Thursday, November 13, 2008

Professor Lands A Competitive Fellowship To Complete A Memoir

West Virginia University professor has landed a competitive fellowship to complete a memoir of her experiences in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar.

Ethel Morgan Smith, an associate professor of English in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, will attend a writing retreat in May 2009 at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

During the retreat, she will complete "Blue Notes: Memoirs of an African American in Germany." The memoir recounts Smith's experiences 10 years ago teaching and conducting research at the University of Tubingen in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar.

Fulbright is the U.S. government's flagship program in international educational exchange. It bears the name of its creator, the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright.

"Ethel's work exemplifies why it is so important for faculty members to spend time teaching and researching abroad," said Donald Hall, chair of the Department of English. "Her experiences in Europe have enriched her work, and in turn, they enrich the lives of her students and readers.

"Each time we expand our world views through professional activities overseas, we send out a ripple that can have positive effects worldwide," added Hall, who has taught abroad in Rwanda, Austria, Finland and Sweden.

Smith will be completing the manuscript for her memoir in a peaceful setting nestled in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains near Sweet Briar College.

The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts invites about 20 visual artists, writers and composers at a time to focus on their individual creative projects. As one of the nation's largest year-round artists' communities, the center serves about 300 artists annually.

Typical residencies range from two weeks to two months, and artists are provided with food and lodging. There are no schedules or obligations, and the distraction-free atmosphere enables artists to be highly productive. Many fellows have received worldwide attention through publications, exhibitions, compositions, performances, and major awards and accolades.

"The VCCA provides a peaceful, nourishing environment and support from artists working in all genres," Smith said. "Just having the time and means to totally devote myself to my writing is a wonderful gift."

Smith specializes in black literature, fiction and creative nonfiction. She is author of "From Whence Cometh My Help: The African American Community at Hollins College" and has been published in national and international journals, including Callaloo and African American Review. Her essay "Love Means Nothing" was the winner of the 2005 Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Award.

She is the recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in Bellagio, Italy; a Fulbright Fellowship to Germany; and a DuPont Fellowship. She has also been a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome and a visiting fellow at Brandeis University Women's Research Center.

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