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Julie Villegas wins Fulbright Fellowship

Sweeps through higher educational models in Japan
Autumn 2014 Newsletter


The Honors Program is proud to share that long-time Associate Director and International Programs Lead, Julie Villegas, won a prestigious Fulbright International Administrators Fellowship and attended the corresponding two-week program in June. The Fulbright Fellowship brought U.S. international education professionals and senior higher education officials to various institutions throughout Japan to foster deeper understanding of Japanese higher education systems while developing important relationships between international colleagues. As we enter the application season for 2015-2016 opportunities to study abroad, we asked Dr. Villegas to share some reflections on her Fulbright experience.

Out of Many, One - by Julie Villegas

Fulbright in Japan group photo - 2014

The Fulbright’s mission is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people in other countries; to promote peace through understanding differences while suspending judgment. I realized quickly, that we, as Fulbrighters, were modeling this value, that we had been selected in part because the committee had confidence in our commitment to experience Japan as a diverse yet united force. Our differences in institutions, job positions, politics and personalities, would prove to be one of the most stimulating and transformative components of the experience. Despite our differences, the Fulbrighters bonded well and soon came to trust and depend on each other. Our little community seemed to be a reflection of E pluribus unum, “out of many, one”, the seal and the promise of our country.  

I was proud to be part of the Fulbright group and proud to represent the United States. This in itself, for me, was a revelation, as I had been feeling quite disillusioned by impasses between our political parties and the heartlessness of corporate business in a democratic nation. This trip helped me to understand my own position as an educator within U.S. culture and revealed my discomfort with our American version of the “elevator system” and “tracking” of students. I realized that I had also come into the trip with preconceived notions about the people, history and individuals of Japan. Being in a collaborative environment that was grounded in trust allowed me to recognize my bias and advance and reformulate my ideas about Japan and its relationship with the U.S. I left Japan truly inspired and I am eager to return to continue learning.  

Julie Villegas Fulbright in Japan 2014

There were a few wonderful things I learned about the culture during my trip. For instance: there are very few public trash cans as Japanese take responsibility for their trash and take it with them. They do not litter, ever.  Also, communication in Japan is often subtle. I found it best to listen carefully and follow the lead of my host. It is not appropriate to blurt out your opinion as quickly as possible. Silence is respectful as you wait to hear what others say. On the other hand, there is a clear hierarchy in many situations so it is best to understand the organizational structure, if possible, and first address the person who is of highest status in the group.

I hope to organize a group of students to Japan (perhaps focusing on a comparative look at higher education) to experience a Fulbright-like program where they bond with each other and share their own stories. Mutual trust within their group and with Japanese peers and mentors will allow them to engage on a deeper level in order to listen and learn about the culture. That’s the value of experiential learning within a diverse and respectful community of scholars.

Julie Villegas Fulbright in Japan 2014 - transit

As we work to create that experience in Japan for our Honors students, we have some exciting exchange opportunities available in the near future, including several visiting scholars joining the Honors community this academic year. Kazu Yokota, International Economics Professor, Commerce School, Waseda University, is here as a visiting scholar from 2014-2016, jointly sponsored by Honors, Foster School of Business, and the School of Finance. The University of Washington will exchange English Professor Gillian Harkins this spring for American studies professor Kristina Graaff from Humboldt University in Berlin. Both Gillian and Kristina will interface with the study abroad students of our upcoming Berlin study-abroad program. English department chair Brian Reed is excited to present some co-curricular programming while Professor Graaff is in Seattle. These visiting scholars will focus on their research while teaching an Honors/English class, attending special events and representing our program to UW as ambassadors of goodwill from abroad.

More about Honors opportunities to Study Abroad here:
https://honors.uw.edu/international/

More about the Fulbright IEA program here:
http://www.cies.org/program/fulbright-international-education-administrators-program-iea