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MTSU faculty Sloane, Reish to embark on Fulbright ...

MTSU faculty Sloane, Reish to embark on Fulbright award trips to Rwanda, Mexico

Sloane-Reish Fulbright awards-promo

by Favour Boluwade

Middle Tennessee State University faculty members Mary Ellen Sloane and Gregory Reish will be headed to Rwanda and Mexico, respectively, as Fulbright Scholar Program faculty awardees in the coming academic year. 

Sloane, user services librarian in the James E. Walker Library for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, will begin her three-month Fulbright research in September when she travels to the Southeast African nation of Rwanda.

She will be based at the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, or DFGF, where she will assess the range of past and currently covered research fields by the organization and plan for the development of the library in the new DeGeneres Campus.

Mary Ellen Sloane, Science Librarian, User Services, James E. Walker Library.
Mary Ellen Sloane
Dr. Greg Reish, director, Center for Popular Music at MTSU
Dr. Greg Reish

Meanwhile, Reish, MTSU’s Center for Popular Music director, will be traveling to Xalapa, Mexico, and the University of Veracruz, where he will teach classes in the host university’s North American Studies Program — which focuses on the U.S.–Mexico relationship — for five months.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Programs offer U.S. faculty, administrators and professionals grants to lecture and/or conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields, or to participate in seminars.

The program awards more than 1,700 fellowships each year, enabling 800 U.S. scholars to go abroad and 900 visiting scholars to come to the United States, according to https://fulbrightscholars.org

‘A wonderful opportunity’

Sloane said the trip to Africa will be “a wonderful opportunity. I have a lot of planning to take care of before I leave.”

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is a nongovernmental conservation organization, and “since the 50s has been focused on preserving gorillas, protecting them from poachers and studying their behaviors. That was primarily why it was founded, and they thought the gorillas would be extinct soon if they did not preserve them,” said Sloane. 

This undated photo shows the exterior of the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery on the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda. (Photo courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund)
This undated photo shows the exterior of the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery on the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda. (Photo courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund)

Sloane said she learned about the DeGeneres campus and the Fossey Gorilla Fund last year and “thought it would be a great Fulbright opportunity.” The Ellen DeGeneres Campus, named after the popular American comedian and talk show host, opened in February to facilitate science-related research. 

When the DFGF decided a few years ago to construct a facility in Rwanda, the organization received a lead gift from DeGeneres and her wife, Portia de Rossi. Subsequent donations allowed the fund to create a state-of-the-art research and learning facility and its first permanent home in Rwanda, according to the fund’s website.

This undated photo shows one of the displays featured in the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery on the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda. (Photo courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund)
This undated photo shows one of the displays featured in the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery on the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda. (Photo courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund)
In this screen capture from a virtual tour video, Kadiara King’ai, conservation gallery manager at the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda, discusses the displays featured inside the campus’s Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery. (Courtesy of YouTube)
In this screen capture from a virtual tour video, Kadiara King’ai, conservation gallery manager at the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda, discusses the displays featured inside the campus’s Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery. (Courtesy of YouTube)

“The Ellen DeGeneres Campus has been a place for coordination of research and support through grants, fundraising campaigns. The mission has moved from primarily gorillas,” Sloane said. “DeGeneres, who has her own charity for wildlife and natural conservation, knew the need for a new building, and she donated money. It is a technologically advanced and eco-friendly campus.”

Sloane said her research will “assess the range of past and currently covered research fields by DFGF and fields of expertise covered by collaborations/partnerships. It will also develop tools that will help monitor, document and evaluate the impact on various fields of research and strength of collaboration in key fields of conservation. This would be for future research management and targeted collaboration network expansion.”

Groundwork for future collaborations

In this 2016 file photo, musician, activist and songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, left, looks around at the archives at MTSU's Center for Popular Music as center director Greg Reish prepares to point out another portion of the center's extensive collection of rare recordings, photos, manuscripts, videos and the like. Sainte-Marie was on campus for a lecture and special visit during the September 2015 Americana Music Association awards events in Nashville, where she received the Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)
In this 2016 file photo, musician, activist and songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, left, looks around at the archives at MTSU’s Center for Popular Music as center director Greg Reish prepares to point out another portion of the center’s extensive collection of rare recordings, photos, manuscripts, videos and the like. Sainte-Marie was on campus for a lecture and special visit during the September 2015 Americana Music Association awards events in Nashville, where she received the Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

Reish will be at the University of Veracruz from mid-January to mid-June. 

“My primary responsibility is to teach two classes at the University of Veracruz, and I am excited about the opportunity,” he said, adding that his connections with Mexico started several years back. 

