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Patriot Spotlight: UT Tyler Professor Pens Book on Experience as Fulbright Scholar

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November 4, 2016

Media Contact:  Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at Tyler
903.565.5769 or 903.539.7196 (cell)

Sterken book front cover

UT Tyler political science professor Dr. Robert Sterken's newly-released book, "Teaching Barefoot in Burma," depicts his time and experiences in Southeast Asia as a 2016 Senior Fulbright Scholar.

Created in 1946, the Fulbright Program is a prestigious international exchange initiative that awards grants to American scholars each year to teach or conduct research in the more than 125 participatory nations throughout the world. Scholars are selected based on their leadership and academic merits and their abilities to teach, conduct research and contribute to solutions for shared international concerns.

Sterken spent his year-long appointment at Yangon University in Myanmar, teaching students there and researching religion and politics. "Teaching Barefoot" not only shares his lessons and joys but also his own struggles and the greater suffering of the people of Myanmar.

"Many people have asked me, 'How did living in Burma change you?' This book attempts to answer that seemingly simple question. This story is about what it was like to be a Fulbright Scholar in a distant and unfamiliar land," said Sterken. "I share my observations about Myanmar, my struggles with culture shock, and reverse culture shock; struggles with being in foreign land for so long and trials in teaching, research and the many joys.

"In this book, I share the lessons learned from the Myanmar people, monks, nuns, faculty I taught with, hundreds of students – in living in a developing land – and stories of courageous students who faced death and prison for basic human rights," he added.

While there, he also interviewed former political prisoners, many other scholars, United States State Department officials, Buddhist monks, ambassadors from all over the world, many Southeast Asian academics and thousands of Myanmar and Thai college students. Sterken also met and gave a presentation to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and the military cadets from the Thailand Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy.

Serving UT Tyler since 2000, Sterken has more than five years of direct legislative experience, which inform his teaching of power and politics. His work in the international arena has afforded him many opportunities to travel, teach and study around the world.

He previously served as the UT Tyler associate provost for international programs and as the university's special assistant to the President for legislative and external affairs.

In addition, Sterken was instrumental in forming UT Tyler's Quality Enhancement Plan during its successful Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation reaffirmation in 2010, which led to the creation of the UT Tyler Global Awareness Through Education Program.

Sterken's areas of specialization include international law, Asian politics and international relations. His research interests are focused on religion and politics.

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