URI professor awarded Fulbright to Poland

KINGSTON R.I. — October 19, 1998 — It’s a good thing the Cold War has melted because there’s nothing lukewarm about Dr. John Leo of the east side of Providence. A professor of English and chair of the Film Studies Program at URI, Leo is a passionate scholar and a dynamic teacher whose students would never dare fall asleep lest they miss a poignant point or witticism. Recognizing Leo’s impressive academic accomplishments, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board has awarded the URI professor a Fulbright grant to the Marie Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin, Poland. Leo was named “Distinguished Lecturer in American Studies” at Lublin. Only a handful of awards fall into that category. He will teach undergraduate and graduate courses in American cultural studies, film studies, literature and media, assist in the research and training of junior faculty, and help design and develop of curriculum as well as give lectures on American studies throughout the Polish university system. He will also teach a seminar on Jack Kerouac and the beat tradition. His grant runs from December to June 1999. Leo can hardly wait to go. “It’s one of the most exciting places to be, ” says the URI professor who backpacked through the country during the 1970s. “The full force of modernism hasn’t arrived. Yet the country was on the very vanguard of political reform with the Solidarity movement.” Poland is known for its creative graphics and designs as well as its remarkable film industry with such innovative directors as Polanski, according to Leo, adding that the country is Europeanized with international malls and foods and has the best potato vodka in the world. American studies are very popular in Eastern Europe, according to the URI professor who is moderately fluent in Russian and Spanish and reads French. This summer, Leo was with a Fulbright group in Krakow taking intensive training in the Polish language as well as seminars in history, church-state relations, the economics and politics of Poland since World War I. Leo said his work will emphasize comparative studies. Leo says it is a major irony in higher education that restructuring, curricular reform, new technologies, and other seismic shifts are now evident among universities worldwide despite their radically different local histories and teaching traditions. As a visiting scholar, he will have an unparalleled opportunity to observe how Polish students, colleagues, and citizens adapt to changing cultural forms and institutional practices. Leo says URI over the past few years has made a conscious effort and commitment to internationalization of its academic programs and its institutional practices, especially faculty and student exchanges, partnerships among universities, businesses, engineering firms, etc. His contacts and networking opportunities will contribute to URI’s endeavor. “This is a prestigious award for Professor Leo. I’m delighted to see his reputation as a scholar and teacher internationally recognized, ” says Dr. Winifred Brownell, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This newest award to another member of our talented faculty highlights URI’s scholarship in the humanities and coincides with the College of Arts and Science’s 50th Anniversary.” Leo, who is “disinclined by nature to be aloof or asocial,” is looking forward to his visit with relish. No doubt, this extroverted professor will have the Polish laughing and learning. -xxx- For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116