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Fulbright Program for U.S. Students

Fulbright U.S. Student
Grantee Newsletter

Issue 33 | October 2011

Paying Homage to Design Traditions and Unlocking Student Voices
table of contents

Program Updates

Synthesizing the Old with the New: Discovering Design Traditions in Japan

by Louie Rigano, 2010-2011, Japan

Louie Rigano, 2010-2011, Japan 
Louie Rigano, 2010-2011, Japan (center), with the crew at Woodcraft Moku Hayama, a traditional furniture making workshop in rural Japan, where he studied as an apprentice. 
It is a warm and humid, but breezy day.  By the time I get to the Woodcraft Moku woodshop surrounded by rice fields high up in the Hayama hills, it is five to eight, and I have already travelled several miles by bike.  I've travelled from my apartment in Kamakura along the Shonan coast for an hour, then up into the hills for another twenty minutes.  By this point, I am usually exhausted in spite of the fact that my apprenticeship with a master woodworker and his crew has yet to begin. 

During my Fulbright grant, I have been studying traditional Japanese aesthetics and the potential roles they can play in modern design.  I have been analyzing deeply rooted cultural concepts such as transience and impermanence, imperfection, rich textures and austere beauty, and applying these notions to objects designed for contemporary use.  It is my belief that these concepts, applied effectively and eloquently to commercial design, can offer alternative approaches to those used in creating poorly designed mass-produced objects that litter contemporary material culture.

My research has involved spending time in the rural workshops and studios of traditional craftsmen, as well as in the offices of modern design firms.  I have met and worked with many incredible craftsmen.  Last fall, I worked in a pottery studio operated by a father and son team in Hida Takayama, where I was graciously provided with my very own pottery wheel and workspace.  During breaks, we talked over green tea about the current state of craft in Japan, perceptions of Japanese simplicity and famous examples of Japanese pottery.  Who would have known that one of the most treasured tea bowls in Japan was originally a rice bowl that belonged to a poor Korean farmer?  This proactive and immersive approach has not only been about learning skills from these artisans and designers; it has also been about achieving a holistic understanding of the conceptualization behind material objects and their designs.  With this knowledge, I have been designing my own functional objects that pay homage to Japan’s history, merging it together with modern needs, practices and concepts.  Through this process, I hope to ensure that Japan’s rich design heritage will not be lost and will be fully embraced and appropriately integrated into today’s ever-changing, high-tech society.  The aim of this synthesis of old and new processes, technologies and materials, is to inject new values and meaning into distinctly modern objects.

Louie Rigano, 2010-2011, Japan 

Louie Rigano, 2010-2011, Japan, working on a project in the Woodcraft Moku Hayama workshop

Back at the woodshop, I begin my day by engaging in rigorous woodworking tasks encompassing all of the processes, techniques and steps involved in creating a piece of traditional Japanese furniture from raw materials to finished objects.  Some pieces utilize lumber from five hundred-year-old trees; others are treated with Urushi, a traditional Japanese lacquer.  Japan has an extraordinarily rich craft heritage and tradition.  Ever since the opening of Japan’s borders to trade in 1854, Japanese aesthetics have had a global impact.  The Fulbright Program has provided me with an extraordinary opportunity to discover Japanese design traditions, to interact with many talented creative individuals and to pursue a project of cultural and personal importance.




To comment on and interact with other Fulbrighters about Louie Rigano's article on the Fulbright Community on State Alumni, please click here.       


Unlocking Student Voices: Engaging in Public Speaking in Montenegro

by Dustin L. Gee, 2010-2011, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Montenegro

As one of the first Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) to serve in Montenegro, I taught fourth-year students at the University of Montenegro in the Department of English Language and Literature.  Following my arrival in August 2010, it became clear that I was going to be doing much more than just assistant teaching in an English language classroom; I was going to teach multiple sections of two college level courses.

I am delighted to share my experiences with the Fulbright community; one experience in particular, had a significant impact on me and my students in unanticipated ways.

