A year of overseas higher education adventure awaits a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh marketing lecturer and a UW Oshkosh theatre grad now focused on environmental issues.
David Duncombe, who began teaching at UWO in 2017 following a 27-year career in marketing and finance with Kimberly-Clark Corp., has been named a Fulbright-Haaga-Heila Scholar. He will spend 10 months in Finland teaching international students at the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences.
UWO alumnus Tom Offer-Westort ’08, a research scientist at Michigan Technological University, will head to Mongolia to study the intersection of conservation and psychology as part of his Fulbright Scholar Award for the 2022-23 academic year. He is the son of the late Peter Westort, who taught accounting at UWO and was a Fulbright Scholar to Egypt.
Creating cultural connections
The prestigious U.S. Fulbright program sends more than 5,000 students and faculty abroad to nearly 200 countries in any given year to teach, do research and collaborate, said Marianne Johnson, economics professor and Fulbright program adviser to UWO students and faculty.
“The Fulbright program fosters intercultural academic exchanges that build bridges between scholars and academic institutions around the world,” she said.
“For U.S. faculty, it is an opportunity to learn from different students and challenge ourselves to adapt to new circumstances and to approach our discipline in a different way. While we are sent to share American strategies and pedagogies, it is often the case that we wind up learning as much as we teach.”
Johnson spent 2015 in Estonia and 2018 in Albania on Fulbright Scholar awards.
Learning new teaching techniques in Finland
Before heading to Finland in August, Duncombe—who already knows Chinese, French and some Spanish—will take a two-week immersion class in Finnish.
Duncombe admits to some nerves about what living and working in Finland will be like with the uncertainty in the region due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Finland’s recent decision to seek membership in NATO.
Nevertheless, he is excited about the opportunity to teach in a more global environment about more global topics, as well as to live in Helsinki, Finland’s capital and largest city.
Duncombe is interested in the model of co-teaching that Haaga-Helia faculty follow. “Team teaching is more collaborative, and I am thinking there will be something there to learn,” he said. Besides teaching, he will help with accreditation and evaluation efforts and assist with a sales and digital marketing lab.
But just as he does in Wisconsin, Duncombe also plans to enjoy plenty of time outside skiing, hiking, camping and biking. Checking out the saunas is on the agenda, too.
Exploring environmental challenges in Mongolia
Offer-Westort said he was “ecstatic” to learn he had been awarded the Fulbright as he’ll be able to work on his dream research project. “It’s an opportunity to use a specialized skill set I’ve been developing to enact positive change in the world. There’s nothing I would rather be doing,” he said.
The project involves studying public attitudes related to Mongolia’s unique environmental challenges. In collaboration with professors in the biology department at the National University of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar, Offer-Westort will focus on collecting actionable information to support local conservation efforts.
From 2014 to 2016, he had returned to UWO for post-baccalaureate studies in biology and ecology to prepare for graduate school at Michigan Tech.
“The roots of my Fulbright proposal can be traced back to two related readings courses I took at UW Oshkosh–one with Dr. Misty McPhee and one with Dr. Greg Adler,” he said. “They were both incredibly generous with their time and supportive of my curiosity.”
Offer-Westort also credited Johnson with helping him through the application process for the Fulbright.