OSWEGO — A moving study-abroad experience and a world of determination have led to Julie Schofield becoming SUNY Oswego’s first student Fulbright scholar in more than a decade.
In August, Schofield will head to India to investigate how survivors of human trafficking benefit from creative arts therapy, which she observed during a course led by Geraldine Forbes, a distinguished teaching professor emerita of history at Oswego and renowned scholar on India.
The Fulbright mirrors the academic year, so Schofield will spend around 10 months in the country working with survivors, including teaching poetry and arranging readings of their creations, for her project, “Addressing the Mind, Body, and Spirit: Creative Arts Therapy as Empowerment for Survivors of Human Trafficking.”
“This is a project that draws on all my passions,” said Schofield, who earned bachelor’s degrees in women’s studies and English in December and plans to pursue her master’s in English at Oswego after her Fulbright journey.
She traveled to India in January 2013 through Forbes’ study-abroad course on human trafficking. She met survivors and organizations that work with them.
“It really affected me on a profound level and inspired me,” Schofield said. “I was particularly touched by the dramatic aspect of communicating through dance, through drama, through poetry readings.”
She particularly was impressed by an organization where “young women all worked together teaching dance and touch therapy as healing for not only trafficking survivors but also at-risk groups,” Schofield said. “This is what I’m trying to point out with my research showing how in one way economic concerns are of course very crucial to rehabilitation but that other forms of therapy address the spirit and result in a much more generalized well-being and positive attitude.”
While studying the rarely detailed practice of holistic and creative therapy for these survivors, Schofield said she hopes to amplify their voices and experiences to a larger audience to raise awareness and celebrate the survivors’ spirits.
“I hope to do poetry workshops,” she said. “I would love to publish something, like a small book, of the young women’s poetry.”
She said she also plans to publish academically on the topic, which has received little attention in scholarly journals.
Schofield said she looks to expand her network in India but is pleased with the start she has.
“The professors I met are wonderful,” she said. “A lot of the contacts and the work I’m planning to do is thanks to Gerry Forbes. She spent so many years there forging these relationships, and I’m so thankful for her sharing her contacts with me and thinking I could do this work.”
Schofield also received a Creative Language Enhancement Award from the U.S. Student Fulbright Program to help her learn Bengali. She said she hopes she will be able to pick up the nuances and themes of the young women’s poetry and creative writing without always relying on a translator.
A non-traditional student, former single mother of a now-teenage girl and the wife of Damian Schofield of the computer science faculty, Oswego’s newest Fulbright scholar admits the road here has been long and filled with twists and turns.
Schofield said she appreciates the support along the way of Susan Coultrap-McQuin, director of the college’s Institute for Global Engagement, and the professors who gave her recommendations — but also to many people at SUNY Oswego who have been helpful.
“I feel like since day one on this campus, I’ve been really nurtured, and a lot of my growth as an academic is owed to this being a great campus,” she said. “The people who work here are so knowledgeable but also very accessible.”
While SUNY Oswego has had many professors earn Fulbright scholarships and has hosted visiting Fulbright scholars through the flagship international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, the last Oswego student to go abroad through the program was human development major Nicole Darcangelo in 2003.
Schofield said her success offers a lesson for Oswego students.
“Other students need to know they have these opportunities and that they have the professors and staff who can help them pursue something like a Fulbright grant,” she said. “It may take time and determination, but it’s possible for them.”