Saint Leo’s First Fulbright Scholar in Residence Completing Her Stay

December 18, 2015

The School of Arts and Sciences was delighted during the fall semester to have as a visiting faculty member a Fulbright Scholar in Residence, Dr. Vasumathi Badrinathan of Ramnarain Ruia College at the University of Mumbai, India. At home in Bombay, she teaches French, in which she holds a doctorate. She speaks several other languages as well, trains other foreign languages teachers, and researches the effective use of technology in foreign language teaching. Dr. Badrinathan is also an accomplished vocalist and regularly performs Carnatic music, the sacred music of southern India. She is also a dancer of Bharata Natyam—classical dance of the south of India.

Dr. Badrinathan and Dean Mary Spoto recently granted an interview about some of the high points of Dr. Badrinathan’s stay at University Campus. The text below is a condensed version of the interview.

Question: You’ve taught in so many places. What was it like to teach in America?

Dr. Badrinathan: It has been a little less different than what I thought it would be. There are so many things which are similar. We [language teachers around the world] share the same concerns; we share the same issues. And the challenges are pretty similar in some cases. Of course, there are plenty of other differences too—huge differences. Systemic differences, classroom infrastructure, class numbers, exam patterns, etc. It was a very nice experience because of the course that I taught, and the nature of the course, language, culture, and communication.

Question: Could you speak a bit more about that?

Dr. Badrinathan: It is a very nice course that deserves to be developed further. It puts a lot of focus on language and communication, which is so important in our everyday lives. It was such fun teaching this course. You can touch upon so many, many deep aspects. I brought in my experience from the other part of the world. And the students, too, shared a lot. It has been a very rich intercultural experience. It is a very mixed class. There are so many cultures and so many different ways of doing things even among the students I had. It’s not about just being American or being a passport holder from another place. Even within the Americas, there is so much difference. Yes, there is a national identity, but there are so many cultural identities. It is not one, monolithic culture. I had students telling me, “Up North, it’s like this,” or “In Miami, we do it this way.” We did many little field projects, like one we did one on gestures, and the role of gestures. The students enjoyed looking at things differently. We live in a world where we need to enable our students to understand these diversities.

Dean Spoto: And you had a cross-section of majors: global studies, English, political science. We’re going to continue with the language, culture, and communications class and make it a standing course, so that it is available to [undergraduate] students across the university.

Question: Could you talk about your special concert performance with some of the Saint Leo music faculty?

Dr. Badrinathan: Music was another component of the semester. Dr. Iona Sarieva (of the languages faculty) put me in touch with Dr. Cynthia Selph (from the music faculty) while I was in India over Skype. We began working together and we put together Concerto Sangeetam. That was a true meeting of Western music and Carnatic music. That was an outstanding experience. I enjoyed doing the concert here.

Question: And what were some of the other undergraduate classes you visited?

Dr. Badrinathan: I have been a guest speaker is so many different classes. I enjoyed answering the students’ questions. I spoke to Dr. Sarieva’s Bridge Program (for international students adapting to American university life) about culture shock and how you needn’t succumb to it, and how you can handle it. I spoke to a theater class and exposed them to Indian art. I spoke to another class on women performers in India, and I brought in my personal experience. In a class on multicultural societies, I spoke on diversity within India. I spoke to an introductory political science class on democracy, so I brought in my experience of the largest democracy and the role of women.

Question: What has been your impression of the campus?

Dr. Badrinathan: The campus is gorgeous with beautiful greenery and the marvelous lake. I’m so fond of nature. I appreciate the quiet here. I’m really going to miss this, the serene connection with nature. Bombay is an enormous megacity; it’s a different deal.

I love the new building, Kirk Hall, too. It has such a nice, positive feel about it. The classrooms are wired. Whenever you want, you can use the technology so effectively. If you want to use an audio file or show a video, you can do it. Students can show their PowerPoints. It is so nice. The technology is there to support you and elevate what you and the students are doing.