I first saw the annual listing of Fulbright Scholar Awards as a freshly-minted, fifty-year-old DBA from the University of South Australia, teaching tourism management at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Academia is my third career and from the day I began teaching, the hope of earning a Fulbright was an aspirational goal.
I had enjoyed success as a certified public accountant, entrepreneur, and executive with a NYSE company. Earning a Fulbright, I felt, would validate my new career path. I soon learned, however, that the program requires U.S. residency, making me ineligible to apply. As the years passed my dream of pursuing a Fulbright only grew stronger. I eventually returned home. Upon earning my first sabbatical, seven years later, it was time to revisit the goal.
I was fortunate to have taught several years prior in Singapore with a wonderful couple from the University of Guelph - located fifty miles west of Toronto – a school with what is generally considered to have Canada’s premier hospitality program.. As fortune would have it, Guelph’s School of Business was listed as a Fulbright host institution with an award that fit comfortably with my interests. The award was in sustainable commerce and one of research areas was tourism development and sustainability. I taught in a school of business, and the granting institution was similarly one of the few universities to house tourism management within a business school. There was no shortage of exciting Fulbright destinations to which I could have applied, but these aspects made the Guelph fit so well, the opportunities for research so enticing, and the chance to reconnect with colleagues with whom I had published so attractive, the choice was simple. I can’t express how grateful I am to have been selected.
There were many highlights to my Guelph semester. Though my award was to research “Understanding the Sustainability of Mature Vacation Destinations,” when the host Department Chair asked if I would consider teaching a class I readily agreed. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet Canadian students and to interact with faculty as a teaching colleague. I traveled around the Province of Ontario studying and learning, with doors opened readily to welcome me as a Fulbright Scholar. But perhaps the highlights of my visit were the invitations I received to speak at other universities. At Wilfrid Lauriar, I was asked to conduct a PhD seminar, special for me as my school, College of Charleston, does not offer doctoral programs. At the University of Waterloo, I was invited to present in their prestigious tourism geography speaker series, which for years has included all the major names in the field. And, upon returning home, my Canadian research yielded multiple publications, several of which I was delighted to co-author with Guelph colleagues. The depth and quality of the Guelph hospitality and tourism faculty has continued to be a great resource. I speak regularly with colleagues who have become friends about research topics and tourism development issues. Having spent the semester as a part of the Guelph faculty and research team continues to yield benefits today, and I am sure well into the future, through the relationships I built.
If you are reading this short story and thinking about applying for a Fulbright, obviously my recommendation is that you go for it. Find an award that fits your background, your aspirations, and for which you think you will be a strong candidate. If you do, I wish you the good fortune to have an experience as rewarding as mine.