Fulbright Teaching and Research scholar, Jeff Berkenstein

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Alumni

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Jeff Birkenstein, being influenced by Russian writers in Petrozavodsk.

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Mary Jo Hartman, broadening SMU's biology horizons through "Sound Learning Communities."

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Jeff Birkenstein named Fulbright scholar

Fulbright Teaching and Research Award recipient Prof. Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., is soon on his way to Petrozavodsk, in western Russia, where he will teach English and research the modern short story in the land most famous for the art form.

The Fulbright Program’s highly competitive grants fund international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists.

Birkenstein’s grant takes him to Petrozavodsk State University’s Institute of Foreign Languages, where he will lead advanced courses in English and teach courses on Russian and American short story literature.

“Nearly all major modern English-language short story writers … have been influenced by Russian writers,” explains Birkenstein. “Thus, to teach the modern short story is to teach the Russian short story as well. If a deeper understanding of the genre is the goal, then Russian short stories are inextricable from the American version of the genre.”

Birkenstein also will conduct joint research with Igor Krasnov, a professor with whom he connected during a 2012 visit to Petrozavodsk. They will explore best practices for teaching the history of the modern short story across cultures and how authors from different countries have mined the common experiences of life to produce structurally similar, yet culturally distinct, stories. Their focus will be on the use of food as a narrative device in the short story.

Part of being a Fulbright Scholar is being a cultural ambassador. His global outlook was piqued by his family.

“When I was 14, my grandparents took me on a trip to Central Europe, including Hungary, Czechoslovakia (then both Communist) and Germany. The world opened up to me then, and I realized that people are people everywhere and cannot be neatly fitted into blocks of people with simplistic and shared ideologies.”

Birkenstein is one of two Saint Martin’s faculty members to be named to the 2013 Fulbright Scholar Program. Education Prof. Dan Windisch was selected for the Fulbright Specialist Program roster as an education and counseling specialist.