UNT faculty take Tier One research projects abroad as Fulbright Scholars

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 - 12:15

DENTON (UNT), Texas – University of North Texas faculty members Shobhana Chelliah, Distinguished Professor of linguistics and associate dean of research and development in the College of Information, and Julie Leventhal, principal lecturer in UNT’s Honors College, have been named award winners in the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Chelliah and Leventhal received their awards in 2020 but deferred their projects when international travel was suspended due to the pandemic. Fulbright has extended the 2020-21 fellows’ project completion deadline to the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester.

Chelliah is the recipient of the highly competitive Fulbright-Nehru fellowship, which enables the most outstanding students, academics and professionals in India and the U.S. to study, research and teach in a host country.

Her proposal, “Collaborative Digital Language Archiving for Documenting the Languages of India,” explores a method of collection and custodial archiving that integrates training in language documentation and the creation of archival-quality collections.

She took a sabbatical in Fall 2020 to focus on the initial phase of her research that she conducted remotely through webinars and other online platforms. In February 2022, she will travel to India to follow up with her research groups and build on her remote work, while coordinating language archiving curriculum and lecturing around the country for four months.

“India is a land of extreme linguistic diversity,” Chelliah said. “Much of the cultural scientific and linguistic information in these languages is in danger of being lost forever.  We recognize the urgent need to support speaker communities in creating access and lasting records of these languages.” 

Chelliah’s goal is to create a resource of these languages that is user friendly, preserves the languages for the future in digital formats and is stored in a stable repository where they can be easily accessed.

The project builds long-lasting bonds between India and the United States as this replicable methodology can be used over the years to build up sister archives at national and regional archives in India and UNT.

The UNT Digital Library and the Department of Linguistics in UNT’s College of Information have entered an agreement to provide infrastructure and student support  to house and maintain the Computational Resource for South Asian Languages (CORSAL), the archive that will provide the repository for collections curated by Chelliah in the course of her Fulbright research.

For Leventhal’s Fulbright project, she will travel to Romania in February 2022 to teach and conduct research with the Department of Psychology at the University of Bucharest.

Her proposal, “Anti-Human Trafficking Volunteerism in Romania: Individual, Family, and Organizational Influences,” expands her past and current research on the motivations and various external factors that help or hinder volunteerism in anti-trafficking initiatives.

“Human trafficking is on the rise in Romania due to a number of economic and political risk factors, but there is little known research focused on Romanian volunteerism,” Leventhal said. “While a small amount of research has focused on how individuals are involved in anti-trafficking volunteerism, there is a lack of research focused on why individuals choose to volunteer within this context and the support or lack thereof that they receive for it. NGOs and nonprofits cannot adequately address social issues without volunteers. Therefore, understanding these influences on volunteerism will provide them with the tools necessary to help reduce human trafficking by shedding light on effective volunteer recruitment and training needs.”

Leventhal’s research is driven by her experience working directly with Romanian anti-trafficking organizations. In June 2018, she conducted exploratory research with a small population of anti-trafficking volunteers in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She is currently conducting similar research on anti-trafficking volunteerism within the U.S. through a U.S.-based anti-trafficking organization, which she will use as a comparison to the Romanian data collected.

In addition to conducting research, Leventhal will teach a course at the University of Bucharest on interpersonal relationships that examines theory, communication, relational dynamics, power, conflict and other aspects of romantic, peer, family, workplace and community relationships. These types and characteristics of relationships will all be examined from American and Romanian perspectives, values and culture.

Given her experience with curriculum development at UNT, Leventhal also hopes to assist the University of Bucharest’s Department of Psychology by making new course recommendations, advising students on diverse career options within the psychology field and collaborating on faculty research.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries. Fulbright award recipients are selected based on academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

There have been more than 80 UNT Fulbright Scholars and Specialists since 1960 as well as numerous visiting Fulbright Scholars to UNT.

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