Fulbright Prompts ‘Paradigm Shift’ in Perspective on Global Educational Needs

Dr. Roberto Swazo, a professor and the coordinator for the School Counseling Program at Indiana University - Indianapolis, broke new ground this year as the first Fulbright Specialist to the nation of Angola. For nearly five weeks, Swazo worked closely with faculty and administrators at Oscar Ribas University in the capital city of Luanda, conducting a series of workshops and consulting with faculty and staff at the university’s Center for Diagnosis and Psychological Guidance. As a Fulbright Specialist, his goal was to infuse best practices in socio-emotional learning and school counseling into the undergraduate learning experience at Oscar Ribas University.

Swazo has more than 20 years of experience as a professor, educator of counselors, and former guidance counselor himself. He was drawn to this Fulbright opportunity to apply his vast experience in the field to benefit institutions in Angola, where school counseling is an emerging discipline. “The prospect of what this project could yield both in the short and long term intrigued me greatly,” he explains.

"I was also drawn to Angola's unique culture—its history, diverse ethnic groups, and vibrant traditions fascinated me," shares Swazo. As the grandchild of immigrants to Puerto Rico who grew up in a home where Caribbean, Southern European, and American customs were intermixed, his time as a Fulbright Specialist was also an opportunity share his own unique cultural experiences.

Reflecting on his time in Angola, Swazo says, "what's particularly memorable is the thirst for knowledge that I've observed among the students and faculty at Oscar Ribas University. Their dedication to learning and their eagerness to engage in meaningful educational exchanges have been truly inspiring. It's heartening to witness their commitment to academic growth and their respect for the American academic tradition. "

Swazo and his Angolan colleagues are now envisioning ways to continue this new relationship. They are already discussing several pathways to deepen the collaboration between his home and host institutions. For example, they are exploring signing a Memorandum of Understanding for future faculty or student exchanges, conceptualizing new certificate programs that would open more professional pathways for Angolans in the counseling field, and enabling an Angolan cohort of students to join the existing online School Counseling program offered by the Indiana University – Indianapolis School of Education.

Swazo anticipates the impact on his own work will continue long into the future. "Returning to the United States, I foresee a paradigm shift in my perspective," he shares, "this experience broadened my understanding of global educational needs, enriching my own work with fresh insight.”

The Fulbright Specialist Program, a short-term complement to the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, sends more than 400 experienced U.S. faculty and professionals abroad annually to serve as expert consultants and engage in education and/or training activities for a period of two to six weeks. Specialists, who represent a wide range of professional and academic disciplines, are competitively selected to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster based upon their expertise and ability to make a significant contribution to institutions abroad. Individuals on the Roster are then eligible to be matched with approved projects, which are proposed by eligible overseas institutions.

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