Recognizing that being a competent communicator in the twenty-first century is critical to one’s professional success, I developed an advanced-level English conversation course that aimed at providing students with an opportunity to improve their conversation skills in a variety of “real-world” communication settings.  After all, the ability to speak confidently and persuasively is an asset to anyone who seeks to play an active role in the classroom and/or community.

Dustin Gee, 2010-2011, Fulbright
ETA to Montenegro 
Dustin L. Gee, 2010-2011, Montenegro (center, in dark suit), with some of his students from the University of Montenegro

For this reason, I felt it was necessary to help my students cultivate their public speaking skills.  However, I was not satisfied with this being the only learning outcome for my students.  I wanted them to engage in a powerful professional development opportunity.

I spent four weeks teaching my students about the art of persuasive speaking.  Specifically, we discussed Aristotle’s five cannons of rhetoric, learned how to structure a persuasive speech and reviewed the various modes of speech delivery.  I also connected and supported course content by integrating discussions on the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

In the end, I asked my students to deliver a five-minute speech that persuaded me (and their peers) why they should receive one million U.S. dollars to support a human rights article that they perceived as being overlooked in Montenegro.  This assignment called my students to action, engaged them in a meaningful dialogue on citizenship and guided them in unlocking their voices around issues of human rights in Montenegro.  Given that Montenegro became an independent country in 2006 (and is currently undergoing considerable political, educational and social reforms in order to be admitted into the European Union), I deemed this assignment as applicable to their lives - inside and outside of the classroom.

At first, my students were hostile to moving forward with this assignment.  They struggled to find the fundamental value and benefits of engaging in such an activity.  This came as no surprise, since for many of my students this was the first time they had been asked to think about public speaking.  What’s more, this was the first time an educator had challenged them to take a stand on an issue and argue for the rights of others.  I acknowledged that the assignment was intimidating and daunting, but I had confidence in my students.  I knew that they were capable of overcoming their initial apprehension about completing it.  When the day arrived for my students to deliver their speeches, nothing could have prepared me for the cultural learning experience I was about to encounter.  Over the course of the day, I became captivated by my students' use of words to conjure vivid imagery regarding a plethora of human rights issues.  My students spoke insightfully about issues of poverty, education, domestic violence, the right to own property, freedom of expression and the right to work.  They supported their arguments strategically by using credible statistics, props, photographs and called upon personal accounts to achieve the objectives of their speeches.

I was awestruck and elated.  These students were cynical about participating in this assignment, yet here they stood, delivering genuine speeches around real issues that mattered to them.  They had far exceeded my expectations.  Most importantly, they had surpassed a barrier that they were certain they could not overcome.

The most rewarding aspect of this entire experience surfaced through the conversations I had with my students after they delivered their speeches.  It was then that I realized how influential this assignment had been for them.  One of my female students had tears in her eyes and gave me a hug.  She thanked me for this experiential learning opportunity and disclosed that this was the first time she had been given a chance to talk freely in a safe environment about LGBT rights in Montenegro, an issue she had kept to herself for years.  She was impressed by the fact that I listened attentively to her speech.  I applauded and supported her for speaking about a controversial issue.

This student's voice had been unlocked.  Likewise, many of my other students experienced similar reactions to giving their speeches.  They finally understood the value and benefits of the assignment.  They now saw public speaking as a way to motivate others, to make a difference for the common good, and to ensure human rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled.  

At this moment, I realized that I had made a difference as a Fulbright ETA in the lives of undergraduate students in Montenegro.  In addition to representing the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, I was actively helping others to adopt positive attitudes about and develop strategies for establishing a pluralistic, democratic society.  This experience served as a defining moment for my Fulbright ETA grant and became a pivotal driving force for my future educational endeavors.  I am forever grateful to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for this invigorating experience.

To comment on and interact with other Fulbrighters about Dustin Gee's article on the Fulbright Community on State Alumni, please click here.        


Connect and Share Your Experiences with Fellow Fulbrighters on State Alumni and Facebook

State Alumni

If you are not already familiar with State Alumni, it is a social network sponsored by the U.S. Department of State exclusively for all current and past participants of State Department-sponsored exchange programs, including the Fulbright Program.  To register for State Alumni and gain access to the Fulbright Community, go to https://alumni.state.gov.

