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Communication professor going to Latvia on Fulbright

Jan. 3, 2006

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University professor has won a Fulbright scholarship to teach and lecture in Latvia.

Dr. Michael Kent, assistant professor of communication, will visit the Baltic nation February through May 2006 and will spend the four months at the University of Latvia in Riga. Kent will teach three classes: public speaking, an introduction to public relations course and a graduate class to be determined. Though the scholarship is for teaching, Kent also plans to conduct research while in Latvia, begin working on a public relations writing textbook and conduct interviews with scholars and public relations professionals.

"Receiving a Fulbright Award is a great honor," Kent says. "Many of the people who've been on Fulbrights have said that the experience changed their lives. I'm hoping for an equally rewarding experience."

Kent has traveled extensively and lectured in Eastern Europe. In 2001, he spent six weeks traveling across the region, visiting Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary and lecturing in Sarajevo. This past winter, Kent taught a graduate course in the Czech Republic and spent three weeks there.

"I have never been to Latvia before and I am looking forward to the experience very much," Kent says. "Everyone I have spoken to about Riga has said that the country is very beautiful. I am very excited."

Kent's upbringing in Fairbanks, Alaska, played a role in developing his affinity for Latvia. Though the climates are vastly different, the two areas share an assortment of cultural values, including a concern for preserving the environment and balancing progress with tradition.

Latvia also is an attractive location for a Fulbright because of its current efforts to attract investment while balancing environmental and cultural issues, Kent says.

Kent earned his doctorate from Purdue University in 1997 and served as a graduate advisor and assistant professor in communication studies at Montclair State University from 2000-05 before joining the WMU faculty earlier this year.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is the U.S. government's flagship academic exchange effort, on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program's purpose is to build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.

During its 59 years in existence, thousands of U.S. faculty and professionals have studied, taught or done research abroad, and thousands of their counterparts from other countries have engaged in similar activities in the United States. More than 250,000 American and foreign university students, K-12 teachers, and university faculty and professionals have participated in one of several Fulbright exchange programs.

Recipients are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement and because they have demonstrated extraordinary leadership potential in their fields.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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