Two Saint Martin’s professors participating in Fulbright Scholar Program

June 13, 2013

LACEY, Wash – Two Saint Martin’s University faculty members have been accepted into the international Fulbright Scholar Program.

Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., associate professor of English and chair of the English Department, and Dan Windisch, Ed.D., professor of education and director of the School Guidance and Counseling Program, join the ranks of the approximately 318,000 scholars worldwide who have participated in the program since it was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then-Senator J. William Fulbright, of Arkansas.

birkenstein The Fulbright Program is the flagship international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Participants, who are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential, are given the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. The program awards about 8,000 new grants every year and the term “Fulbright Program” encompasses a variety of exchange programs.

Birkenstein has been awarded a grant under the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program to teach and conduct research in Russia at the Institute of Foreign Languages of Petrozavodsk State University, formerly known as Karelian State Pedagogical Academy, during the 2013-2014 academic year. Birkenstein will be teaching advanced English Language Learning courses in writing, speaking and oral argumentation to English-speaking Russian students who are studying to be English language teachers and professors. He will also be teaching literature courses with a concentration in American and Russian short stories. His research, conducted in conjunction with Professor Igor Krasnov, will explore the differences and similarities of Russian and American cultures in the classroom while seeking ways to bridge the divides and capitalize on the mutual strengths.

“I’ll be teaching classes to students who speak excellent English,” Birkenstein says. “Russia has a long and influential history in the short story and to meld Russian and American writers together into a single class with Russian students, yet taught in English, will be an exciting and educational opportunity for me and, hopefully, my Russian students.”

“Students will not only hear the perspective of an American on some of the stories they have known most of their lives but, in turn, I will no doubt gain an ever richer understanding of the nuance and cultural weight in the stories, which I will then be able to take back to my own classes in the United States,” says Birkenstein.

“Dr. Birkenstein is one of our most popular and versatile teachers, with a breadth of interests, intellectual energy and all-round excellence that are sure to engage and inspire his Russian students. The range of his writing is broad; the approach, vivid; the quality, high,” says Eric Apfelstadt, Ph.D., dean of the Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Birkenstein is a true scholarly teacher, of the sort we are proud to have on our faculty. His recognition by the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, as that of Dr. Katya Shkurkin, who received a similar scholarship to teach at the School of Social Work in Riga, Latvia, in 2004, is a reminder of the quality of professor with whom Saint Martin’s students enjoy close personal and working relationships on a daily basis.”

Windisch Windisch, who was accepted into the Fulbright Specialist Program, a short-term complement to the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program, will be listed on the Fulbright Specialist Roster for five years as an education and counseling specialist.

As a Fulbright Specialist, Windisch is eligible for a grant to engage in a short-term, collaborative, two- to six-week project at an institution abroad. Although he does not have immediate plans for the potential grant opportunity, Windisch anticipates using the grant to support work in Tanzania. To that end, Windisch will visit Tanzania June 24 to July 3 to explore the feasibility of helping to develop a Western-style counseling program for both the college of medicine and the education facility at Saint Augustine University.

“Currently, Tanzania does not have Western-style counseling approaches taught in their colleges and universities and, based on talks with Fr. Hugo Lungu, a priest from Tanzania who completed his Master of Arts in Counseling here at Saint Martin’s last year, there is a need for this to be a part of the post-secondary curriculum,” says Windisch, who is acting on a request made in March by the Archbishop of Songea, Tanzania, for Windisch to make an initial, exploratory visit to the university. During the same trip, Windisch will accompany his wife, Susan Leyster, director of service immersion programs at Saint Martin’s, to Saint Anne’s Orphanage and School in Chipole, Tanzania, to set up a month-long service trip for Saint Martin’s students next summer.

Windisch’s international travel teaching experiences and service learning experiences were contributing factors to his receiving a Fulbright grant. He has served as a faculty leader and instructor on Saint Martin’s trips to Italy, Germany, Austria, France, Portugal, Wales, Ireland and England.

“Dr. Windisch has been instrumental in developing a program well known for candidates with the knowledge and skills to become caring and compassionate counselors,” says Joyce Westgard, Ed.D., dean of the College of Education and Professional Psychology. “I am excited by the possibility that he will have the opportunity to cultivate those same counseling skills in Tanzania.”

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 300 more undergraduate students to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at www.stmartin.edu.

For additional information:

Dan Windisch, Ed.D.
Professor of education
Director, School Guidance and Counseling Program
360-438-4503; dwindisch@stmartin.edu

Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D.
Associate professor of English
Chair, English department
360-486-8846; jbirkenstein@stmartin.edu

Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media relations manager
360-412-6126; MDwyer@stmartin.edu