The world in our hands

By Erin Miller


Jenny Tripses ’73, an associate professor in the Department of Leadership in Education, Human Services, and Counseling; and Dr. Matt O’Brien, associate professor of marketing, discuss their experiences abroad as Fulbright Scholars in Ukraine and Japan, respectively.

From Austria to India and everywhere in between, Bradley’s Fulbright Scholars teach and research around the globe through one of the most prestigious international educational exchange programs in the world. 

Dr. Matt O’Brien was ready to say “sayonara” to the United States and “konichiwa” to a Far East expedition. He had brushed up on Japanese, prepared his lesson plans, and arranged for his children to attend school on the other side of the world. 

The associate professor of marketing was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach graduate courses in consumer behavior and marketing strategy for five months at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan. The appointment was set to begin in March 2011, but an 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit the exact location Dr. O’Brien was headed.

“Our bags were packed and ready for the airport,” he recalls. “I thought the entire trip would be canceled.”

Fortunately for Dr. O’Brien, his opportunity to teach abroad was merely postponed and rerouted. Six weeks after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s east coast, Dr. O’Brien and his family were on a plane to Kobe, where there was only minor damage from the disaster.

While his family’s stay was shortened from five months to three, Dr. O’Brien was thankful that not only his, but also his children’s, opportunity to be immersed in a new culture was realized.

“This was a great chance to get overseas and give them exposure to an international setting,” Dr. O’Brien says of his children, Hannah, 12, and Spencer, 7. 

Academics in Asia

While he had traveled to Japan and other countries, Dr. O’Brien wasn’t sure what to expect in the classrooms of Kobe University.

“The students were highly reluctant to respond when I asked for feedback or discussion because they are used to distance between the professor and the student,” Dr. O’Brien says. “At a place like Bradley, part of the package is access to professors, to drop in and speak to them. The Japanese students are not as free to approach their professors, so I took them out of their element. It took some getting used to, but by the end, they were much more comfortable.”

While Dr. O’Brien tailored parts of his classes, such as his grading scale, to better fit the Japanese education style, he wanted his Kobe University students’ experience to mirror the Bradley experience.

“I didn’t stray far from presenting the typical U.S. student experience,” he says. “That was something the Fulbright Program desired. They wanted someone from the U.S. to bring our style of teaching and learning to their classrooms.” 

In Dr. O’Brien’s marketing strategy class, students completed a business simulation group project in which they had to plan, integrate, and incorporate marketing decisions for virtual corporations. They made decisions based on information embedded in the simulation, such as allocating their sales force and deciding how much to spend on advertising. 

“The simulation itself was a unique window showing how information should be collected, compiled, and analyzed in a typical American business setting,” Dr. O’Brien says. “Both courses, marketing strategy and consumer behavior, should have provided a strong context for understanding Americans, their consumptive habits, thought processes, culture and environment, as well as illustrating how U.S. businesses typically employ resources in marketing to these consumers.” 

Fulfilling Fulbright’s mission 

Regarded as the nation’s flagship academic exchange, the United States government established the Fulbright Program in 1946. It sends about 1,200 U.S. faculty and professionals to 155 countries annually to teach, lecture, and conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.

Dr. O’Brien is one of 10 current Bradley faculty members who have been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.

“Fulbright’s intention is to gain a better understanding of other cultures, how they operate, and what they value,” Dr. O’Brien says. “I think that goes both ways. They are trying to not only give me that exposure, but to also give the students abroad exposure to our culture.”

Back home on the Hilltop, Dr. O’Brien’s students also benefit from his time in Japan.

“I try to use my experience as an example as much as I can, giving them useful stories that apply to the classroom. I would love to do it again.” 

Experiencing Ukraine

As Dr. O’Brien reflects on his experience in Japan, another Bradley faculty member is 5,000 miles away from Peoria, immersed in her first Fulbright Scholarship.

Dr. Jenny Tripses, an associate professor in the Department of Leadership in Education, Human Services, and Counseling, is teaching contemporary U.S. instructional practices to undergraduates at Vinnytsia Teacher Training University in Ukraine.

“In Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries, they don’t really have a principal position in schools, so my hope is to promote the idea of intentional school leadership,” Dr. Tripses said before her departure in January. “Education is absolutely essential in a global society. Research coming out of Canada is unequivocal that the principal is key to creating and maintaining instruction where all students progress. It’s not a matter of which is more important, teachers or principals, both are. But for schools as a whole to move forward, principals who know what they’re doing are critical.”

