The following is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi
A University of Southern Mississippi professor hopes a Fulbright Fellowship supporting his work with a college in Chile will promote international academic exchange, while also facilitating innovative education practices and research in the South American nation.
Dr. Thomas O’Brien, a faculty member in the Department of Educational Studies and Research at USM, will help faculty at Universidad Católic del Maule (UCM), a Catholic University in Talca, Chile develop new strategies in teacher training. A researcher and award-winning practitioner of active learning, O’Brien aims to pass along his philosophy and methods to those at UCM during his stay there March 1 - June 30.
“I’m honored to receive this well-known and prestigious award,” O’Brien said. “I hope it advances a robust exchange of ideas on assessment systems and teacher education between the faculties of our two universities in the future.”
UCM is one of the top 15 universities in Chile for training teachers, and employs teacher education training models consistent with those found at American universities. Leveraging his experience as a middle school teacher and educational researcher, O’Brien will help the university’s faculty and students rethink traditional teacher-centered classrooms by considering designs that are student-centered and maximize student engagement.
“There’s also a real sense that this will open up some great opportunities for exchange between our universities, not just for faculty members in education but those in other disciplines as well,” he said.
O’Brien will also assist some of UCM’s faculty and students with advancement of their research projects, including hosting and facilitating brown-bag style sessions where research is presented and O’Brien provides feedback on the content of their projects and their design. The visit also has an emergent element that allows O’Brien and those at UCM to identify common problems and areas of interest in education, and then design studies to learn more about these topics.
Melandie McGee, a doctoral student in higher education administration at Southern Miss described O'Brien as a supportive educator concerned with the success of his students.
“Dr. O’Brien makes a habit of ‘checking-in’ just to see how his students are doing,” McGee said. “He keeps me informed of the opportunities available to me, and with his support I’ve secured funding to attend research conferences, publish my research, secure a summer internship and sharpen my teaching skills as a graduate student.
“He is very deserving of such a prestigious award, and I’m excited about the work he will be doing in Chile.”
A graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, O’Brien’s research expertise includes the history of American education in the 20th century, and he also has studied teacher education. His work has been published widely, including in many peer-reviewed journals and he holds affiliations with many professional associations, including as former president of the Society for the Study of Curriculum History. He is the author of The Politics of Race and Schooling: Public Education in Georgia, 1900-1961, and co-editor of Bridging Theory and Practice in Teacher Education.
“We’re very proud to have another Fulbright scholar in the College of Education and Psychology. It is a testimony to the quality of our faculty and the significance of their research,” said Dr. Ann Blackwell, dean of the College. “Dr. O’Brien is most deserving of this honor and an ideal choice to foster mutual understanding with the people of Chile.”
For more information about O’Brien and the Department of Educational Studies and Research, visit www.usm.edu/higher-education-research-statistics. For information about the College of Education and Psychology, visit www.usm.edu/education-psychology.