For many university professors, the idea of receiving one Fulbright award would be a dream come true. For Dr. Ragupathy Kannan, professor of biology at UAFS, that dream has now come true three times.
Beginning Dec. 13, Kannan, thanks to his second Fulbright award, will be a Fulbright Specialist at Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, a research and teaching institution in India. He will help develop the curriculum for a new master’s degree in wildlife biology, concentrating on climate change biology.
Following that six-week experience, a Fulbright Scholar award will take Kannan to Sri Lanka. There, for six months at the University of Ruhuna, he will teach climate change biology and conduct outreach activities to raise awareness of the climate crisis. Island nations like Sri Lanka are especially vulnerable to climate change, which brings rising sea levels and fierce storms.
Kannan, who started at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith in 1994, was awarded his first Fulbright in 2007. At that time, he spent six months in India, where he taught at G.P. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, which is at the base of the Himalayas, near India’s border with Nepal. He also offered lectures in the surrounding area.
Kannan said he was honored and humbled to receive the awards.
“It’s a recognition of my more than 25 years of pursuing international research initiatives in the area of environmental biology and climate change,” Kannan said. “The Fulbright programs in Sri Lanka and India will help me share my expertise with colleagues through education and training activities.”
He plans to make sure bright students in both countries know that UAFS offers rigorous but affordable programs for those interested in undergraduate study, and he will promote other Arkansas universities for those looking for graduate programs. He will look for opportunities for faculty exchanges, too.
“After my previous Fulbright in India in 2007, I brought a faculty member to UAFS under the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence program for a semester, and I brought five students from my host institution to the University of Arkansas for graduate study,” he said.
Kannan said he is grateful for the support he has received from UAFS, which has helped to make his international studies possible.
“The UAFS administration has always encouraged me to travel widely to hone my expertise in global ecology and environmental biology,” he said. “I could not have become an internationally recognized scholar without their constant investment in scholarly activities. Receiving three Fulbright Scholar awards is the result of such relentless investment in faculty excellence beyond the classroom.”
Earlier this year, Kannan spent 16 days at sea on a Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey along the east coast of the U.S. as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Teacher At Sea program.
Kannan sees such research as important scientifically to provide base numbers for comparisons over time, but he also thinks experiences like this can help students see the importance of science.
“Making their learning relevant through my experiences is vital to getting students excited about science. Fostering that passion for science is my No. 1 goal,” he said.
The Fulbright Scholar program is administered by the U.S. Department of State. It was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then Sen. William Fulbright of Arkansas and named for him. A letter to Kannan about the program noted, “Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists, and teachers.”
Fulbright alumni include 60 Nobel Laureates, 86 Pulitzer Prize winners, 72 MacArthur Fellows, and 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, the letter states.