Pitzer president will join Fulbright board

It was all good news when President Barack Obama appointed Pitzer College President Laura Skandera Trombley to the 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

In this prestigious position—for which she was sworn in at a February 11 ceremony in Washington, DC—she will not only be expected to meet quarterly to help establish policies for Fulbright selection and operating procedures. Ms. Trombley is also encouraged to travel as much as possible, serving as an ambassador for the program.

As an incentive for spreading the word about the program’s advantages, she has been awarded a diplomatic passport, an unexpected perk that has Ms. Trombley pretty excited.

“For me, that means I don’t have to wait in line at the airport,” she joked.

Ms. Trombley had already been tentatively planning a trip to Bhutan and Nepal with some other Pitzer administrators and faculty, but the nifty passport seals the deal.

Ms. Trombley, who is the only current board member representing the western United States, said she doesn’t know who nominated her, though she has a few suspicions. No matter who is responsible, the appointment of a Pitzer administrator is fitting because, for 3 years running, The Chronicle of Higher Education has ranked Pitzer College as the top producer of Fulbright winners among undergraduate liberal arts colleges in the United States.

A remarkable 10 percent of Pitzer’s 2012 graduating class was awarded Fulbright Fellowships. Ms. Trombley makes a real point of encouraging students to apply for Fulbright grants and to see as much of the world as possible, because she understands firsthand the power of travel.

When she was 12, her parents cashed in their life savings and “dragged” her around Europe. The experience was transformative for Ms. Trombley, who said she was very shy and naïve at the time.

“That trip literally changed my life,” she said, noting that it expanded her confidence and sophistication exponentially.

Later, when Ms. Trombley was attending Pepperdine, her father encouraged her to expand her horizons once more.

“He said, you have to study abroad,” she recalled.

Ms. Trombley signed up for the college’s exchange program, and spent the next 3 years in Heidelberg, Germany, in the heart of Bavaria.

She studied at the University of Eichstätt, where she mastered the German language. She also traveled extensively throughout South Africa with a boyfriend who had  been raised there.

“This was during the apartheid era,” she noted. “It was very eye-opening.”

Ms. Trombley will continue her commitment to nurturing a global worldview among students at Pitzer and beyond.

“The more that we can get to know each other and understand different cultures, the more benefits we can derive from everyone,” she said.

The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is the US government’s flagship international exchange program and is supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world.

Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 318,000 participants from over 150 countries with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Along with serving as the president of Pitzer College since 2002, Ms. Trombley is a professor of American literature, a distinguished Mark Twain scholar and the author of 5 books, the most recent of which is Mark Twain’s Other Woman (2010).

The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board was established by the US Congress to supervise and promote the Fulbright Program as well as establish worldwide policies. The board members, who come from academic, business, cultural and public life, also select students, scholars, teachers and others to participate in the educational exchanges.

—Sarah Torribio





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