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U.S. Fulbright

From the Field to the Farm: Cultivating Relationships Outside of the Classroom

June 6, 2013
Justin Dunnavant

Justin Dunnavant, 2009-2010, Jamaica, (center) and Mr. Ricky (right) helping to cultivate a community farm in Portland, Jamaica

When I first applied for a Fulbright grant to Jamaica, I called on teachers, administrators, and Howard University’s alumni network for guidance. They were helpful in fine-tuning my study/research proposal and ensuring that I had a feasible plan. But perhaps the most invaluable piece of advice I received was to “expect the unexpected.” A thorough plan is definitely needed when conducting international research, but you need to make sure that it’s also flexible.

While studying in Jamaica, I divided my time between the University of West Indies and other institutions throughout Kingston. At the university, I enrolled in courses in Caribbean culture and historical archaeology, while participating in archaeological excavations on the historic Mona Plantation. In addition to the work I was doing at the university, I also ventured over to the national archives to gather more information on the slave trade from Madagascar to Jamaica, and to Liberty Hall, a community youth center, where I volunteered at an after-school program teaching math, reading, and history to students age five to fifteen.

After completing my research and teaching commitments, an opportunity arose to participate in a community project outside of Kingston during the final month of my Fulbright grant. At the invitation of two former American Civil Rights organizers, I took a trip to the parish of Portland. Now resident in Jamaica, the Civil Rights veterans helped establish the International School for Bottom-Up Organizing based on many of the same principles they learned as community organizers in the 1950s and 60s in the United States. At the local level, the organization is run by local youth and supervised by community elders to address social and economic issues. The social programs ranged from community discussions about gender relations to community organizing, and the economic ventures included workshops on fundraising, sustainable energy, and collaborative farming. I began working with the organization right after they had agreed to start a small-scale community farm to raise some funds.

The land was cleared and ready to till. After the long months I spent in the library and the classroom, it was good to be able to get some sun! Jamaica is famous for its rolling hills and mountainous landscape, which make for scenic views, but which can also pose problems for farming. Having absolutely no background in agriculture, working in Portland taught me a great deal about community and cultivation. We planted corn, cocoa, and various types of beans. In the process, I learned a few tricks of the trade, such as planting tree saplings perpendicular to the slope to secure their roots against the impact of heavy rains. At the end of the day, the seeds had been sown and our work concluded with a hearty lunch of curry chicken, rice, and boiled dumplings cooked on site.

The farm lasted about a year before the youth decided to switch to the more lucrative business of raising chickens and selling their eggs. While I originally went to Jamaica to study archaeology and history, I left with a greater appreciation and understanding for the hard work that goes into farming and developing a healthy community. The International School for Bottom-Up Organizing now carries out partner programs in Jamaica and Colombia creating mutual exchange opportunities between peoples of both countries.

Have questions for Justin? He can be contacted as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador at

U.S. Fulbright

Announcing a New Fulbright Opportunity for Public Policy Students and Young Professionals

November 8, 2011

On behalf of the U.S. Department of State, we are pleased to announce the Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship – a new component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and a new opportunity for public policy students and young professionals.

The Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship will allow U.S. citizens to contribute to the strengthening of the public sector abroad by serving in professional placements within foreign government ministries or institutions while simultaneously carrying out an academic research/study project.  The fellowship will help advance public policy research agendas, fosters mutual understanding and builds lasting ties between the U.S. and partner countries. 

Selected Fulbright Students will work side-by-side with the citizens of other countries to tackle the toughest public policy problems of the day.  This new exchange is the vanguard of international public diplomacy, as it leverages the excellence of the Fulbright program to achieve global development objectives.

Fulbright Public Policy Fellows will serve in partner country governments, which include:

  • Bangladesh
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • The Dominican Republic
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Mongolia
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia

The U.S. Department of State and partner country governments will coordinate professional placements for candidates in public policy areas including, but not limited to, public health, education, agriculture, justice, energy, environment, public finance, economic development, housing and communications.

Candidates must be in receipt of a master’s or J.D. degree by the beginning of the Fellowship (Summer 2012) or be currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program.  Applicants must apply At-Large and have at least two years of work experience in public policy-related fields.  Final selection will be made by the Presidentially-appointed J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

More information, including complete eligibility requirements, please contact Theresa Granza, or Walter Jackson,  For more information on how to apply, please visit

Applications for the 2012-13 competition will be accepted from November 4, 2011 through February 1, 2012; Fulbright Public Policy Fellows will begin their assignments in summer/fall 2012.

U.S. Fulbright

My Fulbright in Kingston, By Afreen Akhter, 2006-2007, Jamaica

March 30, 2009

I stepped into Kingston, Jamaica after a rigorous bout in the concrete jungle of New York City. I was completely thrown. I’d never inhabited a place where I was caught in so much earth. Mountains stretched above me on every horizon, and the roads were lined with greenery so vivid I swore I was awash in a painting.

As I grew to know the country better, I became more aware of the stark mix of prosperity and poverty in Kingston. The dichotomy is aggravated because of Kingston’s size. In this tiny urban sphere, I witnessed the most intense economic disparity on a daily basis.

Afreen Akhter, 2006-2007, JamaicaMy project was to study the use of theater as a vehicle for social empowerment and inter- and intra-community peace building. Alongside my independent research, I worked with a phenomenal theater collective called SISTREN. SISTREN was born in the infant climate of “democratic socialism” of the late 1970’s. It originated in the thick of a political system that supported grassroots movements and rediscovered the voice and power of the working class. For years, SISTREN was able to produce edgy, provocative theater that challenged conventional notions of “women.” Given the innumerable twists and turns of the Jamaican political climate, SISTREN has struggled and succeeded in the many years since its founding. My work with them focused on program outreach.

With the aid of the vibrant founders of SISTREN (who often fly about the main office screeching American oldies at the top of their lungs), I worked in the poorest parts of Kingston. I spent most of my time as a director of a women’s drama group in a community called Hannah Town. The Hannah Town women were, invariably, a combative, lively bunch. Most rehearsals had moments of violent outbursts, either verbal or physical in nature, which became easier to mitigate with time. Ironically, their real fire came out in those performance moments.

I remember my first street theater performance with them quite vividly. They stepped out of bounds of their enclave to an adjacent ghetto, clad in costumes that were bright and revealing. Despite the decades of conflict between the two ghettos and the innumerable lives lost on both sides, they performed on the opposing ghetto’s raw streets. In those minutes, their passion and love of the craft became truly apparent. The response was unbelievable. The opposing ghetto thronged the pseudo-stage and cried praise throughout. At the end, both communities came together to discuss the piece’s social import and share dinner. It was a profound moment.

Since then, they performed on many other streets, for the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition party, and have many performances to come. Alongside Hannah Town, I attempted to start up similar theater groups in other Kingston ghettos, and implement literacy projects with members of the collectives. My time as a Fulbrighter, which continues to live on with me, was momentous.