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Jacquelyn Meinen, from left, and Chris Knaus will return to the United States next year after teaching graduate students abroad.

Professor and graduate student earn Fulbright scholarships

  • June 2, 2011

Associate Professor Chris Knaus is an expert in educational leadership. Budding psychologist and graduate student Jacquelyn Meinen interns as a school psychologist in Alameda. The two share one thing in common: Each was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to travel abroad and teach in developing areas.

An educational exchange program sponsored by the United States government, the Fulbright Program was designed to increase mutual understanding between Americans and foreigners. Each year, 7,500 participants are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential. They are given the opportunity to teach, study, exchange ideas, conduct research and “contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.”

In June, Knaus will travel to South Africa for one year to prepare aspiring teachers from cities to teach in low-income townships. He will teach graduate students in education and undergraduates learning to teach at the University of Western Cape.

“Even after Apartheid, racism and class structure is still a big deal in South Africa,” Knaus said. “I will prepare teachers and see how they connect to their communities.”

In South Africa, schools silence students of color, Knaus said. To give students a “voice,” Knaus will help African heritage students to “learn to express who they are and to write and speak more powerfully,” Knaus said. He will volunteer to teach a high school writing class in a township school in Cape Town. He hopes to gain an understanding of how township schools operate from student perspectives, Knaus said.

Knaus teaches organizational behavior, leadership and social justice at CSUEB. He also works with Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, a program designed to develop and retain local teachers of color. Knaus will face the challenge in South Africa of lecturing in schools with limited resources and technology. Books are not easily accessible and computers and telephones are even scarcer.

“I’m going to learn a lot, but I also hope I give a lot,” Knaus said.

In August, while Knaus settles himself in South Africa, Meinen will begin lecturing in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico, for 10 months. She will teach an English class at a teacher’s college to students who are working on their master's degrees in secondary education. Meinen also will lecture students on topics related to the United States, including its culture, society and history.

Along with teaching, Meinen will visit elementary and secondary schools to observe classrooms, meet teachers and speak with administrators and school psychologists. She hopes to gain a better understanding of Mexico’s educational and special education system, Meinen said.

Over the past six years, Meinen has tutored high school students and worked as an intervention specialist for autistic preschoolers in Oakland. She learned Spanish while living in Spain for a year as an undergraduate. 

Meinen will receive her master’s and pupil personnel services credential in school psychology in June. Educational Psychology Professor Greg Jennings was Meinen’s teacher in several graduate courses. He has observed the progress of Meinen’s verbal and written language skills throughout her student career and recommended her for the Fulbright scholarship.

“I believe (Meinen) will make a significant contribution during her Fulbright experience through her teaching and her community service in Mexico,” Jennings said.

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