A faculty member of East Texas Baptist University is about to embark on a learning opportunity of a lifetime in the land of the midnight sun. ETBU Associate Professor of English, Dr. Cassie Falke has been named a Fulbright Scholar and will spend the next year in Norway, teaching and doing research. The Fulbright Scholar Program sends 800 scholars and professionals abroad each year to more than 150 countries.
“About a dozen Fulbright Scholars tend to be faculty from smaller colleges like ETBU,” said Dr. Falke. “It’s an extremely competitive grant to have received, and I am honored to have been selected. Forty-three Fulbrighters have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, and 78 have won the Pulitzer. I expect to work with some outstanding colleagues.”
The application process to become a Fulbright Scholar is a detailed one. “I have been rejected by Fulbright two other times, so it has been very difficult for me,” shared Dr. Falke. “The application process takes nine months and requires a researched proposal, letters of recommendation, a curriculum vitae and a bibliography of sources for any research I would like to perform.”
Dr. Falke, who has been teaching English courses at ETBU since 2006, will leave the United States on Wednesday (July 31). She will spend her year-long sabbatical in Bergen, Norway at the University of Bergen. The University of Bergen is located in the heart of the city and has about 14,500 students enrolled, and 3,200 faculty and staff.
“In the fall semester, I will be teaching American Studies at the Bachelors and Masters level. I’ll teach a large freshman seminar of 140 students alongside three Norwegian professors as well as a Masters course I’ve designed in ‘Identity in the Modern American Novel,’” said Dr. Falke.
“During the spring, I will teach one class, probably in Southern Literature, and have some time to work on research. I’m writing about the way we use the same mental habits in reading literature that we use when we love someone: attention, empathy, and hope.”
When news reached Dr. Falke, who is also the director of ETBU’s University Scholars Program, about being accepted as a Fulbright Scholar she was shocked and delighted. She shared over lunch with ETBU President Dr. Dub Oliver before leaving about reading Psalm 126 that morning. “It says the Israelites ‘were like those who dreamed’ when Zion was restored. I felt like I was dreaming. But I have a plane ticket for next Wednesday, and it seems perfectly real.”
Teaching in the second largest city in Norway will require a different method of teaching for her than in a classroom at ETBU. “Teaching in a new cultural context and with some new course formats will require a level of intentionality in my teaching that I don't always have here. I love teaching and devote a lot of time and thought to every class, but when I work with students who are more culturally similar to me, I don't have to question what will inspire them or help them understand a new concept. In Norway, I will have to ask myself more often who my students are and how they can become inspired,” explained Dr. Falke.
Norway’s Fulbright program participates in an Inter-country lecturing program. She hopes opportunities to lecture at other European universities will occur.
Back in Mid-July, Dr. Falke was selected to attend a prestigious seminar sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. She attended the “Reassessing British Romanticism” seminar held at the University of Nebraska. During ETBU’s May Term, a group of students accompanied Dr. Falke to England on a study abroad class where they studied British Romanticism.
Dr. Falke’s husband, Damon, and their two boys will be going to Norway as well. “My family is coming with me. I expect the boys will be speaking Norwegian before we are.”