The U.S. Department of State has named Illinois State University Professor of Science Education Dr. Do-Yong Park as a recipient of the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award for the second time. The grant will support Park’s project in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where he will spend five months helping develop a STEM education institute with an engineering focus to train teachers, administrators, and students at Ho Chi Minh City University of Education (HCMUE).
The project starts in January 2022 and he will collaborate with HCMUE STEM professors, the secretary of education, and minister of education to lay a foundation for STEM education in Vietnam. Similar to his 2017-2018 Fulbright work at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, he also aims to develop a STEM education institute so that they can carry out the program after he leaves.
Park said that in Vietnam, the STEM curriculum will focus on engineering to connect education to the emerging needs of the country. “Vietnam has one of the most dynamic market economies in the world. They have averaged over 7 percent GDP growth over each of the past five years. Currently, that growth is beginning to slow, and the labor market has been concentrated in certain industries that are now saturated, so they need something else.”
Using education to solve real-world problems is an ongoing mission for Park. Raised in a family of educators, he spent seven years teaching elementary and high school, then completed his Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. He joined the Illinois State University School of Teaching and Learning in 2002. What Park values most about being a professor is that it lets him follow his dreams: In addition to teaching future STEM educators, he conducts research, is authoring a book, and travels the globe to make a positive impact.
So far, Park’s dreams of helping the world have taken him to Finland, Thailand, and sub-Saharan Africa where he has worked with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to help create national standards for water sanitation, mining, and agriculture, as well as helping local teachers create curricula for each of these areas.
“We need to respect each other, cooperate better, solve problems intellectually,” said Park, who added after working for UNESCO, Fulbright caught his eye. “One thing unique about the Fulbright Program is they want us to be all one people around the world, to protect the earth—not just the environment, but the humans. It became one of my core values, and I started really developing that goal.”
When he returns to his ISU classroom, Park knows he will be able to share stories about his Fulbright experience to give students a different perspective on the world. “Down the road, it might also intrigue them to go to other countries and have their own experience—to learn something new they never thought about and broaden their horizon of thinking,” he said.
For others considering applying for a Fulbright, Park said, “I strongly recommend it to anyone, even if they are not interested in other countries. Number one, situating yourself in a different country or culture is a whole new horizon of learning. Second, you will learn a lot, probably experience a new idea for your research, a plethora of new perspectives for your teaching. Third, you can live with your family members there and have lots of fun—not just telling your kids but bring them there and they will experience it themselves. It will give you an amazing experience for your teaching, research, and family. I could say, by definition, you will become a different person when you experience a Fulbright program.”
ISU College of Education Dean Jim Wolfinger is a strong advocate of the program as well. “I am thrilled to see Dr. Park receiving a second prestigious Fulbright Award recognizing his contributions to the field. Our faculty, staff, students, and alumni know Illinois State has the top college of education in the Midwest and this is further affirmation of the great work we do here every day.”
The Fulbright Program, now celebrating its 75th anniversary, is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected based on academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in over 160 countries worldwide.
The grants, administered by the Institute of International Education, are competitive and extremely difficult to obtain. For more information on the Fulbright program at Illinois State visit Fulbright | International Studies and Programs – Illinois State or contact ISU Fulbright Scholar Liaison Dr. Erin Mikulec, or Fulbright Program Advisors Dr. Lea Cline and Dr. Jason Roblando.