UMass Amherst- Reflections from a Fulbright Experience by Professor Donal CarbaughDuring the 2007-2008 academic year, I was pleased and proud to serve as the Fulbright Distinguished Professor and Bicentennial Chair of American Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland. According to some, this is the premier distinguished professorship which the Fulbright program offers every year. I find it easy to agree with that assessment for I found it to be a tremendous experience as a researcher, teacher, and adventurer.
The year created a wonderful range of opportunities for me, my wife, Lu Anne Halligan Carbaugh, and my family. The position is supported by the superb Fulbright staff in Helsinki and is housed in the highly congenial Renvall Institute of Area and Cultural Studies. This is an interdisciplinary group of Anthropologists, Historians, Political Scientists, among others with special interests in Canada, Intercultural Encounters, Latin America, North America generally, Russia, and of course Finland and Scandinavia in particular. The Bicentennial Chair is a faculty position in the North American Studies program of the Institute and complements its key faculty, namely Markku Henrikkson who focuses on North American History and Mikko Saikku who specializes in the Environmental History of the US South. The position is filled typically by a Historian or Political Scientist or American Literature Specialist, but this year was filled by me, a specialist in the Ethnography of Communication.
My primary duties involved a lecture series, a small graduate seminar, and participating in several other enjoyable events of the Institute. I organized my lecture series around my favorite topics of Environmental Communication and Inter-Cultural Communication with the graduate seminars focusing on the methodology of communication codes and cultural discourse analysis. These courses were in high demand by many very high quality students with about half from Finland and half from elsewhere around Europe.
The year provided a wonderful way to continue a love affair with Finland which began for me in 1993 on an earlier Fulbright at the Universities of Jyväskylä and Tampere, with ample time for continuing my ethnographic research in Finland, and completing manuscripts on "tv talk about others" (focused on a "60 Minutes" broadcast about Finland), and a study with colleagues about "discussing sensitive cultural issues." I enjoyed presenting these studies at many Finnish universities as well as at the British Embassy's annual program on Media and Culture, and in early November as the Bicentennial Inaugural Lecture titled, "Silence Matters: Finnish and US (Native) American Cultures in Conversation."
One extremely beneficial part of this Fulbright position is the inter-country travel it encourages. The position has generous financial support for travel to other universities which invite the Fulbrighter. In my case, it allowed me to visit the University of Modena in Italy where I delivered a Keynote Lecture about "Resituating Cultural Studies in Communication," to Sofia University in Bulgaria where I keynoted the Bulgarian Conference on American Studies, to Sweden where I gave Lectures on Environmental Communication and American Studies at the Universities of Uppsala and the Swedish Agricultural University, to Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland where I gave a public lecture on Cultures in Conversation, to Israel where I presented a talk at the University of Haifa based upon my "60 Minutes" research, and so on.
The Program also created a seminar opportunity for me and my son, Andrew, who is an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is focusing his studies on American Politics and International Relations. This seminar was held in Brussels and Luxembourg where we visited the headquarters of the European Union, the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers of Europe and heard briefings about both while watching each in action.
Our years' experiences were made all the more comfortable because this Professorship includes housing in the Bicentennial apartment, a spacious residence in a quiet historical and central neighborhood in Helsinki. All such arrangements provided ample time and comfort for research and teaching, while allowing for nurturing and creating many friendships which will last for the rest of our lives.