Associate professor Steven W. Thomas of Wagner College’s English Department will be a Fulbright Scholar at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia for the coming academic year, from September 2016 through June 2017. There, he will join the faculty in the graduate film program in the art department of Ethiopia’s oldest and most prestigious university, where he will teach courses in film theory and cultural studies.
Ethiopia’s film industry has grown rapidly in the past decade, prompting its flagship national university to create a new film program in 2014. In addition to contributing to the nascent program through his teaching, Thomas will also conduct his own research on Ethiopia’s film industry, its ethnic diversity, and its long history of international relations. Thomas has already been doing some of this research, which you can read about on his Film and Media Blog.
The Fulbright program was created by the United States government in 1946 to develop international understanding. Today, the program includes a diverse array of programs for students, teachers, researchers and other professionals around the world. Each year, the highly competitiveCore Fulbright Scholar Program offers about 500 awards for teaching and research at universities in over 125 countries. Thomas will be representing both the U.S. State Department and Wagner College through his teaching and research, and he looks forward to sharing his experiences with the Wagner community when he returns for the fall semester of 2017.
Since joining Wagner’s English Department in 2012, Thomas has been fostering connections between his students in New York and aspiring young filmmakers in Ethiopia. He has worked closely with an organization based in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, called the Sandscribe Foundation, whose mission is to support emerging young film artists and media professionals in Ethiopia. In addition to his teaching, Thomas has been researching the long and complex multiethnic history of cultural connections between America and Ethiopia, from the 15th century to the present, including recent novels and movies. Last year, one of his presentations on this subject won the Society of Early Americanists annual essay contest award. Earlier this year, he and the founder of Sandscribe, Dhaba Wayessa, were invited to Bristol University in England to talk to faculty there about their work together, as well as Thomas’s own research. You can read a summary of that trip and other activities on Sandscribe’s blog.
Thomas’s Fulbright award is just the latest in a recent series for members of the Wagner College community. Over the past three years, three students have won Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships: in 2014, Kellie Griffith (Ecuador); in 2015, Alexandria Sethares (South Korea), and in 2016, Arijeta Lajka (Turkey).
Last year, Wagner College chemistry professor Mohammad Alauddin won a Fulbright Specialist grant in Chemistry Education at Independent University’s Life Sciences Division in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was his second Fulbright grant. In 2004, Alauddin taught for one semester on a Fulbright teaching scholarship at his alma mater, the University of Dhaka.