Two Faculty Ready to Explore the World as Fulbright Scholars

Wednesday, April 14, 2021
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Paul Christensen (anthropology) and Wayne Tarrant (mathematics) are the latest institute faculty members to be chosen to participate in the U.S. government’s Fulbright Faculty Scholars international exchange program.

Professors Paul Christensen and Wayne Tarrant will be spending the 2021-22 academic year in Japan and Kenya, respectively, as Fulbright Faculty Scholars. They join a long list of current colleagues who have been selected to participate in the United States government’s flagship international exchange program.

Rose-Hulman, the nation’s top-ranked undergraduate engineering college, has been recognized as a top producer of Fulbright scholars by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Christensen, associate professor of anthropology, is planning to spend March through June of 2022 doing fieldwork in Japan for a project titled Diverging Tokyo: Poverty, Revitalization and the Shaping of a Meaningful Existence Project Narrative. His findings will become the basis for a future book project examining a meaningful existence in contemporary Japan.

Christensen says: “Tokyo is in the midst of comprehensive revitalization efforts that aim to remake the capital and shape the future orientation of Japan along a specific trajectory that emphasizes technological innovation and ardent consumerism. As a nation confronting many of the societal issues directly linked to industrialization – stagnant or declining populations, skepticism and uncertainly about individual lives and futures, material affluence as a poor substitute for meaningful human bonds, homelessness, and expanding inequality – Japan offers invaluable insights into the contemporary moment that can be harnessed to build a more humane and sustainable world. My book aims to advance these discussions.”

Meanwhile, Tarrant, associate professor of mathematics, has been engaging with faculty and students at Nairobi’s Strathmore University for the past three years and worked on research with math faculty, lectured for master’s degree-level research classes, and led discussions on the use of inquiry-based learning. Kenya wants to move its educational system to emphasize more inquiry-based learning, Tarrant notes, and many teachers in Kenya feel completely unprepared to deal with the change.

“I have been fascinated by Kenya for some time. Its educational system is relatively young, in comparison to other regions of the world. There’s lots to explore, learn from, and, hopefully, contribute to,” says Tarrant, a member of the Rose-Hulman faculty since 2013. “Radical changes in education, and in life, necessitated by COVID-19 may provide a perfect opportunity for students to experience a new kind of educational system. I could be coming to the right place at the right time.”

Christensen teaches courses at Rose-Hulman on anthropology, specializing in contemporary Japan. His research interests include the use of psychoactive substances and recovery from addiction. His book Alcoholism, Masculinity, and Japan: Suffering Sobriety in Tokyo was published in late 2014. Christensen has been invited to make presentations at Harvard University, the University of Michigan, the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Tarrant has been particularly interested in Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile payments system and M-Shwari mobile quasi-bank system. The development of credit scores for the poor through the use of M-Pesa transaction history fascinates him, and he wonders if a similar system could be used elsewhere to give a form of banking access to the poor and those who don’t have or are unfamiliar with bank accounts.

“I believe that it’s important to see the world and bring back worthwhile learning experiences to Rose-Hulman and the campus community. Thankfully, I’m within an educational community at Rose that cherishes those values as well,” says Tarrant.

A dozen current Rose-Hulman faculty and staff have participated in the Fulbright program, and have been supportive of efforts by Tarrant and Christensen to join in their worthwhile experiences. These professors are David Fisher, spending 2018-19 at the University of Limerick, Ireland; Renat Letfullin, 2018-19 in Uzbekistan; Richard Onyancha, 2014-15 at Copperbelt University, Zambia; Yosi Shibberu, 2014-15 at Jimma University, Ethiopia; Matt Boutell, 2011-12 at Copperbelt University; Rebecca Dyer, 2007-08 in Lebanon; David Mutchler, 2000-01 at University of Mauritius; Kathy Hammett, participated in the 2000 International Education Administrator Fulbright program; Peter Coppinger, 1999-2000 at Macquarie University in Australia; Michael McInerney, 1994-95 at University of San Carlos, Philippines; Michael Kukral, 1989-90 at Charles University in Czechoslovakia; and Patricia Carlson, 1975-76 at the University of Iceland.