This summer, Seattle University welcomed 17 scholars and educators from 17 different countries for four weeks of academic residency in Seattle and two weeks of study tour to LA, Berkeley/SF, and DC. These professors came from all around the globe for the Study of the U.S. Institute for Scholars on Contemporary American Literature (SUSI), a Fulbright-related program directed by Charles Tung, PhD, now Chair of English at Seattle U. Ken Allan, Associate Professor of Art and Art History, served as the associate director. Dan Benston and Elizabeth Boyle served as assistant coordinators.
This year’s participants included Megha Adhikari, Nepal; Miloš Blahut, Slovak Republic; Tatiana de Freitas Massuno, Brazil; Fatma Tokoz Goktepe, Turkey; Asma Dhouioui, Tunisia; Azzaya Dashzeveg, Mongolia; Simone Duval, Israel; Alena Hulevich, Belarus; Matilda Kechie, Togo; Ouassila Korichi, Algeria; Nataliia Liubarets, Ukraine; Usa Padgate, Thailand; Mundi Rahayu, Indonesia; Ruth San-A-Jong, Suriname; Zeenat Taher, India; Anita Neira Tiemann, Chile; and Kusi Toh, Cameroon.
Reflecting upon this year’s experience, Dr. Usa Padgate from Thailand, said, “My six weeks at SUSI-SU is the most valuable professional experience I have ever had. The seminars, workshops, visits to museums and historical places, and discussions with colleagues from all over the world have broadened my horizon of American literature, art, culture, and life. I cannot wait to share what I have learned here with the academic community in Thailand.”
Dr. Tatiana de Freitas Massuno from Brazil added, “Never would I have imagined that a 6-week-program would be so transformative. Not only were we able to get acquainted with cutting-edge theories and really contemporary texts, but also to get to know 17 amazing scholars from all around the world.”
During the summer, the group studied with Professor Brian Reed, Dean of Humanities, University of Washington; novelist Dr. Sonora Jha (SU Communications); fiction writer Dr. Juan Carlos Reyes (SU English); 2017-19 Seattle Civic Poet Anastacia-Reneé Tolbert; and Dr. Christina Roberts, Director, SU Indigenous Peoples’ Institute. The Institute participants also enjoyed seminars with professors from a number of other institutions, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, Rice, Florida State, Scripps, Georgetown, University of Maryland, and Hamilton College. A message from Washington Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib was shared with the scholars at this year’s farewell dinner. “On behalf of Washington state, thank you for spending the past several weeks contributing to the vibrant academic community we are so proud of in our state. Thank you also to the leadership of Seattle University for once more bringing the SUSI to our region. We are especially pleased to have all of you in our state this year, because the works of literature you have been studying, and the questions you have been exploring, are more important now than ever. As the United States, and the world, struggle with questions of identity and their implications for politics and policy, our need for critical thinking and skilled communication becomes greater. Our world needs those who have been trained to think both critically and empathically to help interpret conflicting perspectives, and to find ways to communicate across barriers."
Stesha Brandon, of UNESCO’s Seattle City of Literature, built upon that sentiment in her remarks at the farewell dinner: “As you all well know, literature can act as a window. And it can act as a mirror. It can reflect our experiences or introduce us to new ones. It allows us to build empathy and understanding; to pay witness; and to grapple with difficult concepts and emotions. You come to this conference at a time when our country and our community is exploring and redefining what it means to be American, what it means to have literature of, and for, the United States.”
Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Department of State, the goals of the Institute include more complex conceptions of U.S. history, society, and institutions; new materials and paths for research and teaching in participants’ home countries; and connections that foster peaceful, mutual understanding and the possibility for further intellectual and institutional exchange. In academic seminars, participants encounter a diverse set of contemporary U.S. authors and artists, different kinds of cultural expression, and a variety of American colleagues from Seattle University and institutions around the country who represent a range of disciplinary approaches to literature and culture.
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