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spacer spacer spacer spacer spacer May 21, 2009

Fulbright Scholars travel abroad, share expertise


Willie Osterman


Christie Ong


Stephanie Haas

An RIT professor, an alumna and a current student will all conduct research and study abroad this fall as a result of winning Fulbright Scholars Awards.

Willie Osterman, professor of photography in RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, heads to the University of Zagreb in Croatia to help the country establish its first photo program at the college level. Osterman will lecture and work on curriculum development. In addition, he plans to photograph and assemble a “visual history” of Zagreb.

“This opportunity would offer both the University of Zagreb and myself a firsthand cultural exchange by allowing me to join Croatian students in the learning process, as well as meeting new colleagues and participating in the creation of its curriculum,” says Osterman. “This would also greatly supplement my teaching upon return to RIT.”

A photographer herself, Stephanie Haas, a recent graduate of RIT’s undergraduate program in fine art photography, ventures to Oslo, Norway. She will document current trends in sustainability and environmental consciousness.

“I could think of no better country in which to conduct my research than the homeland of world-famous philosopher Arne Naess, developer of the Deep Ecology philosophy,” says Haas. “My final project will allow my own American ideas and concerns about sustainable development to mingle with the Norwegian mindset. It will inform citizens in both countries and inspire more creative solutions to issues like global climate change, increased socioeconomic inequality and the energy crisis.”

Haas’ project will consist of creating portraits and conducting interviews with Norwegians about their thoughts about sustainability. She plans to publish her findings online.

Christie Ong, a fourth-year advertising and public relations major, is only the third student from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf to be awarded the Fulbright in Deaf Studies. Ong will spend a year in Italy creating a support network for Italian parents who are new to raising deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

“A mother living in Grosetto, Italy, is one of my contacts on this project,” says Ong. “She has a son who used to wear hearing aids and now has a cochlear implant. Her pediatrician’s knowledge on this subject was limited and she spent hours online looking for resources from America. There are resources in Italy, but many are sporadic. I owe my success to my parents and everyone who was supportive of me receiving the best care available, so I hope other deaf and hard-of hearing children can have that opportunity too.”

As part of her work, Ong wants to help establish an Italian national chapter of Hands and Voices, a non-profit organization in the United States dedicated to supporting families and their children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and the professionals who serve them. Ong hopes to benefit families not only in Italy but other countries lacking support services of this kind.

Haas and Ong are among the growing list of RIT student Fulbright Fellowship recipients which now totals eleven. For more information about the Fulbright program, visit www.fulbrightonline.org.

Kelly Downs

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