the application process, I arrived in the United States at the end of December 2016.

At U of M, I take part in Prof. Freeman’s research group meetings every week. I also meet him individually on a regular basis to discuss my ongoing data analysis. I am learning a great deal about research methods, and I consider Prof. Freeman a tremendous resource when it comes to teacher research. 

I also take part in the Global Education Discussion Group (GEDG), which is an excellent opportunity to exchange scholarly insights and receive feedback on our work. The interesting thing about this group is that it is open to everyone who wants to join.

I like to participate in lots of events that U of M offers, and there are many! I went to an event called “60 Minutes Around the Globe,” which is an opportunity for international students to present on a variety of topics from their home countries, such as music, sports, politics, religions, food, etc. We get to know people from all over the world during those events. Another event that I really enjoy is the Educational Studies Colloquium. At least three times a month, there are lectures on very interesting topics, such as literacies, race, social justice, research methods, teaching, and assessment. 

As a Fulbright Scholar, I also had the opportunity to travel to another U.S. state to give lectures about my country and my work at U of M through the Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund. I went to Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington (near Seattle) and gave three lectures there. The first lecture covered New Literacies and Teaching, the second Education in Brazil, and the third Pre-service English Teacher Education in Brazil. I met and spoke with faculty members from the College of Education as well as the Provost and his assistant. I had a wonderful time at Northwest, and I noticed that the students were very interested in hearing what I had to say, which made me very happy. 

I also intend to maintain the connections I am building here in the United States. One of the projects that I have arranged is an exchange project with a colleague from Northwest University.  Next fall, we are going to “e-introduce” our students to each other so they can work together on activities to practice their writing skills.

Based on my experiences here, I would like to encourage other Fulbrighters to get involved in campus activities. Since we made it to the United States and to such prestigious universities, it is worth it to get involved in other campus activities rather than just conducting our own research and lecturing. I am learning a lot from each event in which I participate and each activity in which I get involved. Being a Fulbrighter is truly a life-changing experience!