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Two CC Professors Participate in Fulbright Scholar Program

By Madeline Pillari '17

Two Colorado College professors, John Gould and Dan Johnson, were recent participants in the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program. The Fulbright Scholar Program awards teaching and/or research opportunities to college and university faculty and administrators, as well as to other professions, in more than 125 countries.

John Gould, professor of political science, did a research project titled "LGBTQ Politics in Slovakia," where he was from November 2015 to June 2016. After traveling to the country in 2014 and conducting 15 preliminary interviews, Gould's Fulbright research continued his work on the LGBTQ communities in Slovakia, Russia, Serbia, and Bosnia. The idea for his research came from teaching a course at Colorado College, "Waging Nonviolent Conflict," which focused on the nature of revolutions. The class featured two of Gould's friends who live in Serbia, and students had the opportunity to learn about the democratic movements in Eastern Europe and how the politics of these revolutions are often socially conservative.

Gould says that in order to get any kind of political traction in regards to democracy, revolutionaries must "go to the ideological center." By learning more about the politics of revolution in Serbia, Gould found a major issue in the way that the LGBTQ community was and is being treated in these countries.

"While there has been some local research in the topic," Gould says, "currently there is very little English-language academic literature in LGBTQ studies on Slovakia." The Fulbright helped shape his research and enabled Gould to "cast new light on a poorly investigated chapter in the struggle for human rights in post-communist Europe."

Providing context, Gould explains that the communist regime in Slovakia was overthrown by a movement influenced by Catholic activists. After the revolution occurred, this same group formed their own party, which became a mixed group of Catholic conservatives, moderates, and other Christians. The new party in Slovakia focused on "family values," which included limitations of women's reproductive choices and the promotion of more "family friendly" public policy, where heterosexual families were rewarded for having children and staying married. Today, Gould recognizes the continued discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Slovakia, and identifies the "politics of fear in Slovak policy," which he defines as the naming of enemies, whether it is women asserting their reproductive rights, or a push for same-sex partnerships and equal rights. Gould views the discrimination of the LGBTQ community in Slovakia as an ongoing issue, saying "mainstream parties are still using enemies, now tying them in with the Muslim immigrants, who are seen as potential terrorists."

Gould plans to publish on the politics of sexual minorities and identity in Slovakia, and possibly utilize his research and articles in a book he's working on. The book focuses on "the politicized use of homophobia," particularly in post-communist Europe. In Gould's final report for the Fulbright fellowship, he notes that the proudest moment of his time in Slovakia was after the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting. The LGBTQ community of the town he was staying in, Bratislava, organized a candlelight vigil where U.S., Slovak, and rainbow flags were displayed. However, according to Gould, out of the 50-75 people who attended the vigil, there was no official political or mainstream print/media presence. Gould emphasized that he has "never been more proud of the U.S. Embassy and career foreign service officers as I was then" for their participation and support in the vigil. In his report, Gould states that his academic political science lecture on sexual identity was most likely the first given on the topic in the university's political science department. He credits the success of his research to his "fantastic" access to local resources in the human rights/LGBTQ communities.

Dan Johnson, associate professor of economics and business, participated in the Fulbright Specialist Program, which differs slightly from the Core Fulbright Scholar Program in which Gould participated. In the Specialist Program, recipients join a roster of specialists for a three-year term, and are then invited by a host country to serve as an expert consultant for two to six weeks, serving a variety of institutions. Johnson's host country was Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Johnson describes Myanmar and his experience there in great detail in the report he gave at the end of his time in the country. Myanmar has been under strict military rule for 40 years, and as a result has been closed to the outside world for much of that time. Citizens have limited access to educational materials and technology. The Internet and social media, both commonplace in the West, have only been available for four and two years, respectively. Textbooks and educational materials are available only in print and are an extremely valuable commodity, often locked behind glass, sufficiently stagnating education. As a grantee, Johnson was asked "to focus on looking into the benefits of an open market economy, the freedom of choice (as consumers and entrepreneurs), global connectivity, the role of SMEs [small, micro, and medium-sized enterprises] in an economy, leveraging economic growth for personal growth, economic freedoms, competition and growth, education and economic development, industrial policy, and micro-enterprise/micro-finance."

In his project report, Johnson prioritized education, and used the American Center in Yangon to organize dozens of opportunities for engagement. These engagements varied greatly, from lectures, presentations, and workshops at multiple universities with economic focuses, to meeting with students, and holding multi-session workshops for former political prisoners. He also met with leaders and developers of Mandalay's industrial zone, and staff of the Ministry of Commerce's Trade Training Institute and Export Promotion Center. Along the way, the contacts that Johnson made proved invaluable to his work. In his report, Johnson summarized his goal during his sessions, workshops, and educational ventures, "to outline the benefits of trade, of a market-based economy, of consumer sovereignty, of SMEs and economic growth, of education, of inclusivity and social diversity, of collaboration and international connectivity, of micro-enterprise and micro-finance." Presenting these themes and topics through real-life examples and stories, Johnson's report goes into extensive detail, taken from both history and what is culturally relevant today.

Citing Silicon Valley's development, as well as his own experience starting a small business, Johnson says he "answered every question as thoughtfully as I could, with an emphasis on empathy, collaboration to find solutions, and honesty and integrity and enthusiasm in every message." Additionally, Johnson helped Burmese professionals network with American businesspeople and entrepreneurs to help develop ideas and products, as well as relationships. Johnson describes Myanmar as a nation "on the brink of enormous socioeconomic change," and his passion for the nation and its people is clear in his report.

The experiences that both Gould and Johnson bring to CC's classrooms will prove incredibly valuable. Having taken full advantage of their Fulbright awards, Gould and Johnson aim to promote wider and more open conversations within the Colorado College community.

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/16/2020