President Larry Dietz participated in the Administrators Fulbright program to Germany in 1993. To celebrate Fulbright alumni at Illinois State, he recounts his days in the program and the impact it made. #Fulbright@ISU #FulbrightPrgrm
Describe your Fulbright project
The project was to gain insight into the structure of higher education throughout the country and the corresponding financing mechanisms for those educational entities and for students. We spent some time in what was then the capital, Bonn, meeting with Fulbright administrators, some ambassadors, and other administrators. We then spent the remainder of our time traveling throughout Northern Germany including many communities in the former East Germany. We met with faculty members, rectors, elected officials, international directors of many campuses, and some students. We had wonderful exchanges of ideas, gained a lot of information about higher education in Germany including the role of the universities versus the fachhochschulen, and made many new friends along the way.
How do you believe your Fulbright experience changed your work after you returned?
Before I left Germany I talked to the Fulbright administrator indicating that I would be happy to host a group of German administrators once I returned. I followed that with a proposal and in the following year hosted a number of German administrators at my university, which was the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I worked with another person on our trip to Germany to help host the group and she was from the University of Kansas. Out of that we developed exchange agreements and several other formal agreements between several German universities and fachhochulen. To this day, I have some contacts with these individuals and just this past year I used this connection to place an ISU student at Augsburg Fachhochule for an internship. The experience also broadened my perspective on how important the international dimension of higher education was in the world and in American institutions. Since then, I have developed agreements in many other countries and enhanced the international dimension of every university I have served since that time.
Travel can be referred to as the gift of the unexpected. What was the most unexpected thing you saw or experienced?
People are people the world over, especially in education. While our governments may differ; our structures for delivery of education may differ; and our philosophies may differ; the underlying agreement is that education changes lives and international experiences are essential to broadening our perspectives and enhancing our education.
Have you returned to the country where you served your Fulbright award? Had it changed? Had you changed?
Yes, I have visited Germany many times since my Fulbright. I have gone there on business and vacation. The country has changed in that when I was there it wasn’t long after the Berlin wall had come down and they were adjusting to that change. They have also started to charge students for their education and developed a framework for what we would call financial aid to offset costs.
What do you most wish people could understand about the Fulbright experience?
I wish that more people knew about these opportunities and took the time to write proposals to participate. The programs are well-organized and introduces participants to important decision-makers and to the particular culture in unique and yet comfortable ways. International experiences such as the Fulbright simply changes one’s life and I am a great supporter of the program.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying for Fulbright?
Do it! It will be a great experience.