Global collaborations of a social psychologist
By Lynnette Zelezny, PhD, California State University, Fresno
As a social psychologist, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to share my disciplinary passion through global collaborations. At Fresno State, I enjoyed teaching social psychology and culture for our Smittcamp Honors College and conducting cross-cultural research related to the environment. During this time, I took advantage of a faculty and student exchange in psychology with the University of Stockholm in Sweden, teaching social and organizational psychology courses for a semester in 2001. It was a tremendously positive cultural experience.
My international interests and experiences became a career asset after being appointed to an administrative position as Fresno State’s dean and associate vice president of Continuing and Global Education. In this position and as the university’s senior international officer, I am responsible for international strategies, partnerships and exchanges, the American English Institute, study abroad and Fulbright opportunities. I also represent the university on several boards that have international initiatives: Fresno Sister Cities, Rotary International and the Fresno Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Fresno, a diverse city where over 100 languages are spoken, has numerous Sister City partnerships across the world, including Sister City partnerships in Münster, Germany and Kochi, Japan — two cities that I visited while representing the city’s educational sector.
In Münster I met with a city delegation, including business and governmental representatives, to observe the 25th anniversary of the Sister City partnership with Fresno. The city of Münster graciously hosted our Fresno delegates and arranged well-planned home stays. While in Münster, we participated in several elaborate ceremonies hosted by the lord mayor to celebrate our international partnership and visited the city center where there is a plaque that commemorates the Fresno/Münster partnership. It was there that we met up with a group of students from Fresno State studying architecture in Europe who strategically planned their final destination in Münster to join us for the Sister City celebration.
During this visit I also met with officials at the University of Münster, including the dean of business and the vice rector of research. We ratified our universities’ joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Business School for continued student exchanges, and discussed plans to broaden our non-degree international programs. Likewise, my meeting with the vice rector — a prominent virologist — explored new international research partnerships. He visited Fresno State to tour the university’s specialized proteomics laboratories sponsored by the National Institute of Health and to meet its scientists, which led to a productive scientific research collaboration and exchange between Fresno State and the University of Münster.
More recently, I traveled to Kochi, Japan — another of Fresno’s Sister Cities — to meet with faculty and students at the University of Kochi. It was wonderful to learn about the Japanese culture and to spend time with Japanese students who are preparing to study abroad. It was a special joy to become a mentor to 10 Japanese students who are eager to come to California and study at Fresno State in the near future.
As a psychology professor, I had been involved in cross-cultural research and had long been interested in Fulbright opportunities to conduct research abroad. However, as a new administrator, I also learned about Fulbright opportunities outside of research. For example, Fulbright administrator grants are short-term international travel study (i.e. about two weeks) to learn about the culture and educational systems of other countries. I applied for and received a Fulbright International Education Administrators (IEA) grant to Germany. My Fulbright cohort was comprised of leaders in all levels of administration, including an advancement officer and community college president, from colleges and universities across the United States. The diversity of the cohort was impressive and truly international. We began our experience with a historical tour of Berlin and bonded by the time we reached the “Berlin Wall.” As part of the program, we attended seminars and workshops and learned about the German educational system and the Bologna process. We took part in a government tour hosted by a member of the German Parliament and visited various universities, including Humboldt University which is known for its many Nobel laureates. While in Berlin I arranged to attend a Rotary meeting and met the ambassador of Bangladesh, the co-founder of Guerilla Marketing and a Rotary ambassadorial scholar from Australia who were all members of the Berlin Rotary Club. The Rotary ambassadorial scholar arranged for me to tour Potsdam, where she lived with her host family, to see the many historical sites on my free day.
My Fulbright experience was power-packed with enriching presentations, discussions and sights throughout Germany and the south of France. One of the most memorable experiences was a visit to Leipzig, Germany, the home of Johannes Sebastian Bach. There we met with university students and scholars of American Studies at the University of Leipzig. I learned that the American Studies program at Leipzig was recruiting diverse American students for their graduate program and scholars with a special interest in Latino literature. This opened the door for a deeper dialogue and exchange with Fresno State, which serves highly diverse students and is the home of a notable scholar in Latino literature. Once again, my collaborative experiences enabled me to personally connect students and faculty scholars who might be interested in studying in this unique international venue.
The Fulbright experience was truly transformational. Upon my return to Fresno State I initiated a Fulbright Academy to broaden Fulbright opportunities for our students and faculty. I am proud to report that this year Fresno State was recognized as a “Top Producing Fulbright Institution.”
In closing, as a psychologist, I have been richly rewarded throughout my career, by transformative international opportunities, friendships, connections and collaborations.