What’s the Value of International Education? Answers from Three Fulbright Scholars at Saint Mary’s.

As part of International Education Week, we checked in with scholars across the disciplines at SMC on what global ties mean to them. And they share advice to students.

by Steven Boyd Saum, Executive Director of Strategic Communications & Content | November 16, 2023

For the Saint Mary’s community, this has been a special year on the global stage. Just a few weeks ago, Saint Mary’s College of California was named a Fulbright Hispanic-Serving Institution Leader by the US State Department. SMC is one of only 14 master’s universities in the United States to receive this recognition.

Earlier this year, Saint Mary’s was recognized as a top producer of Fulbright scholars—the only university in California to earn that status. Faculty from all four schools of Saint Mary’s have received awards from the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in recent years. That includes educators in the School of Liberal Arts, School of Science, School of Economics and Business Administration, and the Kalmanovitz School of Education.

And this past spring, the College’s Office of Sustainability and Office of Mission collaborated with the International Association of LaSalle Universities (IALU) to hold a global dialogue on sustainability. The virtual event was attended by Lasallian educators from around the world—from Burkina Faso to Brussels, Rome to Mexico, the Philippines to Pennsylvania and far beyond—spanning time zones and areas of focus within the broad field of sustainability.

International Education Week: Insights and Advice

We’re in the midst of marking International Education Week 2023, which runs November 13–17. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the US Department of Education and the US Department of State was launched as part of efforts to promote programs that prepare those from the US for a global environment and to attract future leaders from abroad to study in the United States. 

This occasion seems like a fine opportunity to hear from a few Saint Mary’s Fulbright scholars on what participation in the flagship academic exchange program has meant for them. Here are a few insights and advice for students.

Helga Lenart-Cheng | Professor of Global and Regional Studies
Helga Lenart-Cheng in her offivc
A Fulbright took Helga Lenart-Cheng to Europe to collect and archive transnational migrant narratives.Photo by Haley Nelson

Teaches World Languages & Cultures in the School of Liberal Arts, directs the Honors Program, and serves as a Fulbright campus advisor for students. Among her international work as a scholar is a Fulbright fellowship to France to collect and archive transnational migrant narratives.

I strongly believe in the value of an international education because it offers students an unparalleled opportunity to gain a global perspective, fostering cultural understanding, adaptability, and critical thinking. Travel exposes students to diverse ideas, languages, and customs, contributing to personal growth and a broader worldview.

In college, I spent five semesters studying abroad in various places, and the experiences I gained in those years are still a source of inspiration and motivation. My research on storytelling takes me to many corners of the world, and I like to collaborate with colleagues from various countries. For example, right now I’m co-editing a book with a Romanian colleague from Taiwan, and our project brings together authors from South Africa, Japan, Bulgaria, India, etc.

“Right now I’m co-editing a book with a Romanian colleague from Taiwan, and our project brings together authors from South Africa, Japan, Bulgaria, India, etc.”

I encourage students to make travel an intrinsic part of their education, not just some add-on. Travel takes planning, so it’s important that they plan for it from day one and visit our Study Abroad office as early as possible. I advise all students to keep some upper division core classes for their junior year spring, that way they won’t have to look for major-specific courses but can take core classes in English in their study-abroad location. 

With recent changes to the curriculum at Saint Mary’s, now most majors don’t require as many classes and it is easier to add a minor. I’d encourage all students to learn a (new) language. A minor in a language only takes a couple of courses, but it opens up a world of opportunities!


Jyoti Bachani | Professor, Department of Management and Entrepreneurship
SEBA Professor Jyoti Bachani standing in front of a colorful mural
Fulbright-funded research has fueled global connections for Jyoti Bachani that continue to grow. / Photo courtesy Jyoti Bachani

Teaches graduate and undergraduate students in the School of Economics and Business Administration, with a focus on strategy-making in business and nonprofit organizations. As a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar, she conducted research at the Management Development Institute Gurgaon in the state of Haryana, India.

Right before International Education Week 2023, I spent two weeks of my sabbatical time at LaSalle University in Mexico City. And just last week, I presented my Fulbright research project to an International Management class. I loved my Fulbright experience. It has since led to many projects that would not have been possible without that mind-opening year. 

It led to us hosting Indian government officers for a Silicon Valley trip in 2015, where they heard from SEBA faculty and met our alums at local companies. It opened up opportunities for me to co-author and co-present with colleagues in India at the Academy of Management meetings, and also to attend the Indian Academy of Management conferences to present my research and offer workshops for faculty. The experience yielded an award-winning case study that I co-authored on rainwater harvesting in the Indian tribal belt of Madhya Pradesh. I have also had the opportunity to mentor PhD students and examine PhD theses for students at my Indian host institution, MDI Gurgaon. And so much more!

Keith Garrison | Professor of Biology
Two bunches of grapes in France, photo taken by Keith Garrison
With support from a Fulbright, Keith Garrison set out to map disease-resistance clusters in ancient wine grape varieties from Alsace. / Photo courtesy Keith Garrison

In the School of Science, his current teaching focus is on genetics with lab, and immunology with lab courses. The Fulbright Scholars program took him to France to study the evolution of disease-resistance gene clusters in ancient wine grape varieties from the Alsace region at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research.

For me as an educator, the Fulbright Scholar Program was such a fantastic experience! I try to encourage students to go after international education opportunities whenever they can. I really enjoyed my experience working with a lab in France, and the process of integrating into daily life in another culture was invaluable. 

International collaborations are really common in science today because projects need such diverse expertise for their success. Our ability to communicate directly with each other, even across large distances really enhances our ability to work with scientists around the globe. Fulbright exchanges help to build the skills scientists need to form and nurture international collaborations, which really enhances the scientific process for everyone.

Collaboration Across Three Continents

Saint Mary's faculty member Manisha Anantharaman standing next to a railing
Manisha Anantharaman is working with colleagues in Norway, Sweden, Turkey, and Japan to research sustainable consumption. /Photo courtesy Manisha Anantharaman

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond: Manisha Anantharaman, an associate professor of Justice, Community and Leadership, is serving as principal investigator for a collaborative research project involving scholars on three continents and focused on sustainable consumption. Professor of Anthropology Jennifer Heung serves as co-principal investigator on the effort involving researchers in Norway, Sweden, Turkey, and Japan.

The project is titled “Digital infrastructures for sustainable consumption: Redirecting, reorganizing, reducing and reimaging consumption,” and it is supported by the Belmont Forum, a partnership of funding organizations, international science councils, and regional consortia committed to the advancement of transdisciplinary science. Projects are meant to provide knowledge for understanding, mitigating, and adapting to global environmental change.


READ MORE: “Think Global—and Build International Ties

Saint Mary’s Fulbright Named a 2023 Fulbright HSI Leader


LEARN MORE: Study Abroad at Saint Mary’s and international experiences as part of Jan Term

Opportunities in the Department of World Languages and Cultures

Steven Boyd Saum serves as executive director of strategic communications and content at Saint Mary's. He previously directed the Fulbright program in Ukraine and has worked in higher education in the Czech Republic. Write him.