“I have been spending time in Mexico, particularly in Veracruz, for the last six years, where I have developed musical and research interests. I have visited and done some lectures there and made academic and musical friends, which has given me extended time to work with students there teaching them U.S. music, history and culture.”

The Fulbright award will also “give me opportunity to develop my intertest in the history and culture of Veracruz and hopefully build some lasting partnerships in MTSU,” Reish said.

Center for Popular Music logo

“I also will be giving some public lectures and performances and things of that nature … I have developed my own research interests in the traditional music of Veracruz, which is very distinct within the country. I plan to develop those interests, spend more time working with musicians there, documenting music; I am always learning to play myself.”

Reish said politics, immigration and social media are among the external influences that have affected popular music from Mexico.

“Social media is one of the ways I began to make contacts with Veracruz. I found Mexican musicians and academics who do a lot of sharing, announcements and projects on Facebook. I am interested in the way the traditional music of Veracruz has evolved and interacted with other influences,” he said.

As director for the Center for Popular Music, which is a research archive focused on American folk and popular music, Reish said he hopes to “continue to develop our own archive and activities, public programming, in the realm of music.”

The center is housed within the College of Media and Entertainment.

“I would like to see if this experience can lead to a project that MTSU and Veracruz can pursue together and document musical cultures that can lead to exchange, collaborations, public programs, panel discussions (and) presentations by musicians or scholars, especially using the virtual environment.”

Austin Derryberry of Unionville, Tenn., center, an August 2019 MTSU audio production graduate and award-winning multi-instrumentalist, fiddles along with accompanists Connor Vlietstra, left, on banjo and Greg Reish on guitar during a recording session in the university's Studio A in the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building. MTSU's Center for Popular Music, which Reish directs, is creating its first CD on campus for its Grammy-winning Spring Fed Records label to capture the Derryberry and fellow musician Trenton "Tater" Caruthers' old-time fiddle music. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)
In this file image, Austin Derryberry of Unionville, Tenn., center, an August 2019 MTSU audio production graduate and award-winning multi-instrumentalist, fiddles along with accompanists Connor Vlietstra, left, on banjo and Greg Reish on guitar during a recording session in the university’s Studio A in the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building. (MTSU file photo by J. Intintoli)

Connecting career paths to Fulbright research, teaching 

Sloane has been working as a librarian for 17 years and in MTSU Walker’s Library to “provide a lot of public services to MTSU students, faculty members, as well as some administrative responsibilities.” 

She is responsible for library collection development in the sciences, scholarly communications advising, liaison services, and reference and instruction services. She said her job brings her in contact with faculty and students who are doing exciting work.

“There is a lot of research output, sharing data, within and without, and a lot of changes. It is an exciting time to be a science librarian, as science is a big focus on the campus. I appreciate everyone’s well-wishes; it has been exciting,” Sloane said. 

logo for MTSU's James E. Walker Library

“I will plan for a library at DFGF’s new Ellen DeGeneres Campus by applying library science research methodologies in the areas of public services, library instruction and collection development,” she said.

Reish will be returning to Veracruz after a trip there for research and music in 2016.

“My host university friends are excited because they have never had a music specialist there before. It has always been historians and political scientists. I am not going to be teaching music students but a class in U.S history, and culture — but through the lens of music,” Reish stated.

This will be Reish’s second Fulbright experience. The first took him to Italy 25 years ago.

“Fulbright provides lot of opportunities anywhere in the world and is an effective way to build peace and empathy between cultures. I am going to be an ambassador of the U.S., so it is a wonderful opportunity,” he said.

— Favour Boluwade (news@mtsu.edu)

In this screen capture from a virtual tour video, Kadiara King’ai, left, conservation gallery manager at the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda, introduces a welcome video featuring the comedian who donated seed money that led to the facility’s construction. (Courtesy of YouTube)
In this screen capture from a virtual tour video, Kadiara King’ai, left, conservation gallery manager at the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda, introduces a welcome video featuring the comedian who donated seed money that led to the facility’s construction. (Courtesy of YouTube)
In this 2015 file photo, Motown music icon Lamont Dozier, left, expresses his thanks for recognition as the second Fellow of the Center for Popular Music at MTSU Wednesday, Oct. 21, as CPM director Dr. Greg Reish looks on. Dozier was at MTSU for a special discussion about his 50-plus-year career and to be honored for his contributions to music and society. (MTSU file photo)
In this October 2015 file photo, Motown music icon Lamont Dozier, left, expresses his thanks for recognition as the second Fellow of the Center for Popular Music at MTSU as CPM Director Greg Reish looks on. Dozier was at MTSU for a special discussion about his 50-plus-year career and to be honored for his contributions to music and society. (MTSU file photo)

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