Professor Jerry Anthony was awarded a Fulbright Scholar award to research sustainable urbanism in India during the 2022-2023 academic year. Second-year public affairs student, Stephanie Gutierrez, recently interviewed him about his experience.
Starting off, can you give a short summary of your Fulbright program. Where did you go? What were you doing? What is the name of the program you did?
I was the 2023 Fulbright Faculty Climate Studies Scholar for India. I spent over seven months there. My host institution in India was the Indian Institute of Technology – Kharagpur, which is the number one engineering school in India, a much more selective version of Harvard or MIT for engineering students. I was very fortunate to be placed there. My primary focus was to research select Indian cities (eight) that are doing an exemplary job on one or more aspects of urban infrastructure for 10-15 years reducing greenhouse gases and mitigating climate change impacts. Some of their efforts are much better than those of cities in the U.S. and Europe. I met current and former leaders of these cities and asked them why they chose to do what they were doing when there were so many cities in similar positions that were not doing anything similar. I also gave lectures at the Schools of Law, Management, and Architecture & Regional Planning at IIT Kharagpur, and supervised a group of graduate students preparing a comprehensive plan for a city.
Fulbright programs are popular among students who recently graduated or are looking for a unique experience, can you talk about how a Fulbright program is for a professor? And is it different than a student Fulbright program?
The majority of U.S. students doing a Fulbright abroad go to teach English in a non-English speaking country. Then there is a small group of U.S. students who get Fulbright to do a master's degree in a foreign country. Finally, there is an even smaller group of students who get a Fulbright Ph.D. research award to do 2-3 years of data collection for a Ph.D. thesis. For faculty, there are two kinds of Fulbright awards. One is a Fulbright Specialist award that allows faculty to go to a specific country for 2-3 months to work on a specific project required by a university or a government agency. For example, it could be to help develop a syllabus for a new digital media masters program. The other Fulbright award for faculty is the Faculty Scholar award, and that is the one that I was awarded. So, the Fulbright faculty awards are very different from the Fulbright student awards.
What motivated you to apply to the Fulbright program? Were there any other programs you applied to?
A Fulbright Faculty Scholar award allows you to get a semester or two off for focused research in some other country on a topic of your choice. Faculty can get funding for research from a variety of sources, but most other sources do not allow one to spend extended periods of time in another country for research like the Fulbright Faculty Scholar award does. The extended period of stay in another country enables you to immerse yourself in the culture of the country and learn more about it even as you conduct your own research.
I will give an example: June 5th is World Environment Day. I was researching this project about solid waste and trash management in a city called Indore, India. This is a city of about 2.5 million people and is the cleanest city in India based on Government of India clean city rankings. Indore’s trash management system is better than 100% of U.S. cities. I spent 10 days in Indore talking to administrators, but on June 5th, I decided that on World Environment Day, I wanted to see Indore’s waste management system up close. I went from house to house sitting in the garbage collection van watching the entire process. I spent the whole day with trash and learned a lot from that day’s garbage pick-up trip.
I had numerous such immersive experiences, most of which would not have been possible without an extended stay in India.
Was there a highlight or surprise from your Fulbright experience?
The highlight was I got to meet very interesting leaders in the planning and public affairs space. One of the biggest differences between a city that is doing a good job and a city that isn't is visionary leadership and continuity of vision over a period of time. For example, there could be a leader who wants to make, let's say, a particular city completely pedestrian and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and all of that. He overcomes numerous administrative and programmatic challenges to turn his vision into reality. And then 3-4 years down the road, the city’s leadership changes, and they have a new mayor or city manager who may not share that vision. I visited some cities where 15 years ago they started a good program and after six years, when that leader was gone, his successors didn’t share the same vision, and the innovative programs withered on the vine.
What is your greatest takeaway from the program?
People often look at the Global South as a place where there are lots of problems and not enough solutions. But there are many Global South cities, not just in India but in other parts of the world as well, where innovative solutions are being implemented that we in the Global North can learn from. We generally don't look to the Global South for inspiration and solutions to our problems. But there are a lot of amazing policy and program experiments happening in the Global South right now that show us the way.
How has your experience impacted your studies, research, and yourself as an individual?
Well, as an individual, it was very nice to meet with people who are not just studying complex problems and saying how bad the problems are, but who have designed solutions to those problems, have implemented them, and have documented outcomes. We faculty members in the US often spend a lot of time studying problems but don’t get to see solutions implemented for these problems. While in India I got to meet people who were implementing solutions to some very tough problems. Such as getting people in a city to segregate and give their trash every day when they haven't had trash collection from their homes ever before.
In terms of scholarship from this experience, I am writing a lot and hopefully, a few articles will come out of this. I have also established research collaborations with people in India. So, we are going to submit a few research grant proposals soon. Right now, there's a survey that's being done on attitudes towards sustainability at a major university campus in India.
Do you recommend students or faculty participate in a Fulbright experience?
I would strongly encourage students and faculty to try for a Fulbright. For students, there are numerous opportunities to go to a foreign country to teach English. I think it's a great opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture. Faculty a Fulbright is difficult to get and are also amazing opportunities. The Fulbright program overall is very, competitive. But once you get a Fulbright, there is a saying: once a Fulbrighter, always a Fulbrighter. The program keeps supporting you. Like even today I get emails twice a week on things happening in the program, accomplishments by former Fulbrighters, and funding opportunities for research. According to a note that the Fulbright foundation sent to the University of Iowa Provost when I got the award, Fulbright faculty scholar award alumni include 61 Nobel Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 76 MacArthur Fellows, and thousands of leaders and world-renowned experts in academia and many other fields across the private, public, and non-profit sectors. So, it feels very good to be a part of such an accomplished group.