USF professors put Fulbright grants to use

Students are not the only ones who can study abroad.

The government-sponsored Fulbright program is meant to encourage not only undergraduate and graduate students to build international relationships, but college and university faculty members, as well.

For the 2010-11 academic year, Fulbright grants were awarded to USF professors Judithanne Scourfield-McLauchlan, John Petrila and Margaret Kusenbach.

Petrila, a professor in the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy, received the grant to conduct research at Maastricht University (MU) in the Netherlands, where he had previously worked with the head of the psychology program.

“You always think it’s a long shot (to get a grant) like this,” Petrila said. “I couldn’t be happier doing this, it’s a beautiful, old medieval city. The university here is terrific, and I think people ought to look at this and similar opportunities, whether it’s students or faculty, because it broadens your horizons.”

While in the Netherlands, Petrilla said he will be developing a research project titled, “Developing a Forensic Psychology Research Program for the Netherlands,” in addition to teaching a course that explores international perspectives on mental health law.

Scourfield-McLauchlan, an assistant professor in USF St. Petersburg’s Government and International Affairs department, founder of the campus’s Civic Engagement center and a pre-law advisor, said she applied for a grant to work in Moldova because of her interest in former Soviet Union countries that have begun drafting constitutions to build democracies.

“Moldova is particularly interesting because it is the only country that broke away from the Soviet Union that is not Slavic, but ethnically Romanian,” she said. “The people in Moldova are having an identity crisis, as some forces desire Moldova to continue westernizing, but some desire the country to keep its ties with Russia.”

Scourfield-McLauchlan, who applied for the grant only two weeks before its deadline, said she has been interested in former Soviet Union countries for the past 20 years and always had the desire to teach in another country.

Kusenbach was unavailable for comment, as she is currently working in Germany. She is conducting research with the Institute for Sociology at the Technical University in Berlin.

According to it’s website, the Fullbright program, which awards an estimated 1,200 grants to U.S. scholars a year, provides recipients with a stipend to cover their living expenses and allows them to teach and conduct research while abroad.

Petrila, who is currently in the Netherlands, was granted 3,000 Euros, worth now about $4,032 U.S. dollars. His class at MU is titled “International Perspectives on the Rights of Individuals with Mental Disabilities.”

Scourfield-McLauchlan, who returned from Moldova in December, was given a lecturing grant.

“I taught U.S. Constitutional Law, Judicial Processes in the U.S. and Campaigns and Elections in the U.S at the Free University of Moldova (ULIM), and participated in dozens of guest lectures all over Moldova,” she said.

Both of the recipients said they hoped to build a relationship with the faculty at MU and ULIM, create an inner-classroom exchange network and introduce new teaching methods like mock trials and student research opportunities.

“One thing that I am really looking forward to is continuing exchanges with colleagues and students at ULIM,” Scourfield-McLauchlan said. “While I was there I was able to organize a series of forums around the U.S. 2010 midterm elections, and set up panels with experts from the U.S. (via) Skype. I can’t wait until I am teaching again so I can connect my students at USF to students at Moldova, and possibly create joint projects.”

Petrila said he is already in the process of fostering collaboration between USF and MU’s psychology and law programs.

“I’ve already introduced three or four faculty on both sides who have very common interests and are doing similar types of research,” he said. “I think there is a very good possibility of a long-term institutional relationship in the area of psychology and law between our two universities.”