Cal State Dominguez Hills professor Nancy Erbe was named Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies and will teach international conflict resolution out of PUC (Pontifícia Universidade Católica) in Rio de Janeiro next year.
“I feel wonderful, very honored and happy,” Erbe said. “It’s such a validation that those of us who work for social justice and good actually matter, that we’re supported in doing this work. I’ll be feeling this for a long time.”
The Bixby Knolls resident’s experience working in negotiation, conflict resolution and peace-building is recognized internationally. Her career has taken her all over the world– including for negotiations in the Balkans and between Israelis and Palestinians. The United Nations has also translated and distributed her writings.
For the last four years, she’s served as a reviewer for the Peace and Conflict Resolution Peer Review Committee for the Fulbright Specialist Program after visiting Cyprus as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in 2009.
Erbe was encouraged to apply for distinguished chair by representatives within the Fulbright program. Her life experience, she said, seemed to match up perfectly for what the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board members, appointed by President Obama, were looking for.
Each year, the Fulbright Scholar Program awards 8,000 total grants. Only Erbe and 37 others were awarded distinguished chair– the highest level of Fulbright.
According to the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, the objective of the Distinguished Fulbright Chair in Brazil is to enhance and disseminate studies involving the United States and its relationship with the Americas.
Erbe said she will serve as a facilitator, teacher and coach, responsible for enhancing mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and Brazil.
“I hope to inspire and empower the best of what people are envisioning and intending to do,” she said. “I don’t see it as just me. We are trying to address the immediate problems the best we can. It’s very much a collective effort.”
Brazil, because it is emerging as a global power, has become an exciting place to study, and an area where mediation is crucial, Erbe said.
“I have a lot of plans while I’m there,” Erbe said. “What’s closest to my heart is that the government is truly trying to engage ordinary people in the decisions that are being made there. I think our country could be doing a better job with that right now. The Brazilian people are being asked to collaborate in trying to create a better society, and that to me is going to be fascinating and very important.”
She said her work in conflict resolution is endlessly fulfilling and she truly values the international network she’s acquired.
“It is the most satisfying career that I have ever experienced,” Erbe said. “You can imagine what it is like to be connecting with the people I connect with, who truly care about the future of the planet and their communities. I feel like in my own small way, that I am able to do something that really matters.“
Erbe said that her students can attest to the impact conflict-resolution education has had on their own lives, both personally and professionally. The long-time professor said she stays in contact with many of her students and feels inspired by their stories and their plans for the world.
“We have just begun to learn about what is possible with international conflict resolution,” Erbe said. “One example, I have a student that is a Coptic Christian in Egypt. You would think, given the persecution she felt as a minority, that she would feel pessimistic. Instead, she is getting her graduate degree in international conflict resolution and is inspired to go to Egypt’s Ministry of Education to present a peace-education program that would be inclusive of all religions and all people.”
Another of her former students, from Uganda, when hearing of Erbe’s award, told her that now she must do even more.
“I give what I can when I have these opportunities,” Erbe said.