Yearly Archives:


U.S. Fulbright

Are you attending the Hispanic Conference of Colleges and Universities (HACU) this October? If so, stop by to meet Fulbright Alumni Ambassador Marylin Rodriguez on Friday, October, 28.

October 21, 2011

On Friday, October 28, representatives from the Fulbright, Gilman and Boren Programs will be participating in workshops prior to start of this year’s Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Conference (HACU)

We are pleased to announce that the Fulbright Workshop will feature Fulbright Alumni Ambassador Marylin Rodriguez.  While she will be attending all of HACU next weekend, this workshop will be an excellent opportunity for students and applicants to ask her questions about what it was like to be a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Uruguay and how her Fulbright experiences continue to have an impact on her personally and professionally.  To learn more about Marylin and her Fulbright ETA experiences, watch the video below:

Marylin Rodriguez – to Uruguay, 2007 (ETA) from Fulbright Program on Vimeo.

If you’re attending HACU or are located in the San Antonio area, we encourage you to stop by and participate in any of the following sessions:

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.  Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarships

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Boren Scholarships and Fellowships

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Fulbright Program for U.S. Students


University of Texas at San Antonio – Downtown

Buena Vista Street Building, Room 4.304A – Conference

To view a map, click here.


You do not need to be registered for HACU to participate in the workshops and the cost to attend is free.

To RSVP, please send a message including your name, institution and which sessions you’d like to attend to

We hope to see you there!


UPDATE: Given that the technical issues with the Embark online application have not yet been resolved, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is extending the application submission deadline to Tuesday, October 18, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. We will continue posting updates here as we learn about the nature and extent of issues, as well as progress on fixing these issues. Note: The deadline for Foreign Language Evaluations (FLEs) and recommendations is still Wednesday, October 19, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

October 17, 2011
U.S. Fulbright

Odysseus Landing on the Island of the Sun: How Traditional Sicilian Boat Building Fused with My Community Art Practice, By Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, 2009-2010, Italy

October 14, 2011

As I sent off an email while preparing my Fulbright application to Italy, I had no idea what kind of reception I would receive from Salvatore Rizzuti, the Sicilian sculptor who would eventually sign on as my principal Fulbright mentor.  Nor did I know that I would inhabit a dilapidated parking garage in Palermo as my studio for a year while I was building a floating sculpture out of Sicilian fruit boxes.

I did know that many “Odyssey” armchair travelers or geographers have sworn that Odysseus rode the underbelly of a sheep down the slope of a Sicilian beach to escape the Cyclops Polyphemus.  I also knew that Sicily sits as a gateway to Europe for many non-Europeans and, as such, receives an influx of immigrants either from or transiting through North Africa.

Before my Fulbright grant, my art practice had developed a distinct social element; I conducted art workshops in refugee camps and orphanages around the world while maintaining a separate studio life, producing ephemeral sculptural events that often took place on bodies of water.

While trying to reconcile the two aspects of my art practice, I arrived in Sicily with three main goals for my Fulbright grant: to study traditional boatbuilding, teach weekly art classes to underprivileged children at a center called Jus Vitae and enact a psycho-geography of Odysseus’s time on the Island of the Sun primarily through building a large-scale floating sculpture that students from my workshops would help me design and which I would build, incorporating techniques from Sicilian boat builders.

Sicily, as a Palermitan told me during my Fulbright year, is the isle of the conquered.  He rattled off a long list of conquerors – some of whom included the Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Americans and now, Mafia. I quickly found the streets of Palermo to be a riot of frenetic activity; cars jumping sidewalks, people jumping cars, a mishmash of culture, history and busy, careening, gesticulating people to be maddeningly energizing. It turned out that the isle of conquered had conquered me. 

In fact, some new Mediterranean syntax began developing in my brain; hot on the trail of old conquerors and the present inhabitants, one of whom was Pino, a master boat builder, who, for the life of him, couldn’t figure out why I offered to sweep his woodshop every week for free so I could hang around while he repaired fishing boats.  By the end of my time in Sicily, I had fused my community art practice with my studio practice by collaborating with the children with whom I volunteered, setting the stage for future projects that combined aesthetic research and volunteerism. I had also managed to float a shotgun shack sculpture down the river Tiber in a sci-fi ode to Huckleberry Finn, spend time at the American Academy in Rome as a visiting artist, and give a series of artist talks sponsored by the U.S. Consulate in Naples and the German Fulbright Commission in Berlin. 

When I returned to Chicago after my Fulbright grant, I was included in a group show highlighting top emerging artists at the Hyde Park Art Center. With the help of a residency and fellowship, I am currently working on a project to enact a fictitious immigrant landing with sculpture rafts on the city’s Gold Coast, populated by my students from ChiArts, the only public arts high school in the city. In all that I am doing, I find myself talking incessantly about my Fulbright experience and how everyone should apply to be cultural ambassadors by incorporating some sort of volunteerism into their applications. My Fulbright year in Italy was a wellspring that will undoubtedly feed my art practice for years to come.  It gave me a framework in which my practice doesn’t solely mine or cannibalize history, philosophy and cultural moments, but also exists in and nurtures my hometown and host communities in sustainable ways.

