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Fulbright Brings English Professor to Turkey

February 17, 2016

Jim Bowman, associate professor of English at St. John Fisher College, was recently selected as a 2017 Fulbright Fellow, and will serve as a visiting professor at Ankara University. His Fulbright begins in spring 2017, and he’ll spend four and half months at the public university, located in the capital city of Turkey. Bowman will teach graduate students as a member of the faculty of education at the University.

Jim Bowman

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with young pre-professionals in Turkey,” he said.

Traveling to Turkey as a Fulbright is not Bowman’s first experience in this country situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. In 1992, Bowman took a job teaching in a private high school in Istanbul, an experience that fueled a lifelong fascination with the country.

“I fell in love with Istanbul, with the people, the cultures, the history, and all of the exciting things that are brought to someone who hadn’t done much traveling in his life,” he recalled.

Bowman returned to the United States after two years, and went on to complete a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University. After earning his master’s, he spent a year in Poland and then four more years in Turkey, teaching at the collegiate level in Ankara. In 2002 he began his doctoral studies in rhetoric and composition at the University of Arizona. During this period of his life, he made two return trips to Turkey. In 2003, he studied Turkish in the country for nine weeks on a government fellowship, and in 2005, Bowman served as a guide to a group of American teachers on a cultural education trip through the Fulbright-Hays program. These experiences gave him a working knowledge of the language, and many friends to visit when he returns.

“This will be my first time back in the country in 12 years; much has changed in my life and in their society,” he said, noting his interest in how the refugee crisis in Syria, international conflict with ISIS, and political unrest involving the Kurdish population, especially in the eastern part of the country, have impacted the national identity and security challenges of the region. “It’s a very different place that I will return to and I want to understand how these dramatic changes are affecting society.”

Bowman, who joined Fisher’s faculty in 2009, has been actively involved in the College’s service-learning and civic engagement initiatives, which will also shape how he spends his time in Turkey. Since 2010, he has taught at least one service-learning course each year, and served for three years on the Service-Learning Advisory Board.

A strong advocate for connecting curriculum to project-based learning with community partners, he is hoping to connect with a Turkish colleague who shares those interests in the attempt to initiate an academic project on that nature.

“I’d like to conduct some research into what academics in Turkey are doing as it relates to service-learning and civic engagement,” he said. “How does the pedagogy and practice of service-learning and the notation of civic engagement need to be adapted to the society?”

The Fulbright program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, gives participants—chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential—the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research abroad. The teaching assistant program places recent college graduates and young professionals as assistant English teachers in primary school through university classrooms abroad. Founded in 1946, the Fulbright program operates in over 160 countries worldwide and approximately 8,000 grants are awarded annually.