A Word from the Fulbright Program Faculty Associate

Linda Parkyn
Professor of Spanish

As a professor, I spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror. I’m still in the driver’s seat in my classroom, but the glances out the back window to check on students who have graduated come more frequently these days.

In the first third of my career, I largely ignored the back window. I looked out the front of the car and kept my eyes on the horizon, always looking for what came next. I traveled widely, established my academic life, and wrote a doctoral dissertation on cultural change in a Guatemalan village. I learned a lot — but nearly everything I did centered on me and my personal interests.

In the second third of my career, I frequently looked in the back of the car, but ignored the rearview mirror. Students were along with me during this part of my journey. Certainly, they were present in my classroom, and increasingly, they were front and center in my teaching. More than this, each academic year, I led month-long study tours with my students throughout several Latin American countries. I enjoyed these journeys because my students were with me in the back seat. Together we learned a lot.

Now, in the third part of my career, I have served once as a Fulbright Scholar and been appointed three times as a Fulbright Specialist. I expanded my student base in several countries, and over time, these new international experiences led me to change my focus with students at home.

Today, I look through the rearview mirror to see how I can prepare my students for when they will leave the comfort of my car. I spend more time getting them ready to launch, and I look in the mirror to see what life might bring them. I see them more clearly as sojourners who need me to push them to shape their careers, and to think not only about their college careers, but what will come next. We all are learning a lot.

I take my responsibility as the Fulbright Program faculty associate at North Park seriously because of how much I’ve gained from my own Fulbright experiences. I caught sight of Senator Fulbright’s vision to be an ambassador of all that is good about the United States. He argued that we need to share the best part of us in yearlong exchanges as American ambassadors in educational settings around the world. The Fulbright program budget is an act of Congress each year, and I believe it is the best of what we as a country export. I dearly value the idea that sharing language, culture, knowledge, and friendship around the world makes a difference in relationships between people and between countries.

The Fulbright Program provides opportunities for exceptional students to embrace Sen. Fulbright’s vision. Recent graduates have participated in both binational business programs and English Teaching Assistantships. They share who they are as individuals, using their language, culture, and experiences. In doing so, they have embraced the adventure of self-exploration as guests in their host cultures for their first year as college graduates. Life-journeys begun at North Park and continued in service around the world help recent graduates craft their lives of significance and service. Enjoy the look through my rearview mirror as you read their remarkable stories

Dr. Linda Parkyn