Two Illinois State University faculty members are the recipients of a Fulbright-Hayes Group Projects Abroad award of nearly $85,000 to help build cultural knowledge of Mexico for use in classrooms.

The $84,932 award from the U.S. Department of Education will fund travel and living expenses for a group of 14 area current and future educators who will spend one month in Oaxaca, Mexico. Led by Illinois State’s Associate Professor of Education Beth Hatt and Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies Juliet Lynd, the group will take language classes (Spanish or Zapotec), engage in cultural workshops and excursions in both urban and rural settings in Mexico, and will create new curriculum for their classrooms.

The project, titled “Teaching the Cultural Wealth of Oaxaca, Mexico: Funds of Knowledge for the Twenty-First Century Classroom,” is seeking participants. Teacher education majors in any subject, K-12 in-service teachers, and administrators are welcome to apply by contacting Hatt at or Lynd at Travel to Mexico will take place May 30-July 1, 2019, with additional required meetings and online activities taking place both before and after travel. The deadline for applications is February 8, 2019.

“The project intends to train teachers to build their own cultural knowledge of Mexico to create lessons that will teach all students about Mexico through different disciplinary lenses,” said Hatt, who noted an entire unit could be developed on the cultural meanings of corn, which has been a staple in the diet of the Americas since long before the arrival of Europeans. “Sustainability and tourism would be other potential anchors for a ‘funds of knowledge’ curriculum unit, and are topics that the group will explore in comparative perspective.”

The group will begin in Mexico City, then journey to Oaxaca, a colonial city of 3.5 million located in the mountains of southern Mexico in a predominantly rural state that is home to diverse indigenous communities. There they will tour museums and visit archaeological sites and local schools as well as participate in cultural workshops on a variety of topics such as weaving, ceramics, culinary arts, and printmaking. They will then travel to the coastal city of Puerto Escondido, residing with host families and studying the tourist economy based on the international surfing community. “As one of the culminating experiences of the project, the group will organize a mini day camp for local children in which they will offer free classes and activities to the local community,” said Lynd. “In exchange, group members will have the opportunity to practice their funds of knowledge lessons.”

In previous years, Hatt has led groups to Cuernavaca in Mexico, but decided to change the locale to Oaxaca, Mexico, with the Fulbright-Hayes award. “Participants will interact with a wide variety of people across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds and come away from the program with stronger Spanish skills,” said Hatt. “They will also gain an introduction to indigenous languages and cultures, the challenges facing the education system, and a new appreciation for the strengths and cultural wealth of their Latinx students.”

The Fulbright-Hayes award comes in conjunction with support from Illinois State’s College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences. An exploratory trip to Mexico was supported by a College of Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Initiative Grant in 2017. “The CAS Interdisciplinary Initiative grant was invaluable,” said Lynd. “We were able to strengthen our application and also our vision for the program. We hope that this is the first of many opportunities for collaboration between the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations.”