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Fulbright winner Susan Roberta Katz '71 will research in Ecuador this January

Susan Roberta Katz ’71 makes winning a Fulbright award look easy.

After receiving her first in 2003 for research in Hungary, Katz recently won a second fellowship. From January through May, she’ll live, teach and conduct research on the role of bilingual/intercultural education in the indigenous rights movement in Ecuador. The assignment continues her global research on the education of marginalized populations.

Katz, a professor at the University of San Francisco (USF), had been thinking about how to spend her spring 2010 sabbatical. An e-mail from a friend steered her in an unexpected direction.

An anthropologist from the United Kingdom was looking for teachers to help research the Shuar, an indigenous group in the Amazon, and Katz’s specialty is international and multicultural education.

“I was very curious about living in a country undergoing social change, like Venezuela, Ecuador or Bolivia,” said Katz. “The more I found out, the more I felt this was the ideal opportunity.”

The odds of winning were against her – Katz’s background wasn’t in Latin American studies and first-time applicants are given priority for fellowships. Needless to say Katz was “extremely surprised” and pleased when she found out she’d won.

While in Ecuador, Katz, who speaks Spanish, will give talks at the Latin America Academy of the Social Sciences (FLACSO) in Quito and work at the Instituto Superior, the secondary school and teacher training center for the Shuar Federation in the Amazon.

She will look at the role bilingual and intercultural education plays in the human rights movement in the country, particularly for indigenous people. More specifically, she’ll examine how indigenous concepts of autonomy, power and cultural identity are conveyed in schools.

Previously, Katz studied Central American immigrants in the U.S., and when she was in Hungary on her first Fulbright Fellowship, she researched secondary education for Roma (gypsy) students.

“In Ecuador, I’m hoping to build upon this background in studying the education of the Shuar and expand my research in a larger global context,” Katz said, adding that she’d also like to enrich her teaching at USF.

Though a professor at USF, Katz still keeps Connecticut College close to her heart. She credits Thomas Havens, former professor of history, for “nurturing me along the academic path” and said that the Asian studies program, still new in the early 1970s, inspired her to think globally.

After reading a recent issue of Connecticut College Magazine, Katz found out that Bridget Baird, professor of mathematics and computer science at the College, had also won a Fulbright award to research and teach in Ecuador during spring 2009. Katz contacted Baird for advice and the two professors talked about everything from the different universities in the country to finding a place to live.

“There are very few Fulbrighters in Ecuador that are faculty members,” Baird said. “South America can be kind of a forgotten continent that gets neglected so I was delighted to hear that somebody from Conn wanted to go.”

Katz and Baird hope to meet face-to-face in January when Baird heads back to Ecuador for a week to continue her research on archaeological sites.

-Rachel Harrington

November 25, 2009