The University of Iowa

UI professor to teach and conduct research in Iceland as a Fulbright scholar

July 26th, 2019

University of Iowa Professor of English Jonathan Wilcox has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar Grant for work on his project, “Viking-Age North-Sea Culture: Exploring Medieval Connections between Iceland and England.”

The University of Iowa is thrilled to announce that Jon Wilcox, a professor of English at the University of Iowa, has been selected as a Fulbright Scholar to Iceland for the 2019-20 academic year, where he'll be teaching two courses at the University of Iceland, and researching Viking culture.

The Fulbright Program, which aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, sending U.S. faculty to academic institutions abroad to serve as expert consultants on curriculum and related subjects. Scholars not only teach and conduct research, but build relationships with people in their host country. 

University faculty members at all stages of their careers can apply to become Fulbright Scholars. Grant recipients can teach, do research abroad, or a combination of both for time periods ranging from 2-6 weeks up to a semester or entire year.

Thanks to recent changes in policy which help maintain a faculty member's compensation level, pursuing faculty Fulbrights has become a much easier process.

Is funding something that prevented you from applying in the past? 

There are many elements that factor into a decision about when a person can take such a research leave. I was chair of my department for many years, which made it impossible for me to consider such a commitment. It is definitely the case, though, that I would not have applied for this opportunity if the University of Iowa did not provide the stipend supplement to maintain a person’s salary. The new policy is very valuable in encouraging more faculty to apply for Fulbright grants since they can now be reassured that they won’t be penalized financially for being successful. 

Why do you think the University of Iowa implemented this policy?
Fulbright awards are prestigious and they provide a great opportunity to showcase the strengths of UI faculty by sending us out into an international context and to help us develop an international perspective on our research. Unfortunately, though, they are not all that well funded (which is particularly apparent when going to a country with a high cost of living like Iceland). Topping up the grant to hold faculty harmless in relation to their salary is a good way of encouraging faculty to apply for this valuable opportunity. 

In your opinion, why are faculty Fulbright grants something worth investing in?
Whatever one’s field, it is always valuable to have a comparative perspective and to see how issues work out beyond our immediate surroundings. 

How will your Fulbright to Iceland impact your future professionally? 
I teach and research early medieval European culture, with a particular focus on England. The two courses I will be teaching in Iceland are similar to ones I teach in Iowa and I expect to come back with new insights into how to present the material after doing so in that very different context. In addition, I regularly teach Icelandic saga literature here at Iowa, and I am expecting to come back with a renewed appreciation for the setting (and lots of pictures of historical sites!). I am also hoping to build up connections with colleagues at the University of Iceland to revitalize the friendship agreement that exists between our two institutions. 

What advice do you wish to bestow unto other faculty members hoping to apply for a Fulbright?
Go for it! There is always some trepidation, I think, in taking oneself into a new environment, and there are many practical difficulties a person has to overcome in moving for a single semester, but I think a Fulbright presents a wonderful opportunity for a growth experience.

Learn more about the UI Resources for applying to the Fulbright Scholar Program