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DCCC and Wake Tech are among 26 U.S. community colleges with Fulbright scholars

Two North Carolina community colleges — Davidson County (DCCC) and Wake Technical — are among 26 associate colleges in the country recognized by the U.S. State Department for producing a Fulbright scholar for 2019-2020.

The scholars are Princess Solomon, international student coordinator at Wake Tech, and Timothy Gwillim, associate dean of arts, science and education at DCCC. The list of schools that produced Fulbright scholars was published this month by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Fulbright Program, funded primarily by Congress, was created in 1946 “to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” according to its website. More than 3,000 students, professionals, and scholars (college faculty, researchers, and administrators) participate each year, along with about 4,000 visitors to the United States from more than 160 countries.

Their activities include research and educational and cultural exchange programs intended to share knowledge and improve lives around the world.

Six scholars from North Carolina community colleges have been chosen for the program in the past five years, and three of them are from DCCC — Gwillim; International Education Director Suzanne LaVenture, who went to Russia in 2016; and Dr. Mary Rittling, now retired as DCCC president, who went to India in 2017, school spokesman Jonathan Williams said.

Gwillim, who has been at DCCC since September 2015, went to Russia in April 2019 as part of the program.

He visited universities in Pushkin, Gatchina, St. Petersburg, Tver, and Moscow to educate them about the community college system in the United States and to build connections, he said Friday.

“It was the experience of a lifetime,” Gwillim said.

DCCC has conducted a video exchange between some of its students and counterparts in Russia, Gwillim said, and is working on other connections.

LaVenture and Gwillim are working to develop a student exchange between DCCC and Bonch-Bruevich Saint-Petersburg State University of Telecommunications in St. Petersburg, Russia  — “Bonch, for short!” LaVenture said in an email interview.

DCCC participates in the Fulbright scholar program as part of the International Education program at the college, Williams said in a news release. The college has been host to 14 Fulbright foreign-language teaching assistants in the past eight years, the release said, and will offer study-abroad programs this year in Argentina, Costa Rica, France, Ireland, and South Africa.

“DCCC’s involvement in international relations and experiences does have a ripple effect for our students and our neighbors across the world,” Gwillim said in the school’s news release.

Suzanne LaVenture of DCCC, left, at Moscow State Pedagogical University in 2016, at a table with other Fulbright participants, an administrator from the Russian university, and a representative of the Institute of International Education. Behind them are students at the university. Courtesy of Suzanne LaVenture

“The more international connections and experiences we foster for our students, faculty and staff, the stronger our institution becomes at preparing the people of Davidson and Davie counties for a modern and global workforce,” LaVenture added.

At Wake Tech, Solomon is the school’s second participant in the Fulbright International Education Administrators Program to Germany, joining Santrell Caison, who went in 2011. Solomon is the school’s coordinator of international student admissions.

Solomon, who lives in Durham, is a native of Louisburg who earned a bachelor’s degree in business education from East Carolina University in 2014 and a master’s of science in accounting from Liberty University in 2017. She has associate degrees from Vance-Granville Community College and from Wake Tech.

She and 14 other recipients of the Fulbright IEA grant from across the United States spent two weeks with education administrators in Europe, visiting Berlin, Nuremberg and Karlsruhe in Germany, Strasbourg in France, and the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. 

“The program was a great opportunity to learn about the German educational system, network and experience the culture on a first-hand basis,” she said this week. “We were able to discuss and seek opportunities on how we can build collaboration among the U.S. and German educational systems to provide students with a greater educational opportunity in global learning and the digital turn.”

She called the program “a great award and life-changing experience.”

Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte and College of the Albemarle, based in Elizabeth City, produced Fulbright scholars in 2018-2019.

Eric Frederick

Eric Frederick is an editorial advisor for EducationNC, working with reporters and engagement specialists on the best ways to tell stories and make connections with people who care about public education in North Carolina.