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Focus on Fulbright: Q&A with Joseph Zompetti

Joseph Zompetti in a tie and smiling

Joseph Zompetti

Professor of Communication Joseph Zompetti traveled to Sri Lanka in 1993 and to Brazil in 2015 on Fulbright grants. To celebrate Fulbright alumni at Illinois State, he recounts his days in the program and the impact it made. #Fulbright@ISU #FulbrightPrgrm

Where and when did you complete your Fulbright?
I have had the fortunate opportunity to receive two Fulbright awards. The first was a student Fulbright grant in 1993. Upon graduating from Butler University in political science, I traveled to Sri Lanka to study the impacts of colonialism on the country’s civil strife.

Then, in 2015, I was admitted to the Fulbright Specialist Program and went to Brazil to teach a graduate course at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte.

Please describe your project.
My most recent experience in Brazil afforded me the opportunity to teach a graduate course in rhetoric and critical theory at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte. I also gave separate lectures and worked with curriculum development for their graduate education department.

How do you believe your Fulbright experience changed your work after you returned?
Both Fulbright experiences opened my eyes to the world. They allowed me the privilege of learning about other cultures and reflecting on my own role as a global citizen. I have incorporated examples from my Fulbright experiences into my individual courses. More importantly, however, the Fulbright experiences have made me much more appreciative of internationalization and, as a result, I have become an adamant advocate for study abroad, global awareness, and the internationalization of curriculum.

Travel can be referred to as the gift of the unexpected. What was the most unexpected thing you saw or experienced?
While in Sri Lanka, the poverty was overwhelming. The country was in the midst of a brutal civil war. Beggars on the street would often only have one leg because they were a victim of a landmine explosion. Yet, on the horizon, the only modern building were Western Banks. The contrast was striking, unforgettable, and insightful. At the same time, the Sri Lankans I met were warm, generous people. Despite the tragedy their country endured, they often greeted me with a smile and spoke of their beautiful island nation. Their hope and optimism was uplifting.

What do you most wish people could understand about the Fulbright experience?
I wish people would reach out and inquire about our experiences. I try to relay my Fulbright experiences as much as I can, but I know there must be some folks who would like to know more, or who would appreciate or value some of what I learned. Fulbright recipients are a tremendous resource to have on campus. I wish our colleagues would take advantage of that!

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying for Fulbright?
Do it! Don’t be intimidated. Talk to previous award winners. Just do it!

Learn more about the Fulbright alumni community at Illinois State.