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Top Opinion

Fulbrights plant seeds that grow into peace, understanding

November 22, 2002

By Jorge Luis Romeu

This month during International Education Week it is fitting to commemorate the Fulbright program that sends U.S. professionals to work abroad and foreign ones to work and study here, with the objective of getting to know each other better. Sen. William Fulbright, D-Ark., created this great program in 1948; whatever misdeed he may have done in his life has been fully compensated by it.

To be a Fulbright Scholar abroad, one has to be a U.S. citizen, most likely have a Ph.D. and work at a place where you can disappear for six to 10 months and still have a job upon your return. In short, one most likely has to be an academic with tenure and have a sabbatical leave.

In addition, one submits a folder into a very competitive lot. If selected it is a great honor and recognition, and a unique opportunity to learn and to do some good.

As you may already have surmised, I am a Fulbright. This has been the greatest thing that happened to me in this country since I came in 1980. I feel so strongly about it that I would gladly relive the challenges involved in applying for it and the time devoted to working on it, once awarded.

For six months in 1994, I taught in one of the best universities in Mexico. But I also worked with several smaller, provincial institutions, teaching badly needed faculty development workshops. And I learned how pressing this need was for them and how difficult it was to receive help. For they did not have the resources to bring in the teachers, and the few who would come did not speak vernacular Spanish; nor were they accustomed to the sometimes harsh living conditions. I had found my niche!

On our return to the United States, the Juarez-Lincoln-Marti Project was founded, with four clear objectives: to bring faculty to the United States to receive instruction; to teach faculty development workshops down there; to find and send badly needed books and materials; and to provide timely educational information via a faculty e-mail list.

Most important, we would do this for the smaller, poorly endowed, provincial institutions of higher learning.

The project has been able to achieve its objectives for the past eight years, with the generous support of SUNY, of the U.S. Embassy's cultural attache in Mexico, the SUNY professors union, the Fulbright Association and the Mexican Consulate.

There also have been book donations from many SUNY faculty and the American Statistical Association, and a specialist speaker grant from the U.S. Department of State, among contributions.

Eighteen faculty from Mexico and Venezuela have come to SUNY training conferences with scholarships, many with airfares paid for by the U.S. cultural attache. One SUNY administrator went to a conference in Mexico City. Scores of math and science textbooks have been sent by mail, carried by car and plane, sent with Mexican scholars returning from conferences. Many three-to-five-day faculty development workshops have been taught. A biweekly e-mail to faculty all over Latin America and Spain distributes news about NSF, the U.S. Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and other research. For more information, visit our Web page - - and if you are inclined to help, books can be donated as well as badly needed U.S. postage to send them abroad.

All this effort was triggered by one Fulbright award. So what does all this have to do with 9/11? The answer is straightforward: The Juarez Project helps provide hope through education. We believe people who better themselves are less inclined to blow themselves up or otherwise harm their fellow human beings. One has to have something to look forward to: a roof over one's heads, a job, food on the table, a school and a future for one's children. Contributing to peace is, in the last instance, the objective of the Juarez-Lincoln-Marti Project. Jorge Luis Romeu, of Syracuse, is adjunct professor of statistics at Syracuse University.

© 2002 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.

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