Professor of Health Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
Discipline: Public/Global Health
Lecturing/Research: Health Behavior and Academic Achievement in Icelandic School Children
Host: Reykjavik University, Reykjavik, Iceland
As a public health scholar, John Allegrante focuses on the effects of smoking and other health activities on youth educational and social growth. Through the Fulbright Scholar Program, first as a Specialist and then as a 2007-2008 U.S. Scholar to Iceland, Allegrante further honed his expertise and even added administrator experience by working with a developing Icelandic institution, Reykjavik University:
My grant to Iceland has brought me into contact with a rich and fascinating array of people, from students and colleagues with whom I have worked and from whom I have learned so much about the Icelandic culture and national aspirations, to other Fulbright award grantees, to the President of Iceland.
My host institution, Reykjavik University—only a decade old—was founded by the Iceland Chamber of Commerce. It is Iceland's first private university, and one of the first of its kind in Europe. The university is committed to innovation and international research collaboration, among other goals. I became involved with Iceland and Reykjavik University three years ago, when I first met Inga Dora Sigfúsdóttir, dean of the fledgling School of Health and Education. By the time I received my Fulbright Specialist grant, I had visited Iceland and began collaborating with her and her colleagues on research focusing on the importance of health status to academic achievement.
During my U.S. Scholar grant, Inga Dora was on leave from the university throughout the autumn term. In her place, I served as acting dean of the School of Health and Education and member of the university-wide Research Council, working with some of the brightest students and most committed faculty I have ever encountered.
In November, I also traveled to Akureyri and Husavik in the northeastern reaches of the country, just miles from the Arctic Circle, to hunt Ptarmigans, a wild game bird similar to grouse that is a traditional delicacy at the Icelandic Christmas table. I bagged five of the birds but while my good luck will not put me into the Icelandic sagas, it did prove one thing that has a certain currency among Viking culture: it demonstrated that even a professor from New York could shoot!
My Fulbright experience in Iceland has been one of the most productive and rewarding chapters of my life and career. The island, the people, and the culture are as unique and fascinating as any place I have ever visited. So, if you are looking for a unique adventure on this planet, get to Iceland and live and study there for a few months. You won’t regret it and it will change your perspective in the most remarkable ways.