Teaching and listening: UW-Whitewater professor wins Fulbright Scholar award

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, July 19, 2014

WHITEWATER—For many Americans, foreign affairs has been reduced to a word association game.

Columbia is associated with drug cartels.

Mexico and Central America bring the phrase “immigration policy” to mind.

Sudan: starvation.

Greece: economic collapse.

Anywhere in the Middle East: war.

But reality is more textured than nightly-news clichés, and that's what makes Jim Winship's work so engaging.

Winship, a UW-Whitewater social work professor, recently won a Fulbright Scholar teaching and research award that will take him to Cartagena, Columbia, in 2015. His work also will be supported by a UW-Whitewater faculty sabbatical/chancellor fellowship.

This is Winship's second Fulbright award, according to a news release from UW-Whitewater. His first, in 2005, was in El Salvador, where he had spent time with the Peace Corp in the 1970s.  

In the past decade, he has returned to El Salvador more than a dozen times and studied issues related to youth and migration, the news release said.

He'll address some of those issues in a talk he's giving about his recently published book, “Coming of Age in El Salvador,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 29, at the Irvin L. Young Memorial Library, 431 W. Center St., Whitewater.

His knowledge provides more scope and understanding to another, ongoing news story: the flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the border.

In Columbia, Winship will be teaching undergraduate courses at Universidad de Columbia and is working to bring more academic resources to students there.

He'll also be talking to young people in what he describes as “marginalized” areas.

Many of the young people who live in such areas moved to the city with their families to escape the violence and gangs elsewhere in the country.

What will Winship ask these young people?

“I'll be talking to them about how they will find their place in the world, how they see themselves making a life,” Winship said.

Why do those voices matter?

Those young people are part of a global youth culture that's worth understanding, Winship said.

It also helps others understand the country with more depth.

In both Columbia and El Salvador there are now more opportunities for young people.

“In El Salvador, the range of possibilities is greater,” Winship, said. “The are young people who are making a good life, an interesting life.”

In the past, “if you were born poor, you would pretty much have a sense of what your life would be like,” Winship said.

Those voices are even more important at a time when unaccompanied minors from Mexico and Central America are crossing the U.S. border in unprecedented numbers.

“There's much we could do to dissuade young people from leaving their countries,” Winship said.

It's not that immigrant families want to become rich in the United States, they simply want to give their children more possibilities, more hope.

Efforts are being made in that direction, but Winship thinks much more could be done.

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