UM-Flint's Gano-Phillips receives US Fulbright Scholar Award for 2025

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A photo of the University of Namibia campus with a photo of Susan Gano-Phillips and the University of Namibia logo overlayed.

Our world is increasingly interconnected, and opportunities for the cross-cultural exchange of ideas that create an environment for collaborating on solutions to our communities' challenges are more important than ever. The mission of the Fulbright Program, the flagship intercultural education program of the federal government, is to provide opportunities for U.S. scholars to study, teach and conduct research in host countries. It plays a crucial role in fostering mutual understanding in our global society. 

Susan Gano-Phillips, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan-Flint, recently received a Fulbright Scholar Award for 2025. It is her second time taking home the honor, having done so in 2008.

"I was inspired by a former student doing her graduate degree in Ireland who shared what a great experience it was to see things through a different cultural context," Gano-Phillips said. "I thought about how interesting it would be to experience how higher education works in other countries, so I applied for a Fulbright fellowship and went to Hong Kong (after winning the first award)."

When she returned to UM-Flint, Gano-Phillips' experiences in China helped enliven her discussions with faculty, staff and students. She added cross-cultural research findings and coursework focused on understanding how culture influences psychological well-being to her developmental psychology and psychopathology courses. Her extensive work on outcomes-based teaching and learning in Hong Kong enabled her to serve as a curriculum reviewer for several universities and collaborate with her colleagues to revise UM-Flint's psychology curriculum.

This time around, beginning in January 2025, Gano-Phillips will be affiliated with the University of Namibia, where she will provide leadership and professional development to the university's faculty and staff while teaching in its psychology programs.

"I returned from my fellowship in Hong Kong with new perspectives on education and its cultural interpretations," said Gano-Phillips. "I am looking forward to my affiliation with the University of Namibia, particularly because it will allow me to collaborate with disciplines I have not previously had the opportunity to engage with, including medicine, nursing and public health." 

The application process for a Fulbright Scholar Award is rigorous. The requirements include writing an essay outlining proposed activities in the host country, preparing a customized curriculum vitae, highlighting relevant expertise, obtaining letters of recommendation, and developing comprehensive syllabi, research or project plans. However, before an applicant can begin any of these steps, they must identify a host country and institution that needs their skills.

"It begins with a lot of cold calling, honestly," Gano-Phillips said. "Research the different countries and institutions and ask how their needs intersect with your expertise. Once you make that connection, it's about developing a proposal that meets their needs and sending all the application materials to Fulbright for their advisory board to review. So anyone interested in pursuing a Fulbright should start there – search their database to see what different institutions need and then tailor your application for that opportunity."

Gano-Phillips' fellowship is for 10 months. She also has received a regional travel grant that will enable her to spend up to three weeks traveling and consulting in other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

"I chose Namibia because there is a good match between the university's needs and my expertise but also because I have limited experience with countries in that region of the world," said Gano-Phillips. "This allows me to immerse myself in a new culture and learn how different forces such as family, community, global events, labor and market trends help shape how they see the world."

One of the outcomes Gano-Phillips would like to see from her Fulbright experience is the creation of relationships between UM-Flint and the University of Namibia that would enable cross-cultural student exchanges, the recruitment of graduate students, and the expansion of access to international study opportunities for UM-Flint students.

"We've had several professors at our university receive Fulbright Scholar Awards in the past, and, more than anything, I hope this award will inspire other faculty and students to explore this as an opportunity," she said. "Get out of your comfort zone, see your discipline or studies through the eyes of another culture, try things at the edge of your knowledge – challenge yourself! You'll not only enrich yourself, you'll enrich the entire UM-Flint community when you bring back your expanded knowledge and share it with all of us."

Kat Oak is the communications specialist for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Education. She can be reached via email at [email protected].