Dr. Tripses began her class by outlining brain research on teaching and learning, augmented by an interview with Marilee Sprenger, an international educational neuroscience consultant who has written three books on the subject.

Dr. Tripses also interviewed Bradley educational administration alumni, who now are principals in Peoria-area schools, about the challenges of being a principal and how Bradley prepared them to meet those challenges. By sharing videos of American educators and designing her Ukrainian class similar to her Bradley instructional leadership class, Dr. Tripses hopes that the Ukrainian students “will gain a clearer understanding of effective teaching.”

Outside the undergraduate classroom, Dr. Tripses started an English Club, where she shares books, magazines, and photos of American life.  She also advises about using U.S. strategies for teaching English-language learners.

“Hopefully the university teachers and I will gain insight about the best ways to teach a new language,” she says. “I’ll probably be the primary learner in that group.” 

Dr. Tripses’ decision to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship in Ukraine stemmed partly from her passion for European travel.

“My husband and I have been to Paris three times, and I love it, but you won’t get a Fulbright to Paris,” she says. “So when I looked at Eastern European countries, Ukraine seemed to have the strongest connection between my background and what they were looking for — school administration.”

Perspective and purpose

Dr. Tripses and her husband John enrolled in a Russian class last fall in preparation for her exposure to a foreign language and culture.

“It was very challenging, but it gave me a whole new appreciation of people who come from other countries to the United States and are immersed in English and have to learn the language and adapt to customs in a new place.”

While in Ukraine, Dr. Tripses lives in an apartment near campus and walks to most of her destinations. She hopes that by the time she returns to Peoria this spring that the weeks of day-to-day interactions and errands will have improved her skills in the Russian and Ukrainian languages.

Dr. Tripses says earning a Fulbright Scholarship was something she hoped to accomplish during her Bradley career. “The opportunity to understand other cultures from a firsthand experience is a great way to end my career. I hope to be a positive representative of the American culture and to come back with a broader perspective of our own education system and what we need to do to make it better.”

Dr. Tripses’ Fulbright Scholarship also fulfills a personal dream. 

“My Aunt Reba spent 32 years in Germany after World War II in the Army Special Services,” she recalls. “We all agreed that when she came home, it was the most exciting time of the year because she had all these little gifts and pictures and experiences to share. I feel like I am finally following in Aunt Reba’s footsteps, traveling far from my Midwest roots to live and work in Europe. This time, I’ll be the one bringing home mementos and stories to share with both my family and my students.”

Three times a Fulbright

As a three-time Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Timothy Conley has taken the Bradley Experience to Austria and Bosnia.

Teaching courses such as Early American Literature, American Agrarian Literature, Cultures of the American South, and American Fiction, Dr. Conley says it’s important to take not only American course content with him, but also the American teaching style.

“I adapt a little bit, but the Fulbright program and the host schools really don’t want that complete change of teaching style,” says the associate professor of English. “One of the purposes of Fulbright is to expose students in other countries to American teaching styles.”

Dr. Conley’s first Fulbright Scholarship was at the University of Vienna from September 1991 to February 1992. Aside from teaching three classes, Dr. Conley lectured throughout Austria and participated in the Austrian Association of American Studies annual conference in Salzburg.

His second Fulbright Scholarship in 1995–96 was similar to the first, but Dr. Conley also presented in high school classes and participated on the selection committee for Austrian students applying for Fulbright appointments to the United States and for American students applying for Fulbrights to Austria. 

While students at the University of Vienna benefited from Dr. Conley’s Fulbright Scholarship, Bradley was rewarded as well with the creation of two programs. Bradley’s Vienna Study Abroad Program from 2006–2011 incorporated collaborative classes and projects for 150 students from Bradley and nearly 200 students from the University of Vienna.

Dr. Conley’s relationship with the University of Vienna also led to the development of Live(s) on the Mississippi, a travel course along the Mississippi River with students and faculty from Bradley and the University of Vienna in 2000 and with students and faculty from Bradley, Vienna, and the University of Saarland in Germany in 2010.

