Three College of Charleston faculty members have received Fulbright awards for the 2022–23 academic year: Brian Bossak, Narayanan Kuthirummal and mutindi ndunda are all spending the year learning and lecturing at universities around the globe through the international educational exchange program, and they’re hoping to share a world of knowledge with CofC students when they return.
Brian Bossak, associate professor of public health
The Fulbright Scholar Award will allow Bossak, an associate professor of public health, to teach two graduate-level public health courses – one focusing on the human health implications of climate change, and the other exploring the interaction of health and emerging technologies – at the University of Bologna in Italy, where he will also conduct research on the development and use of quarantine and isolation in historical pandemics in the locations in which they occurred.
Bossak says the University of Bologna is the perfect place for his research, since it has centuries of information on the Black Death that plagued Europe from 1347 to 1351.
“The Black Death was a pivotal experience in human history,” explains Bossak, who has authored and co-authored manuscripts exploring this historical pandemic. “Interestingly, non-pharmaceutical interventions utilized during the most recent COVID-19 pandemic, such as quarantine and isolation, are derived from their development in Italy during the Black Death. In fact, many scholars suggest that quarantine and isolation efforts helped reduce mortality during the Black Death in localities where it was enforced, such as Milan, versus places where it wasn’t, such as Florence.”
While at the University of Bologna – which is the oldest university in the Western world still in operation – Bossak also plans to study the use of isolation and quarantine during the Plague of 1630, which ravaged parts of northern Italy.
“I am excited about the opportunity to explore archival information on these epidemics, delve into the literature about these experiences and witness locations where these historical events took place,” he says, noting that he’s also looking forward to meeting colleagues in Italy with similar interests, learning about the Italian higher education system and engaging in cultural exchange and learning that goes beyond the classroom and traditional scholarship. “I am hopeful that this prestigious and highly competitive award will represent just the first step in the process of establishing a nexus between myself, my program and perhaps even CofC itself with additional international experiences and academic exchange that broadens our continued development as a center for globally engaged students, staff and faculty.
“I am most grateful,” he adds, “to have this opportunity for focused scholarship and exploration on pandemics that, as recent events have indicated, remain an evergreen possibility within the human experience.”
mutindi ndunda, associate professor of teacher education
It is the most recent pandemic that is at the forefront of ndunda’s Fulbright project, too. Building on her first Fulbright award to study and teach in the Republic of Tanzania in 2012–13, this Fulbright opportunity allows the associate professor of teacher education to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning at the Muslim University of Morogoro (MUM) and examine the factors that contribute to the sustainability of the professional learning community she developed at a local elementary school there.
“My sabbatical/Fulbright award of the 2012–13 academic year allowed me to see firsthand how privileged I was to teach at the College of Charleston and how important it was to share the knowledge and skills that I have developed and honed at this institution,” she says, adding that during her first Fulbright year, she introduced the use of emails and wikis to share notes with students rather than sending hard copies of the class notes to a privately owned stationery store, where each student would go to buy copies if they had the time. “That was 10 years ago! The work that we initiated – and the relationships that we developed throughout these years – it’s so important. But I have learned that change has to be sustained.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent closures, most universities in Africa closed and students were sent home without opportunities to take courses online,” ndunda continues. “My goal is to continue working with the faculty members to use any available technology including smartphones to deliver effective online learning to all students.”
She will also teach two courses in MUM’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, for which she was the key curriculum developer in 2018 through a Carnegie Diaspora Fellowship Award.
“I will be teaching courses and supervising theses writing for its first cohort,” she says. “This is very exciting, and I’m looking forward to continuing to collaborate with faculty members to be change agents.”
In her “spare time,” ndunda will conduct project-based learning workshops, attend church and visit her 103-year-old mother.
“What I hope to get from this experience is the belief that each one of us has incredible gifts that can make a huge difference in the lives of the future generations,” she says. “I want the gifts that I have to serve my students, my department, my college: How can we move from good to best, and how I can use my gifts in building relationships in diverse settings in making this a possibility?”
Narayanan Kuthirummal, professor of physics and astronomy
For his part, Kuthirummal, professor in the College’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, will be teaching and doing research with his host Shalina Begum at Farook College in India, where he will engage graduate students and faculty members in nanotechnology and nanomaterials characterization using nondestructive evaluation (NDE) methods.
“Farook College is one of the most advanced coeducational Muslim-minority institutions in South India offering undergraduate and graduate level programs,” says Kuthirummal, adding that his course will follow “a student-centered backward design approach with the objective of introducing research-based teaching and learning strategies to a population that has minimal exposure to student-centered and project-based instructional strategies.”
The Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar Award will allow him not just to teach at Farook College, but also to conduct research that will benefit CofC students, as well.
“The Fulbright opportunity will help me significantly expand my ability in the synthesis of graphene nanocomposites,” he says. “The proposed research will also provide unique opportunities for our students here at the College of Charleston. They will be able to do research projects in graphene nanocomposites that they otherwise could not.
“The proposed project is expected to provide me with an opportunity for strong future collaborations with some of the young minds from a minority Muslim community,” he continues. “Results obtained during our investigation will be published in international peer-reviewed journals, with participating faculty and students from both institutions included as co-authors.”
All three professors are honored to have the opportunities granted to them by the Fulbright Program, which was created to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given over 400,000 passionate and accomplished students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals of all backgrounds and fields the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to important international problems. Now the largest and most diverse international educational exchange program in the world, the Fulbright Program is funded primarily by an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.