Blog

By Starr Brainard, 2015-2016 Independent Researcher in Canada

I am currently about three months into my Fulbright experience. Come spring, I will be happily getting my hands dirty collecting production data from various alternative farms in Central Alberta. In the mean time, my research consists mostly of of emails, literature reviews, and online surveys. While necessary and informative, these steps of my research aren’t pushing me out into the ecosystem of plants, animals, and most importantly people in my host community. I am fortunate to be interning with my community host organization ReThink Red Deer and be a Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leader. Through ReThink Red Deer and The Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leadership Program I have been able to engage my local community in meaningful and rewarding ways over the past few weeks.

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Fulbright Canada asked five panelists to share their experience at The Nineteenth Annual International Studies Symposium. Here are their comments…

Dr. Sara K. McGuire

Dr. Sara K. McGuire is currently an LLM Candidate in International Public and Comparative Law at the University of Exeter. In August 2014 she will be a Visiting Assistant Professor of Intelligence and National Security Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso.

While Canadians often refer to their “friend and neighbour” to the south, how much do Canadians actually know about the United States? The theme of this year’s International Studies Symposium at York University’s Glendon College Campus, “The United States of America: The Neighbour You Don’t Know” sought to answer this questionBringing together scholars from both sides of the 49th parallel, this event examined a wide range of issues including: the American economy, American institutions, U.S. foreign policy, the environment and energy independence, and the American media.

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Without my Fulbright Scholarship, I would have struggled to finish my doctorate.  With it, I was able to take a sabbatical from my fulltime job as a journalist, travel extensively to conduct research, benefit from the support of renowned academics and, best of all, come away from it with new ideas — some of which have come to slow fruition nearly a decade after I was a Fulbright Scholar at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

While studying at William & Mary, a professor invited me to be a judge for the Virginia state championship of National History Day. I was honoured to take part and captivated by what I saw at the contest. High school history students entered projects in five categories: essay, exhibit, documentary, website or dramatic performance. The projects were outstanding, but even more rewarding was to see the support the students had from their community — teachers, parents and community leaders were brought together for one day to celebrate the accomplishments of these young historians, who were piped into an award ceremony with a fife and drum band (this was Williamsburg, after all) and awarded trophies and medals for their contributions to the study of the social sciences.

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Team Human Rights

I enjoyed watching the Olympics, and seeing the solidarity and spirit of “Team Canada”, “Team USA” and other countries.  One Olympic commercial noted the number of people behind every athlete: family members, coaches, sponsors, teachers, friends, and their home town.  It seems many things that are worth doing require a dedicated team.  My Fulbright project is the same.   I am working on transcribing 100+ hours of oral history interviews, building a database of these interviews and turning this oral history into a book about one of Egypt’s leading human rights organizations.  I am very fortunate to have 52 interns (some from last fall and many more this semester) helping with this project.  It is our own “Team Human Rights”.

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Energy and Water Nexus for Arid regions: Sustainable energy development and water linkages were recognised at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, with recognition continuing across a broad variety of UN and international initiatives.

For example, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is very engaged in exploring the energy and water nexus, particularly in the context to alleviate water scarcity and poverty both globally and in arid regions such as northern Africa and the Middle East.

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Don’t let the Fulbright program know, but I keep getting sidetracked by research that has nothing to do with my project. Mostly, I’m writing a novel set in the mid-1700’s, following a doctor who travels with a band of Iroquois natives through the Adirondacks and up to Montréal. But with so much rich history in the province of Québec, it’s hard not to get swept away by tangents.

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Are you ready to start your journey?