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Fulbright Program Brings a Personal Journey of Discovery to UC Professor

Virginia Gonzalez says a newer, more flexible program of Fulbright study helped her rediscover her Latina identity.

Date: 1/26/2009
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Provided by Virginia Gonzalez
Virginia Gonzalez emigrated from Latin America to the United States in the middle 1980s. More than 20 years later, she says a recent, short trip to Latin America has helped her come full circle personally and professionally and close gaps that she felt developing over the past two decades.
Virginia Gonzalez, far left, at the keynote address

Gonzalez, a University of Cincinnati professor of teacher education for the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH), spent two weeks in December building new connections with the University of Costa Rica, after she was awarded a grant through the Fulbright Specialists Program.

The program aims to increase the participation of U.S. scholars in Fulbright academic exchanges by providing shorter-length programs of study, allowing for more flexibility for academics in planning their work schedules around overseas scholarship.

Gonzalez, a faculty member in the CECH Literacy/Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) program, says she had two objectives that she wanted to accomplish. “My first objective was to help establish a network of research collaborations and training opportunities with the School of Modern Languages at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose, which specializes in preparing educators to teach a variety of second and foreign languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Arabic.

Gonzalez led two workshops.

“The country has become highly educated after the government began supporting free public education in the 1950s, and with a large segment of young people, a number of international and global companies have developed on-site branches in Costa Rica. As a result, there’s a high demand for young professionals who can speak English fluently,” Gonzalez says.

“My second objective was to participate in the School of Modern Languages First International Linguistic Congress, in which I delivered the keynote address and participated in a roundtable panel that explored the role of multiculturalism in different countries.” Gonzalez also led two workshops, one examining second-language learning and the other exploring the cultural adaptation of international students in the U.S.

“It was an excellent experience for me, because I could rediscover my Latin identity and understand my TESL field in the socio-cultural context of Latin America. The Fulbright experience was a renewal for me professionally – to see how my research and training of educators can be extended from U.S. applications to overseas. The program opened a window of opportunities for future collaborations,” says Gonzalez.

Gonzalez joined the CECH faculty at UC in 2000, beginning her academic career at the University of Arizona, Tucson, in 1991. In 2000, she was named among the first group of educators to join the College Board’s Visiting Scholars Program, which works to attract and establish relationships with nationally renowned scholars.

Breakfast with colleagues
Breakfast with colleagues

She is currently a member of the Executive Special Interest Group (SIG) Committee and the Program Committee for the American Educational Research Association. In 2007, she received a Service Award from the AERA Bilingual Education Research SIG.

Gonzalez has an extensive background in research and publishing on learning English as a second language (ESL), particularly regarding Spanish-speaking children – a growing population in the U.S.

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