Two Antioch Seattle students are Fulbright Scholars whose vision has global implications. They are Franchesska Berry, who graduates this year from the MA Ed program, and James Sasongko, who joined the Organizational Psychology program in fall 2007.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the prestigious Fulbright programs are the largest international exchange for students, scholars and professionals. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards 1,500 grants annually in all fields of study and operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.
The Fulbright programs are highly competitive and the screening and selection process can take as much as a year.
It is little wonder Antioch Seattle’s Fulbright Scholars are not only standouts in their fields but also global visionaries. Here’s a look at the two student Fulbrights on the Seattle campus and the recognition they bring to Antioch.
M.A. Education, 2008
The world is Franchesska Berry’s stage for cultural ambassadorship.
In January, this 2008-09 Fulbright Scholar will spend four months in Cairo, Egypt, teaching and performing the African and African-American dance she fashioned into a multicultural education program – international in its reach and value – for her Antioch Seattle MA Ed culminating project.
She says her goal is to demonstrate the universal meaning and power of little known and unappreciated forms of artistry and heritage.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a dream unless you have those who support you in it,” says Berry, whose style integrates her background in Western (ballet, modern and jazz), West African, Brazilian, Caribbean and Cuban dance.
Members of the Fulbright Committee spotted Berry when she appeared in the Intiman Theatre production of Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity” in Seattle. Berry created and played the role as the African Angel in the play. She was encouraged to apply to the program.
She likes to say her career as a performer, choreographer and cultural arts instructor “has been on an upward trajectory” since she arrived in Seattle from the San Francisco Bay area in 1996. She has been teaching dance ever since.
In 2006, she arrived at Antioch, where her artistic mentor was the late Jack Yantis, a longtime adjunct and associate faculty member in arts and education programs as well as a professional dancer and choreographer.
“I told him I wanted to bridge academics and the arts and he promised we would,” she recalls.
Yantis, known for his belief that the arts are at the core of experiential learning, offered Berry the support she needed. Yantis especially appreciated in her what he characterized as “her experience with diverse populations, her artistic excellence, her passion for teaching and educational transformation, and her commitment to dance as an appropriate language for creating cross-cultural dialogue and global citizenship.”
Berry was energized by what she found at Antioch. “The university believed in my project, my methodology and my spirit in dance,” she says.
When Yantis died in January 2008, Berry was uncertain about her future until Ed Mikel, core faculty in the Center for Programs in Education (now School of Education), stepped forward.
“I wouldn’t be at Antioch today if it weren’t for Professor Mikel,” she credits. “He was so receptive to what I brought to the table. He believed in my dream.” To that end, Mikel has supported her primarily in developing a formal philosophy of education that is relational and multicultural in orientation. Drawing heavily on the discipline of philosophical anthropology, Berry’s ideas, according to Mikel, are shaped by analysis of patterns in personal and social meanings that exist in all cultures, foremost in their art forms.
Berry’s credits include diplomatic recognition in 2008 as a cultural ambassador to Senegal, where she was an arts ands social sciences lecturer at a university in Dakar for three and a half months. She also studied, toured and performed with the National Ballet du Senegal, which considers her an honorary member.
For five years, she produced large-scale performance events that feature world-renowned master drummers and dancers. Her presentations at Seattle’s Folklife Festival have been lauded as best bets by local media. She also has been awarded numerous grants from King County, Boeing Co., and Tacoma’s Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, to name a few.
Berry says her goals came into focus when she was just 4, playing hopscotch and daydreaming about her future. Even then, she says she knew she wanted to make people happy, inspire and share possibilities with them.
“I consider myself to be an example of what can happen and what you can become. My students look up to me as an inspiration and as a leader. My gifts are about bringing the sacred to every moment of our lives. That’s the essential contribution – as I see it – of dance to education.
“I think it is important for African Americans to see that I’m graduating from Antioch. I love it here so. It’s small and family-oriented like Africa. I’m excited for people of color to see that and to reach out to them. Dreams that are due do come true,” she says.
Organizational Psychology, 2009
It was experiential learning that drew Fulbright Scholar James Sasongko to Antioch Seattle’s MA Programs in Leadership and Change and the Organizational Psychology program.
This 2003 graduate of Widya Mandala, a Catholic university in Surabaya, Indonesia, was among roughly 60,000 applicants who applied to become Fulbright Scholars from Indonesia. After a selection process that took a full year in 2006, Sasongko became one of only 112 Fulbright Scholars from Indonesia in 2007.
He says he hopes to work on an international level to facilitate change in organizations. A big piece of that, according to Sasongko, involves a focus on organizational politics and transforming those politics into positive, fresh, creative progress.
When you introduce change, people sometimes use conflict in unhealthy ways, he notes.
“Hidden agendas create unhealthy relationships. It’s important to know how to address and shift that into good energy because when we decide to create change, we need a lot of positive energy,” he says.
Sasongko speaks from experience. After he graduated from Widya Mandala, he worked for a year as a consultant for a school where he developed a community education center that offered programs for parents and teachers as well as students.
He also started work at his alma mater, where he became an instructor. In his third year of teaching, he found new opportunities for innovation when he established a quality assurance system at the university with guidelines for assessment with peer review.
Experiential learning, says Sasongko, has become increasingly popular in Indonesia. Corporations there have started to build competency development programs so employees can work toward university degrees. He says the notion of corporate universities is not far behind.
Indonesia, an archipelago with a population of 200 million, does not have a national Social Security system. Health insurance and retirement benefits are based on regional standards and company policies. Those who are not company employees receive no benefits and must rely on their income.
“The only person you can depend on is yourself,” he says. “Yet Indonesian people tend to think if they have knowledge, they can ensure for their senior years. When they reach 55 or 60, they have to retire, but the problem is the country doesn’t provide for retirement.”
Sasongko sees plenty of room to address these problems and he sees himself building programs among nations to do so.
“Antioch graduates should think seriously about working abroad. Their kind of thinking will be needed because progressive people can offer change and innovation,” he says.
He calls his Antioch learning experience practical, not general. His master’s thesis was titled “Organizational Politics: A generative framework toward capacity building.” Its focus is how politics are inevitable in organizational life and can serve as a productive force for organizations. As part of his studies, he worked on systemic integration of The Ambassador Program for the Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
He has kudos for several Antioch Seattle faculty, including Shana Hormann and Karyn Lazarus for their teaching methods.
“Theirs is a very impressive performance to get students to reach their limits,” he says, noting that Jean Singer and Britt Yamamoto inspired him as well by accommodating a diversity of views that served as a basis for an inclusive learning community.
“The way some professors facilitate class is fascinating in how it stimulates students to push the limits of their capacity. The faculty here is very challenging. After several courses, I realize I can do what I never thought I could,” he says.
When Sasongko went to Rhode Island for a meeting with other Fulbright Scholars, many of whom are studying at big-name universities around the U.S., he was surprised to discover how few of his peers found their studies to be experiential.
“Many groaned and said all they did was write papers,” he says and reiterates how pleased he has been with his decision to come to Antioch Seattle.
“At Antioch, it’s not just theory and more theory. We learned to put theory into action,” Sasongko says.
“Antioch is evolving. I see this institution as precious for the future of other countries. The key is how to use that channel in ways that are balanced and compelling. Bring Antioch to the world and bring the world to Antioch for its global values.”