Living a Dream
By ROBERT HILL
o paraphrase Francis Bacon, who ever takes a scholarship gives hostage unto fortune. Yet, once the focus and direction of a scholarship year is past, will the rest of oneís life keep to that track? Perhaps. Perhaps not entirely.
As project manager in the Albuquerque office of Tally Systems, a business software manufacturer, Christina Chamberlain's daily bread seems far removed from her 1989-90 Fulbright project. Chamberlain '89, who majored in German, spent a year in Germany studying the literature of Germans displaced by two world wars. She interviewed Czech-, Russian- and Polish-born Germans returned to their homeland, some after more than three decades of exile.
"Because Germany had expanded so much and been such a large influence in Europe, there are a lot of Germans in the Eastern European countries. When they return, they are no longer seen as Germans," she explains. "These are people who donít fit in, wherever they are."
She interviewed returning ťmigrťs and authors who wrote emotional pieces about never finding their homeland. For one author in particular, she recalls, writing such a book was "part of a healing and understanding process, one that also allowed for those people who didnít go through that to understand it as well. In German history, the homeland has always played a very strong role, emotionally, in all German lives, no matter where they were on the globe.
Chamberlain recently returned from three years with a software company in Dublin, serving German customers in technical support. "I was hired because of my language skills," she says, "which have aided me in learning computer languages as well. I knew I didnít want to work as a teacher, I knew I wanted my German to be part of whatever I did, but more as a skill.
"Take your pick," Chamberlain advises potential scholars. "Where do your interests lie? The Fulbright is a wonderful opportunity."
Frank Shelton í73 also began his Watson sojourn in Germany. "My proposal was an apprenticeship in Baroque-style organ building," he recalls. "I had been accepted by two organ builders to spend 18 months in Germany, working specifically with them. Iíd built a harpsichord, so I knew a little bit about building instruments."
In August 1973, Shelton set out for Bonn to work with Hans Gerd Klais of Johannes Klais. "Instead of the apprenticeship, they had me go out and help tune organs by sitting at the console holding keys." Klais once rolled down his Mercedes window and explained to the would-be apprentice that the best organ builders knew nothing about music. But Shelton says, "I had the opportunity, even just holding keys, to see some of the most famous instruments in Germany. For example, they bid on the restoration of a Hamburg organ built in 1725 by Arp Schnitger. It was in a little country church and hadnít been touched in centuries. I was able to play an organ of the type Bach would actually have played, and I was able to learn so much by doing it."
He had planned to stay with Klais until December, then go to Hamburg for a year. Halfway through, he decided he wanted more performance time. Broadly interpreting Watson rules forbidding formal studies, Shelton wrote to teachers in Germany and Italy, asking to study organ with them. "After my time with Klais, I spent a lot of time touring around and playing old instruments. Iíd gotten very good at getting access to them."
One foray took him into Italy. "It was cold and rainy and dreary and horrible in Venice, but when I got to Florence I woke up to this brilliant, beautiful, sunny, warm January day and decided to stay. Change of plans." Within 24 hours, he had arranged to study the organ, exchanging free services at the American church in Florence for practice time. He returned to Amsterdam, where he had a connection at the conservatory, to arrange further studies after Florence.
But after moving to Florence, the person he was supposed to study with decided he didnít want to after all. "I spent my time meeting other organists, studying Italian organ-building. At a concert, I met Umberto Pineschi, now one of the most famous Italian organists in the world. We toured the countryside together, playing many of the old organs around Pistoia."
Returning to Amsterdam, he took lessons for three months with the organist at the conservatory, then left for Portugal, where his lasting interest in Iberian and Italian music first began."I spoke no Portugese, but between Italian, German and English I managed to get by."
Following a fellowship in musicology at UCLA, Shelton returned to Colorado Springs as organist at Grace Episcopal Church, a post which has allowed him to continue his relationship with CC as college organist and instructor in music. As for his musical passions while a Watson scholar, "Iím still doing it," he says.
Wade Buchanan í83 spent three years in Magdalen College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. He enrolled as an undergraduate, studying one year in an interdisciplinary philosophy, politics and economics program. Discovering that he was ready for the graduate degree, Buchanan switched to a two-year course in international relations, earning a master of philosophy in international relations.
"Iíd spent a summer in Scotland when I was 15, and I expected the transition to be fairly easy. It was not," he says. "I wasnít prepared for how reserved British society was. It took more adjusting to the culture than I had expected. But thatís where some of the growth came from."
The academic culture at Oxford was a bit less alien. "The discipline of the Block Plan prepared me pretty well," he observes. "Both schools had a lot of the same feel. You certainly had no opportunity to fall behind at either.
"Six months ago I would have been telling you how Iíd spent my career working my way up in state government," Buchanan says wryly. "That would have been the story. But now the story is the transition."
For the last 12 years, he worked for Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, first in his policy office and later in his cabinet, running the state Department of Natural Resources. It was a natural place to land, given a degree in international politics. "When I started, I said Iíd do it for a couple of years, while I figured out what I really want to do. Twelve years later, I was still there," he mused. "When Romer left office, as a political appointee, I had to go, too. Since then I have been preparing to set up a business to consult and write. Iíve yet to make a cent at it, but Iíve painted every room in my house. Iím decompressing."
The neophyte political consultant is looking for public clients -- government agencies, counties and cities. "Iím really learning as Iím going," he concedes. "Iím not altogether clear what Iím doing. But Iím following my gut that this is something I want to try."
The post-Fulbright life of Chloe Rutter-Jensen í93 is more like her scholarship adventures. Enrolled in the graduate program in literature and cultural studies in the University of California at San Diego, she is working on a dissertation on women writers of Latin America. During her 1994 Fulbright year, she studied literature in Colombia, mainly at Bogotaís Universidad Javeriana, where she met with regional women writers and did extended classroom work with tertulias, a kind of literary roundtable and colloquium. "The Fulbright is still involved fundamentally in what I do," she says.
"There arenít a lot of Latin American women who are published, at least in Colombia, so it was quite a difficult project. They tend to publish small editions of short stories and few have made the best seller list or a course list."
She says violence, domestic violence and the international drug war form the background of Colombian literature today. "Colombia is one of the most violent countries in the world that is not in a declared civil war. The way women writers talk about kidnapping, or living through massacres, or living though torture and rape, is very different from the way men portray it. Women donít create heroes in their texts in the way traditional narratives do. Iím working on narratives that happen to be by women or homosexuals or those who are outside what the state deems acceptable. I study in any text how women are represented in general."
Her scholarship work in Colombia also expanded her sensibilities toward immediate inequities around her. Last year, she was a union organizer for graduate assistants in the University of California system when all eight campuses went on strike. "The injustices of work and having no contract are probably related to having been exposed to much worse conditions [in Colombia] than even bad conditions here," she observes. "If my scholarly work will allow me advocacy for things I believe in, that would be great."
A scholarship year by no means determines a scholarís fortunes. It is more like a great gift, "having time to live a dream, maybe watch it fall apart," remarks Frank Shelton. "It has been the most formative experience in my life," he maintains. "There were times when I asked, Why am I doing this? But I always come back, and keep on looking at it. Thereís so much that I still draw from it, a quarter of a century later."Back to Index