Saint Martin’s Society of Fellows welcomes Fulbright scholar as Spring Colloquium speaker

April 3, 2014

Fulbright Scholar, Jeff Birkenstein

LACEY, Wash. – The Saint Martin’s University Society of Fellows cordially invites the community to join its members for the Society’s Spring 2014 Colloquium on Wednesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. The event, free and open to the public, will be hosted in the Norman Worthington Conference Center on the Saint Martin’s Lacey campus.

The celebration will feature distinguished speaker Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., a Fulbright Teaching and Research Award recipient and chair of the University’s Department of English. Birkenstein will speak on, “Notes on a Fulbright Semester at Petrozavodsk State University, Republic of Karelia, Russia.”

Birkenstein’s 2013 Fulbright grant enabled him to spend the fall 2013 semester at Petrozavodsk State University’s Institute of Foreign Languages, where he led advanced courses in English and taught courses on Russian and American short story literature. He has also been conducting joint research with Igor Krasnov, a professor at Petrozavodsk State University, on best practices for teaching the history of the modern short story across cultures.

“I just returned from 3-plus months in Russia, months spent teaching, writing, thinking, traveling, napping, eating, exploring and trying my darndest to be a cultural and academic ambassador -- whatever that means,” Birkenstein says. “Although you may have noticed that when I first returned from Russia, I was walking around in a very surreal space -- I would go back and forth between feeling that I was gone for five minutes and, alternatively, five years -- I would like to share some of these thoughts about this experience.”

Birkenstein strives to break down walls between the classroom and the world. For example, watching a plane crash into New York's World Trade Center live on television led to a conference and then a class (co-taught with anthropologist David Price), followed by a book: Reframing 9/11: Film, Pop Culture and the "War on Terror" (Continuum 2010), co-edited with Anna Froula (East Carolina University) and Karen Randall (Southampton Solent University, UK). Another example: a successful eater for his entire life, he uses these diverse experiences when teaching a course called "Food & Fiction," which has, in turn, led to more writing, more traveling, more team-teaching and, of course, more good eating. Along with co-authors Froula and Randall, Birkenstein recently published The Cinema of Terry Gilliam: It's a Mad World (Columbia UP/Wallflower is P). Birkenstein earned his doctorate in English, as well as a master of arts degree in Teaching English as a Second Language, from the University of Kentucky. He received his first MA, in English, from California State University, Long Beach. Birkenstein earned an undergraduate degree in English from the University of California, Los Angeles.

During the colloquium celebration, newly inducted members of the Society of Fellows will receive medals. Graduating Fellows will wear their medals with their regalia at Saint Martin’s commencement on Saturday, May 10.

The Society of Fellows, an academic honors organization at Saint Martin's University, was founded in May 1971 by Father Michael Feeney, O.S.B., the University President, to distinguish members of the faculty and student body who, with their outstanding work in teaching and learning, contribute to the intellectual life of the University. Since its inception, the society has existed to recognize and encourage academic excellence throughout the Saint Martin's University community.

Among its activities, the Society of Fellows publicly honors student achievement and regularly sponsors academic colloquia and convocations. It traditionally advises the University President on recipients of such academic awards as honorary degrees and the Martin of Tours Medal and it suggests, when requested, each year's commencement speaker.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 300 more undergraduate students to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at

For additional information:

Richard Langill
Professor, History/Political Science

Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media relations manager