In 2004, Dr. Conley was appointed a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Sarajevo, where he taught American Literature of the 1920s. He also gave lectures throughout Bosnia and participated in presentations at Sarajevo’s high school for mathematics and languages.

All three Fulbright Scholarships have led to new knowledge and experiences for American and European students alike. 

“There’s the illusion that you can learn another culture secondhand, but it’s not true. You just can’t,” Dr. Conley says. “You have to experience it and be with people in informal settings to absorb the culture. That’s essential.”

Bradley's Fulbright Scholars

Considered one of the most prestigious programs in the country for university faculty, the Fulbright Scholars program selects individuals to spend time abroad teaching, lecturing, or researching. Ten current faculty members have received Fulbright Scholarships.


Dr. Charles Bukowski ’77

Director of the institute of international Studies and professor of international studies


Dr. Charles Bukowski ’77 was a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in 1994 at the University of Ljubljana

in Slovenia, where he taught classes on American foreign policy and international political economy. While living in Slovenia, he conducted research on the challenges of state transitions from authoritarian to democratic rule.

Dr. Jeanie Bukowski ’86

Associate professor of international studies


Dr. Jeanie Bukowski ’86 was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholar grant to conduct research

in Spain in 2006–07 to examine trans-border water policy between Spain and Portugal and test the explanatory utility of several models of creating public policy. Dr. Bukowski also received a Fulbright/ Spanish Government Student Award in 1993–94, and she is currently serving on the Fulbright National Screening Committee for grant applications to Spain and Portugal.

Dr. Timothy Conley

Associate professor of English

Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina

Dr. Timothy Conley was awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to lecture at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia- Herzegovina during the spring 2004 semester. Through Fulbright, he also taught at the University of Vienna twice, in 1991–92 and 1995–96, which led to new Bradley study abroad programs. (See p. 17)

Dr. Jean Marie Grant

Associate professor of teacher education


Dr. Jean Marie Grant spent the summer of 1997 in seven Chinese cities researching middle school education. Her focus was on interdisciplinary approach to social studies education with links to math and language.

Dr. Mitch Griffin

Professor of marketing


Dr. Mitch Griffin was named a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 1997–98. He taught and conducted research at Samara State Aerospace University and the International Market Institute in Samara, Russia. Among other publications, Dr. Griffin’s Fulbright research resulted in “Shopping Values of Russian Consumers: The Impact of Habituation in a Developing Economy” appearing in the Journal of Retailing.

Dr. Christos Nikolopoulos

Professor of computer science and information systems


Dr. Christos Nikolopoulos was a visiting professor at the University of Malta under a Fulbright Senior Scholar grant during spring and summer of 1994, where his focus was on teaching and research in the area of artificial intelligence.

Dr. Matt O’Brien

Associate professor of marketing


Dr. Matt O’Brien taught graduate courses in consumer behavior and marketing strategy during summer 2011 at Kobe University in Japan. Dr. O’Brien was originally appointed a Fulbright Scholar to teach at Tohoku University in Sendai but was rerouted due to the March 2011 earthquake.

Dr. Christopher Rybak

Chair of the department of Leadership in Education, Human Services, and Counseling

india and Nepal

Dr. Christopher Rybak completed a four-month Fulbright Award in India in 2002–03 researching indigenous healing methods. He earned a Fulbright Teaching/ Research Scholarship in 2009 to develop a graduate-level counseling curriculum at Kathmandu University in Nepal. During that time, Dr. Rybak also had a Fulbright South Central Asia Travel Grant Award to Pune, India, to conduct workshops and training in-group counseling for post- graduate students.

Dr. Nancy E. Sherman

Professor of education

Latvia and Romania

Dr. Nancy E. Sherman was awarded a Fulbright Lecturing Award to teach social work courses at the Higher School of Social Work and Social Pedagogy “Attistiba” in Riga, Latvia, in 2001– 02. In fall 2008, she was awarded a Fulbright Lecturing/Research Award for Romania, where she taught career development and career counseling at the University of Oradea and researched vocational identity of first-year university students.

Dr. Jenny Tripses ’73

Associate professor in the department of Leadership in Education, Human Services, and Counseling


Dr. Jenny Tripses ’73 is teaching contemporary U.S. instructional practices to undergraduates at Vinnytsya Teacher Training University in Ukraine this spring as a Fulbright Scholar.