Neag Associate Professor of Adult Learning Robin S. Grenier took not just her expertise and enthusiasm to Iceland, but her husband and young daughter.
The three moved to Reykjavik, Iceland, for a semester as part of her receiving a Fulbright Award to teach and conduct research at the newly established Museums Studies Program at the University of Iceland. Run by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, the Fulbright program awards U.S. scholars with opportunities to lecture, teach and research with peers in 140 countries.
“We’ve been delighted to have Dr. Grenier with us as a Fulbright scholar, helping to build capacity in the Museum Studies program,” said Belinda Theriault, executive director of the Fulbright Commission in Iceland. “Students on both sides of the Atlantic reap the benefits of scholar exchanges when professors bring back new ideas, perspectives and teaching methods, collaborate on course offerings, and use their own experience to encourage students for valuable international exposure.”
Grenier taught two courses at the University of Iceland from January to May: Museums and Communities and Professional Conduct in Museums.
“I found the teaching to be both challenging and rewarding,” said Grenier. “I appreciated the challenge of designing the two courses and the chance to integrate the theories of adult learning and community development into my teaching.”
The most challenging part of the experience, however, was learning how to best interact with her students. Half of them came to class, while the other half received her lessons virtually. There were also cultural and language differences.
“The time in the classroom has definitely helped me to reevaluate how I engage students, particularly those from other countries, as well as how I engage with distance learning students,” Grenier said.
Grenier also conducted qualitative research on how Icelandic museums support and facilitate adult visitors’ learning. Additionally, she and Sigurjón Hafsteinsson, assistant professor in Folkloristics/Ethnology and Museum Studies at the University of Iceland, conducted a study designed to understand students’ learning experiences in a service-learning course to Djúpivogur, a southeastern coastal town hoping to expand and improve its cultural experiences and tourism.
“Dr. Grenier’s teaching skills and experience have introduced us to alternative ways in conducting our classes, which we will incorporate and explore further,” Hafsteinsson said. “She has strengthened the international profile of the program tremendously and opened up for our students and faculty a gateway to the thriving and rapidly growing field of museum studies in the U.S.”
To keep colleagues, friends and family updated on their travels, Grenier, her husband and their 11-year-old daughter created “The Grenier Family’s Iceland Experience” blog, describing their adventures exploring the country. These have included everything from a brewery tour, a horse riding day and collecting candies and rocks to museum visits, street art photography and enjoying both Icelandic cuisines and road trips with students.
At the end of May, the family will travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, where Grenier will present a paper titled “Hell and Heaven in the Land of Fire and Ice: An autoethnographic exploration of one professor’s experience as Fulbright Scholar” at the 15th Annual International Conference of Human Resource Development Research and Practice across Europe.
“Whenever our scholars can learn about their craft from the perspective of other countries and cultures, it undoubtedly benefits our own programming back home,” said Neag School Department Head and Professor in Educational Leadership Casey Cobb . “Experiences abroad like this will directly influence the way our faculty teach and our students learn.”
Grenier hopes to make an impact in others ways, as well. Noticing a level of volunteerism far below what’s seen in the U.S., Grenier plans to go back to Iceland next summer to conduct a study on ways to develop a culture of volunteerism, focusing on recruiting and training volunteers for Iceland’s museums.
“A lot of my colleagues in Iceland have encouraged me to study this phenomenon,” said Grenier. “Through conversations with them and my own observations, I have broadened my aspirations for new research, and this study will be a natural extension of that, as volunteerism is a form of lifelong learning for adults.”