Top photo: Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, 2009-2010, Italy (in hat), leading an art workshop with children from Jus Vitae in Palermo, Italy

Middle photo:Ecclesiastes Rose: Penelope my martian temple dancer, a boat installed by Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, 2009-2010, Italy, on a dry dock among the fishing boats in Mondelo, Sicily

For more images of my Fulbright work including, Penelope and the Cyclops, please visit

Tips for Applicants:

  • If you are currently enrolled at an institution, make the most of working with your Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) on campus. Even if you are a recent alumnus/na, ask if your alma mater’s FPA might be willing to work with you. Attend Fulbright Information Session and webinars and always ask exhaustive questions whenever it makes sense to do so.
  • Contact and network with the Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors. Ask about their projects and their experience with the application process. Look through the titles of successful projects from applicants in your field.
  • Choose a country that will stretch your comfort levels and ask: What cultural resources am I pursuing? Why is it imperative that I immerse myself there?
  • Incorporate volunteerism into your proposal. The Fulbright Program is an awesome privilege. Service in your host community will open unexpected doors for you personally and professionally.
  •  Applicants in the Arts and Writing: Take every opportunity that comes your way.  Look for residencies, speaking and collaboration opportunities with other artists, and approach local galleries and museums. The Fulbright Program puts you in a unique position to network. Be sure to contact the Fulbright Commission and/or Public Affairs Section at your local U.S. Embassy and make yourself available for artist talks and workshops. If your project is community-based and you need more funding to cover materials, apply for a Federal Assistance Award


U.S. Fulbright

The Slow Exchange, By Annie Katsura Rollins, 2010-2011, China

October 7, 2011

Cultural exchange has a way of sneaking up and surprising you.  At times, it feels so basic: communicating in a foreign language, acclimating to the constancy of strange foods and choosing whether to use the sit or squat toilet.  In the beginning, the simple logistics and practicalities of basic exchange are all consuming.  Over time, it becomes natural to cross the street with the flow and not with the light.  But something else is happening too – and has been happening.  Slowly, very, very slowly, so as not to wake your consciousness, the real exchange starts to happen.

It’s been this way with me.  Sneaking up slowly, in miniscule increments until it rains down.

I’m spending my Fulbright year canvassing China to meet and work with the remaining traditional Chinese Shadow Puppetry artists.  On and off for the past six months, I’ve been in Xi’an under the tutelage of hand cut leather shadow puppet master Wang Tian Wen and my progress up until this point has been slow and stuttered.  Recently at the cutting studio, I finally – let me emphasize that better – finally figured it out.  It is hard to explain.  It’s also known as an Aha! moment; an instant where your brain connects with your body, your body connects with your memory and all of them converge in the present moment.  The power of all three coming together at once creates a force of realization that expands beyond the thing at hand.

I was hand-cutting my piece of translucent leather, rushing a bit here and there, pondering everything but the task itself.  Why is KFC so much better in China?  Don’t forget to add money to my bus card.  Why is my left arm aching?  What am I having for lunch?  Why can’t I ever get this cut right?  That’s when I heard myself say slow down.  I must say this a dozen or so times a day while I work.  I work fast out of habit because of deadlines, time crunches, graduate school and because it’s the accepted pace of life in the United States.  Back home, my ability to multitask, work quickly and pack the activities is a point of pride.  But there was something different about this day that came after many months of these fast-paced days.

The morning had started off slow and steady with a few genuine exchanges, first with my neighbor, then on the bus and finally with my favorite street vendor.  I flowed with the foot traffic instead of the streetlight.  When I arrived at the studio, everyone was napping, chatting or working calmly.  It all created a strange quietness.  So when I told myself to ‘slow down’ this time, I finally heard myself.

So I tried it.  I slowed down.  I glanced down at my hands and took a deep breath and moved   s   l   o   w   l   y.  To me, it looked like I was moving in slow motion.  And given my standard pace, I was.

At first, it felt so odd and silly.  But my tired mind and body insisted on persisting.  Within the space of a long minute, I was paying attention to different things.  Not how I was doing, but what I was doing: the simple act of cutting.  The cowhide determines your pace; your blade must take time to negotiate with it and your hand, the willing accomplice.

I focused on my slow motion cowhide being pushed ever so slowly onto my upturned blade.  Cut after cut after cut.   After a while, my dry eyes blinked me back into consciousness.  I looked down at my work.

Aha!  This was it.  This is what it takes to cut a puppet.  My cuts had the quality I had been looking for, something I could find sometimes by accident, but not with any consistency.  I laughed loud enough to make my friend Wang Yan look up at me.  I’d been rushing to find the key to cutting puppets and it had simply been to slow down.

The assumption I held just before I started my Fulbright grant was that I would learn about shadow puppetry.  I have, and more.  I didn’t expect to learn the larger ways in which cultural exchange can change us.  Working with artists from China has completely changed my creative process, design aesthetic, work ethic and collaborative methods…not to mention my life.  If and when you can, slow down during your Fulbright year.  Stop and take stock of the large and small ways in which your host country has changed you, and you, your host country.

When working on your Fulbright application, take special care to clearly form your project idea and present it in a way that shows your passion and commitment.   The clearer your proposed project, the more likely your realized project will be a success.

This article was adapted from my blog A YEAR IN SHADOWS.  To read more stories about my Fulbright research on traditional Chinese Shadow Puppetry, click here.

Photo: Annie Katsura Rollins, 2010-2011, China, cutting leather puppets at the Yutian Wenhua Company in Shaanxi Province