Chris Hamstra, Ph.D., associate professor of English and communications, has received a full-funding scholarship from the prestigious Fulbright Program.
As a “Fulbrighter,” Hamstra will be participating in one of the most widely recognized cultural exchange programs in the world. Fulbright awards are funded with taxpayer dollars appropriated annually by Congress as well as with contributions from partner countries and private donations.
Hamstra’s award is through the Fulbright Specialist Program, which sends highly qualified U.S. faculty and professionals to share their expertise at academic institutions abroad for 2-6 weeks. Unlike other Fulbright faculty awards that typically last 9-12 months, specialist projects match people who can’t be away for an extended period of time with international institutions that need an experienced partner on a short-term basis. Awardees are chosen based on their knowledge, skill sets and ability to make a significant contribution.
Building on his expertise in leadership, communication and storytelling, Hamstra will spend the entire month of June at Bifrost University in Iceland teaching students from many parts of the world who come there for summer programs. He describes the Fulbright application process as “probably the most intensive thing I’ve ever done.” It involved about 20 pages of documentation plus a peer review. In fact, the award is so competitive that Hamstra applied four times before finally being selected.
Although it’s his first Fulbright, this will be Hamstra’s second stint in Iceland. In 2017, he taught in the Bifrost summer school and experienced firsthand the professional and personal rewards of the international collaboration that happens there.
“You’re with each other from morning to night,” he explains. “To be able to go on a hike or just sit down over dinner or coffee or a beer with colleagues from different countries and talk about students, the subject we teach and how we’re approaching it, to see some similarities and also some challenges or differences – that was the bug that bit me,” he says.
Whether the topic is new technologies, the impact of location on learning or the connection between leadership and storytelling, Hamstra says that gaining new perspectives through collaboration is deeply enlightening, and a lot of fun.
“I love Grand Rapids but being able to go to another spot, whether it’s globally or even just another space in West Michigan, that gets you out of your comfort zone and you’re able to see things a little bit differently,” he explains.
“I hope that’s what I’ll bring back from Iceland that can benefit Davenport. I hope my students will see a professor who’s become a little more well-rounded by continuing his own lifelong learning. Yeah, I have a Ph.D. after my name, but there’s still a whole lot of learning to do and a whole lot of cool things to go out and investigate. I hope my students will see that I’m taking steps each and every day to learn new things and interact with new people – that I’m still trying to learn.”
His philosophies about teaching and learning tie closely to his concept of leadership. “Leadership is generally seen as an influence process. I see leadership more as interaction – how we’re growing and collaborating together.”
While in Iceland, Hamstra plans to share what he’s experiencing via blog postings on his LinkedIn page, chrishamstraphd. Once back home, he’ll look for opportunities to build more bridges with Bifrost as well as Iceland businesses and organizations, investigating and hopefully helping to create future opportunities for ongoing collaboration.