Since the mid-1970s, CRF academics have received Fulbright rewards and appropriated the Fulbright mission: to increase mutual understanding and to support friendly and peaceful relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Returning Fulbrights develop an affinity for the program throughout their lives and continue to infuse interpersonal diplomacy into their college life, including promoting Fulbright opportunities to their colleagues and students and serving as peer reviewers of Fulbright applications. .
Iqbal Akhtar — an associate professor who holds positions in the Department of Religious studies and Politics and international relations and founding director of Western Indian Ocean Studies as well as program director of Jain studies– was a Fulbright champion long before he even decided to apply for a Fulbright grant.
“I have observed the breadth and depth of scholarships that visiting scholars and Fulbright sponsored students (and other programs) have brought to the Green School of International and Public Affairs and I knew that with a little commitment and coordination, I could harness their knowledge and talents to move our programs forward, ”Akhtar explains. “This became particularly evident to me when I organized an informal session for visiting scholars and students to share their projects and ambitions with us. “
Amit Ranjan was hosted by the Modern Languages Department as Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) for Hindi in 2015-2016. During Ranjan’s time at the CRF, Akhtar noticed his an in-depth knowledge of Anglo-Indian and Hindi literature and a keen interest in engaging with communities on and off campus. “Dr. Ranjan’s expertise was ideal for supporting us in the development of South Asian studies initiatives, and we agreed that we wanted to continue to collaborate,” recalls Akhtar.
This led Akhtar to submit an application for a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence (SIR) scholarship. The SIR is designed for US institutions to invite a foreign scholar to lecture or lecture and contribute unique knowledge in program development and new programs for a semester or full academic year. Ranjan was thrilled with the opportunity to return to Miami to spend 2019-2020 as the FIU’s first SIR Fulbright. Cut off by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ranjan returned to India in early 2020 but is expected to arrive at the FIU in August this year to complete the second half of his SIR project.
Since then, Akhtar has submitted a second SIR nomination which resulted in the Sri Lankan Senior Researcher Award. As a result, Professor BA Hussainmiya from the Department of Social Studies at the University of South East Sri Lanka joined SIPA in spring 2022. Hussainmiya will support the development of centers for Muslim and Jain World Studies as well as Tamil endowment. He is expected to give public lectures, translate Tamil Islamic manuscripts, and help with federal and local grant applications.
In addition, Akhtar also took the opportunity to host four Fulbright FLTA visitors to teach Hindi, Turkish, Urdu and Uzbek language classes and serve as cultural ambassadors on campus and the local community in the fall of 2021. FLTA will be operated by the Office of Global Learning Initiatives, International Student & Scholar Services, FIU Global and others to help achieve campus internationalization goals.
To further his own research, Akhtar, as an American Fulbright fellow himself, will soon be heading to Pakistan for a project helping to bring Pakistan’s unique history to the international community. Throughout the fall, he will also work with the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan and academics from Lahore University of Management and Technology to develop capacity building by developing grant opportunities with the Department of US state and US Agency for International Development. In addition, he will pioneer the development of the academic study of Jainism with leading universities in Punjab.
The cause of advancing relations with Pakistan and initiating collaborations with academics is close to his heart.
“Pakistan has been closed for a long time but is now experiencing a new opening for international collaboration and exchange,” Akhtar said. “Fulbright gives me a unique opportunity not only to develop my own scholarship, but also to engage one-on-one with professors and students whose interests overlap with ours and to initiate collaborative work.
With champions like Akhtar, the Fulbright program, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is all the more effective in fulfilling its mission of interpersonal diplomacy.