SAINT AUGUSTINE — For the first time ever, Flagler College is hosting a Fulbright scholar. Dr. Maraisa Lopes, from the Federal University of Piaui Teresina, Brazil, is working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program in the Education Department to study differences between Brazilian and American higher education experiences in the field.
She is working closely with Professor Dr. Margaret Finnegan, Deaf Education coordinator — from now until June and again in the fall — to examine teacher education experiences, which include the structure and impact of student practicums, coursework, curriculum, internships, testing practices and state and federal standards. The aim of the cross-cultural collaboration is to share expertise and improve deaf and hard of hearing programs.
“Dr. Lopes is a consummate professional, asking questions and making observations about our program that prompt me to reflect on my practice and our course of study,” Finnegan said. “This has been an unexpected benefit, encouraging me to look at our D/HH program and to view our courses with an eye on how we might improve them.”
Lopes received a Fulbright “Junior Faculty Member Award” from the organization’s Core Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program, which provides grants to 800 faculty and professionals from around the world for advanced research and university lecturing in the United States.
The Brazilian scholar said she chose Flagler as a host site for two reasons: place and people.
“I was looking for a university with a long history of experience in the deaf education field,” Lopes said. “Other universities in the U.S. could have offered that, but then I came upon Dr. Finnegan’s name. She is very involved in the deaf community, and leads a deaf education program.”
Flagler College, she concluded, was the right place.
OBSERVING AND EXAMINING
As part of her studies, Lopes is currently observing and examining various elements of Flagler’s teacher education program. One of the difference she’s already noticed is the emphasis on practical experience at Flagler, and the benefits it offers students. When she returns to Brazil this summer, she will administer a questionnaire to her colleagues and students at Federal University in Piaui to gauge their experience in their teacher education program. When she returns to Flagler in the fall, she will do the same and compare the results of both groups in a final report.
In addition to research and collaboration, the Fulbright grant has encouraged cross-cultural exchange.
“This kind of program is really good because beyond having a project, having people from different cultures and places interact is really important,” Lopes said.
Finnegan agreed. “I believe Fulbright scholars can bring not only their knowledge and skill, but also energy, intellectual curiosity and new cultural perspectives,” she said. “It is a very real benefit to our department and to the college. We are so fortunate to have Dr. Lopes. I am learning from her every day.”
The Fulbright Scholar Program oversees the visiting scholar program and is organized by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.