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Three Salem State Faculty Earn Fulbrights to, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Germany

 SALEM, MASS – A trio of Salem State University faculty are embarking on Fulbright journeys after receiving awards for the 2024-25 academic school year.

University faculty Alexandria Peary, Norbert Tschakert, and Vanessa Ruget will represent Salem State on the world stage this year as projects take them to Germany, the Dominican Republic, and Estonia respectively.

“The Fulbright is an exchange program at the end of the day,” said Michele Louro, a history professor and director of Salem State’s Center for Research and Creative Services. “It’s about faculty at Salem State going out, sharing their expertise, collaborating with colleagues and students somewhere else in the world, and then bringing it home.”

As part of the Fulbright journey, faculty with teaching Fulbrights will lecture and lead discussions at the host institution in addition to carrying out research, establishing a partnership that often continues after the faculty’s time abroad ends.

“A Fulbright is often a gateway for building long-term relationships between Salem State and other institutions abroad,” Louro said. “That enhances our student experiences, because for some of our students, this is a small world. To be able to bring that world to them is really critical.”

Alexandria Peary to Expand Public Knowledge of German City Impacted by World War II

Alexandria Peary, a Londonderry, N.H. resident and English professor at Salem State, will travel to the German city of Pforzheim for a research Fulbrightthat will explore the community’s history before, during and after World War II.

That work, focusing on three decades of life beginning in the 1930s, will expose not just how the rise of the Nazi party played out there, but how the community responded once it was devastated by a British air raid as part of the war, and how it rebuilt in the years that followed.

But for Peary, the project isn’t just another opportunity to document the rise of the Nazi Party before and its fall after the war ended. It’s a journey that will help Peary connect with her own German-American heritage, she explained.

“My mother comes from the town I’ll be conducting research in. She was born in 1946, in this town, Pforzheim,” Peary said. “On Feb. 23, 1945, within 20 minutes, the Royal Air Force bombed it, and a huge percentage of the city was destroyed.”

The justification for the attack centered on the city’s watch-making industry, which was believed to tie into the manufacture of precision instruments used in the war. Pforzheim ultimately lost more than 17,000 citzens to the bombing campaign, 31% of the city’s population at the time, as well as 83% of its buildings. Peary’s mother, born amid the ruins, was known as “a rubble child. She was born after the war ended, and she played in the rubble,” Peary said.

Peary’s project will focus on archival research at two sites: a mass grave for victims of the Feb. 23, 1945 air raid, and the “Wallberg,” a mountain that formed as Pforzheim removed rubble from destroyed sites and piled it on the outskirts of the city. From there she’ll explore the stories of 20 to 25 people buried in the mass grave and explore records documenting Pforzheim’s activity before, during, and after its trajectory in history was changed forever. That will highlight changes in tone and rhetoric, as the community handled typical day-to-day affairs – like managing Pforzheim’s water and sewer network – alongside perpetuating the atrocities the Holocaust is known for.

“There’s a lot of omission, a lot of oppression,” Peary said. “A couple days after the terrible bombing, the whole city is gone, and a city hall bureaucrat wrote a memo of who didn’t show up to work that day. The first newspaper published after newspapers resumed had articles about how to plant your flower bed.”

Out of the project, Peary plans to write two books – one of poems, the other of creative nonfiction – to tell the stories she encounters along the way, she said.

Vanessa Ruget to Research Impact of Russia’s Instrumentalization of Passports

Vanessa Ruget, a Cambridge resident and professor in Salem State’s politics, policy, and international relations department, will travel to Estonia in affiliation with the University of Tartu’s Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies. In that setting, she’ll co-teach with University of Tartu faculty and explore opportunities for collaboration, including COIL, or Collaborative Online International Learning.

“The intriguing politics of Estonia, and its reputation as a global leader in e-government, will enrich my teaching,” Ruget said. “I’m so grateful to the Fulbright program and the University of Tartu for providing this opportunity and to Salem State University for supporting me in this endeavor.”

The University of Tartu hosts the Centre for Eurasian and Russian Studies and organizes an annual conference on East European and Eurasian Studies every June. It’s an ideal setting for Ruget to pursue her research on how Russia is aggressively using naturalization policies to further geopolitical aims – and how this has impacted Russian-ethnic residents in Estonia and Central Asian migrants in Russia. 

“Russia has been instrumentalizing passports for years, by providing strong incentives, but also by pressuring and even coercing people to become Russian citizens, especially in contested territories of former Soviet Republics,” Ruget said. “This is part of their vision of a ‘Russian World.’ This instrumentalization of citizenship has accelerated following the invasion of Ukraine – with important consequences for millions of people."

A new citizenship law passed by Russia in 2023 “is just making citizenship even more weaponized, for example by making it possible to revoke the citizenship of naturalized citizens if they commit certain crimes,” Ruget said, “including things like denigrating the Armed Forces.”

Compare that to the United States, where conversations around citizenship highlight “something positive,” Ruget said.

“In a democracy, we generally see access to citizenship in a positive light” Ruget said. “But authoritarian states can use citizenship and passports as tools of oppression.”

Norbert Tschakert to study corruption and efforts to reduce it in the Dominican Republic

Norbert Tschakert, the Gassett-Schiller ’83 endowed chair in Salem State’s accounting and finance department, will travel to the Dominican Republic in partnership with his host, the Instituto Tecnologico de Santo Domingo, also known as INTEC. It’s there that he plans to focus his research on corruption, a problem in the country that has seen increasing enforcement actions from the administration of President Luis Abinader.

“Reducing corruption is important, as it allows for additional funding for critical governmental programs such as improving education and health care, or fighting poverty,” Tschakert said. “While 23% of the population live in poverty, large amounts of government funds are diverted via corruption each year.”

Tschakert’s work will fill a current void in the academia. In his proposal, he explained that most literature on the topic “describes the problem of corruption and its impact on organizations, countries, and people. Few papers offer and discuss solutions. I want to focus my work on solutions.”

Asked to clarify that point further, Tschakert explained that current papers “mostly focus on an analysis of past events” and seek to establish some level of correlation.”

“While useful, we need to be much more specific and look at what organizational control design deficiencies or control overrides in both the bribing organization as well as the governmental agency occurred,” Tschakert said. “This requires access to data normally not available to researchers. In the Dominican Republic, all bribery prosecution documents as well as all procurement data has been made publicly available, allowing for a detailed analysis. My hope is that reviewing this information can result in useful recommendations for governmental agencies.”

Tschakert is excited about the opportunity to work at and with an institution in the Dominican Republic in support of greater efforts to reduce corruption.

“As Fulbright awards are highly competitive,” he said, “I am very humbled and honored to have been selected for a Fulbright Scholar Award and to have the opportunity to research this important topic with the help of local experts at the Instituto Tecnologico de Santo Domingo.”


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