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ECU Professor awarded Fulbright scholarship

(June 12, 2000)   —   If you haven't considered the similarities between eastern North Carolina and Slovakia, you're probably not a Fulbright Scholar; Dr. Mel Markowski, professor of Human Environmental Sciences at East Carolina University, has and is.

Markowski recently received a Fulbright Scholar Award for the 2000-2001 academic year to Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, where he will teach, study and learn first-hand the challenges facing the country, formerly part of Czechoslovakia, as it becomes part of the European Union.

With graduate degrees in psychology, philosophy, and marriage and family therapy, and 27 years of teaching experience at ECU, Markowski felt he was well prepared academically to work with psychology faculty at a central European university.

His experience as a clinical psychologist and consultant on individual, marriage and family issues in numerous mental health settings, and family roots in Poland were behind his desire to help and learn from people halfway around the world -- people he feels face many of the same problems and pressures of those he counsels in eastern North Carolina.

"Once I received the invitation to apply for a Fulbright, I began a serious, thoughtful process to find the right fit," Markowski said from his office in the Rivers Building at ECU. Fulbright applicants need an invitation to apply for an award and a university willing to sponsor them.

Since 1946, the Fulbright Scholar Program has offered grants for college and university faculty, as well as professionals and independent scholars, to lecture and conduct research in countries around the globe. Markowski first received an informal offer for sponsorship from the Free University in Berlin, and managed a visit there while returning from a summer institute in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1998.

"While the country, the university, the city of Berlin and the vibrant rebuilding there were impressive, I believed I could contribute to and learn more in an environment more closely resembling my present situation in the rural South," he said. "That's when I contacted a colleague at Comenius University."

Through Internet correspondence with his Comenius colleague, Markowski became aware of changes that were affecting children and families in Slovakia, as the country moved toward becoming an industrialized nation.

"The impact of the economic and social changes on individuals, couples and families (in Slovakia) is somewhat analogous to the situation in eastern North Carolina as it moves from an agrarian to a modern, semi-industrialized society," Markowski wrote in his Fulbright application.

Discussions about these changes and the need for appropriate interventions in Slovakia led to Markowski's invitation from Comenius, and eventually to his Fulbright Award. Markowski, ECU's 1998-99 winner of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for excellence in teaching, leaves for Comenius University this fall. There he will teach social-psychological training, introduce a course on prevention and treatment of family dysfunction, serve as a mentor to doctoral students and collaborate with faculty to establish a family therapy concentration. Markowski said he is both excited and apprehensive.

"It's a little overwhelming. I think we all have some idea of who we are. I always felt I was a competent teacher, but I never really thought of myself as a scholar. Now I am a Fulbright Scholar and that is a new image." One down side for Markowski is spending the year away from his wife, Betsy, also a professor in Human Environmental Sciences at ECU.

"It would have been fun to go together, but this wasn't a year Betsy could take off," he said. While Markowski was surprised when he received his congratulatory letter from the Fulbright Scholarship Board, he did


Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481