The Fulbright Library

The Fulbright Library on State Alumni is a new way to share, connect and collaborate with other current and former Fulbrighters.  It offers a platform, categorized by subject area, for you to share your articles, blogs, classroom materials and other media related to your areas of interest and research, particularly work related to your Fulbright grant.

If you are already a member of State Alumni, you may access the Fulbright Library at https://alumni.state.gov/fulbright/library.

Share your photos with the Fulbright Community!

  • Step 1: If you haven't done so already, please register for State Alumni at https://alumni.state.gov.
  • Step 2: Once your account has been verified, login to State Alumni and navigate to the Fulbright Community from your community menu on the home page, or go directly to https://alumni.state.gov/fulbright.
  • Step 3:  Click on "Multimedia Gallery" to view existing photo albums, podcasts and videos. 
  • Step 4: To add your own photo album, click on 'Create a New Album' on the right hand side of the multimedia gallery page.
  • Step 5: Create your album by adding a title and description.  Please be specific.  Adding your name, home country, Fulbright country, field of study and year will help others to easily identify you and your photos.  Click "Save."
  • Step 6: Click "Add Photos" to begin adding photos to your album.  Photos may be added one at a time (Single File) or as a group (Zip Archive allows uploads of .zip, .gzip, and tar files). 
  • Step 7: For each photo or group of photos, enter appropriate titles, captions, keyword tags and a location. 
  • Step 8: Edit your album or the individual photos in your album, if necessary.
  • Step 9: The Fulbright Community Manager will be alerted of your new album and will approve materials before they appear live on the site.  Until they are approved, photos will display a "pending" status.
  • Step 10: Enjoy the Fulbright Community galleries and articles!

    Note: In addition to adding photos to the Fulbright Community Multimedia Gallery, you may also upload photos to the general Photo Gallery for all State Alumni members or to your user profile.  If you have a podcast or video to share, please email it to Fulbright@alumni.state.gov.
The Fulbright Program Facebook Page
The Fulbright Program now has an official Facebook presence where you can join discussions, comment on wall posts and learn more about the program's many facets.  We encourage you to visit the Fulbright Program's Facebook page regularly to read about Fulbrighters in the news, ask questions, and engage with fellow Fulbrighters from around the world.


A Call for Short Videos

Have you made a short video about your Fulbright experience?  Submit it to the newsletter! 

We are looking for informative interviews about your Fulbright experiences overseas.  The video should run no longer than 10 minutes and highlight the positive impact the Fulbright U.S. Student Program has had on you, your host affiliation or campus (if applicable) and local community.  Please request publication permission from anyone featured in your video.

Acceptable formats include: electronic files such as wmv, Quicktime, DV, mini tapes, DVDs, etc.  All videos will be edited and screened for their relevance and appropriate content. 

The footage can show you:

  • Giving a tour of your day-to-day activities
  • Engaging in a cultural activity 
  • In the classroom assistant teaching
  • Talking about what it's like to live in your Fulbright country or other Fulbright experiences
  • Engaging with the local community
  • Interacting with other students
  • Visiting sites, monuments, buildings, etc.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the format or content of your videos.  We look forward to reviewing them! 


A Call for Articles with Photos

We welcome articles with accompanying photos for future issues of the Fulbright U.S. Student Grantee Newsletter.  Articles should ideally be about your experience of being abroad as a Fulbright grantee (and cultural ambassador), and discuss your research, classroom or teaching experiences, as well as any personal examples about how you’ve achieved the goal of the Fulbright program: to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. 

The length of the article should be no more than 500 words and not require much editing in order to be published.  If the nature of your Fulbright project is very technical, please describe it using language that a layperson can understand.  The accompanying photos (preferably high resolution, 300 dpi or above) should show you engaged in program activities, be illustrative of your article's content and include captions.  Publication permission should also be requested from anyone included in your photos.

Please submit your articles with photos within two weeks of the release of this newsletter.  If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.  We look forward to receiving your articles!