Genny Ballard earns Fulbright award to Colombia

Centre College is known for producing a top number of Fulbright student awards, and faculty members are also fortunate enough to earn this prestigious award. Genny Ballard, associate professor of Spanish, recently received a Fulbright award to conduct research in Colombia.

“As a Fulbright Scholar, I will collaborate with two universities on the Colombian Caribbean coast researching intercultural competency and language learning, as well as leading a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) lecture series from July to December,” Ballard said. “I intend to work with professors at the Universidad del Norte and La Universidad de La Guajira to complete a research project that measures the intercultural competency of language students in order to recommend curricular reforms and improvements.”

Ballard explained that intercultural competency is the ability to successfully negotiate cross-cultural differences to accomplish practical goals. The promotion of intercultural competency is encouraging awareness of other cultures, attitudes, knowledge and skills. These are goals Ballard says she has as an educator, as well as her collaborators at both institutions.

“This project consists of both data collection at the universities and recommendations based on the study of specific learning goals and curriculum design,” she added. “At the Universidad del Norte, I will teach a lecture series about integrating intercultural competence and engaged practices into the new literature and culture curriculum. I will also facilitate several pedagogy workshops. I have meetings set up to visit other universities in Colombia in order to establish contacts for exchanges and internships between Centre and Colombia.”

Ballard said she hopes her research and teaching during her time as a Fulbright Scholar will benefit students at Centre.

“I will return to campus with what I learn from my students and collaborators there,” she added. “Moreover, while I am there, I plan to develop faculty and student exchanges between Colombia and Kentucky. So far, the College does not have exchange or regular student travel to Colombia.”

Knowing she had a sabbatical coming up, Ballard considered applying for a Fulbright in Mexico or Costa Rica, which are countries where she’s worked extensively and where she has close friends, colleagues and family. Previous Fulbright Scholars Lori Hartmann, Frank B. and Virginia B. Hower Professor of International Studies, and Robyn Cutright, Charles T. Hazelrigg Associate Professor of Anthropology, encouraged her to go to a place where she doesn’t have much experience.

In her courses, Ballard has taught Colombian literature, art and music, so she decided to start making contacts in Colombia. She eventually got connected with an English professor, Dr. Heydy Robles at the Universidad del Norte, who was interested in teaching collaborative online international classes.

Over the course of this semester, Ballard and Robles have continued their collaboration, along with Lourdes Rey Paba and her students.

“We have all learned a lot from this process,” Ballard said. “Some of my students have a great connection with their partner in Colombia. We’re talking about some complicated issues like Central American migration to the U.S., the Venezuelan crisis, socioeconomic status, and public and private university education. My students and their Colombian partners are getting ready to start a more light-hearted video exchange focusing on student life on each campus.”

Ballard hopes to make a positive impact on her collaborators and students in Colombia. By showing which aspects of a foreign language education most effectively help students develop intercultural competence, she will give feedback to programs and students about what aspects of their education are most helpful in developing global citizens.

“I would like to add my sincere gratitude for the patient guidance of Elizabeth Graves, director of corporate and foundation relations,” Ballard concluded. “She helped with framing, editing and writing the application and then supported me throughout the process. She is truly gifted and so kind. We are so fortunate that she is here at Centre.”

by Kerry Steinhofer
April 15, 2019