Campus: CSU Northridge -- October 5, 2005

CSUN Professor Named Fulbright Senior Specialist to Develop American Studies Program in Bulgaria

Cal State Northridge English professor Robert Chianese will be spending much of this semester facilitating a paradigm shift in how Bulgarians view higher education.

Chianese has been tapped for service by the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program and will be traveling later this month to Plovdiv University in Bulgaria as a senior specialist where he will help expand an American studies program and help change how the university's officials see higher education.

"Really, I am just going to be the catalyst for change. They are the ones who are going to have to carry the ball," said Chianese, who spent half of 2004 teaching American studies at Plovdiv University as a Fulbright Scholar. "The Bulgarians, both the academics and the students, want change. I think they see me as an American innovator who can nudge their system along in ways they want to go."

Chianese has a full agenda ahead of him. Among the things he has been asked to do by Plovdiv University officials is to beef up its American studies program and expand it to include internships for students and create an advisory board made up of local American and Bulgarian business people who can program support and on-on-the-job training for students once they are graduated.

He also has been asked to help develop a new university policy that would make it easier for Bulgarian students to transfer academic units between one institution of higher learning and another, facilitate a memorandum of understanding between Cal State Northridge and Plovdiv University so exchanges can take place between their student bodies, redevelop the way the Bulgarian faculty are paid so they don't have to hold two or three jobs just to make ends meet, and help remove obstacles from Plovdiv University professors completing their dissertations so they can ultimately earn their Ph.Ds.

He will also be teaching a couple of workshops for Plovdiv University's American studies students on how to get jobs once they graduate. He plans to include such topics as preparing for a job interview, developing a resume and looking for a job on the Internet. He will also teach a six-week American studies course on literature, nature and technology.

Chianese admitted it is a lot to accomplish in the 42 days the Fulbright Senior Specialist Program has arranged for him to be in Bulgaria.

"Much of this I'm actually doing in advance of the trip and will continue to do when I come back home," he said. "The students, faculty and administrators at Plovdiv University are all very receptive to these changes in policy. It will ultimately be up to them to carry them out."

Chianese is one of more than 400 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad in 2005 through the Fulbright Senior Specialist Program. The Fulbright Senior Specialists Program, created in 2000 to complement the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program, provides short-term academic opportunities (two to six weeks) to prominent U.S. faculty and professionals to support curricular and faculty development and institutional planning at post secondary academic institutions around the world.

The Fulbright Program, America's flagship international educational exchange activity, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Over its 59 years of existence, thousands of U.S. faculty and professionals have taught, studied or conducted research abroad and thousands of their counterparts from other countries have engaged in similar activities in the United States. More than 285,000 emerging leaders in their professional fields have received Fulbright awards, many of whom later became heads of government, Nobel Prize winners and leaders in education, business, journalism, the arts and other fields.

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, Director of News and Information, 818-677-2130

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