Fulbright Scholar Tracy Davis hopes to build “bridge” between Lehigh and Norway

Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - 6:45pm

Every year, U.S. News and World Report ranks countries in terms of civic engagement and every year Norway ranks at or near the top.

Tracy Davis, a graduate student at Lehigh’s College of Education, wanted to know what drives that sense of citizenship. And this year, she’ll get the chance to find out in person.

Davis has been named one of this year’s Roving Fulbright Scholars. Founded in 1949, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s premiere international educational exchange, designed to increase understanding between Americans and their counterparts in other countries through the exchange of people, knowledge and skills.

“It’s a really amazing opportunity they afford United States educators,” says Davis, a native of East Stroudsburg, PA. 

Being a Roving Scholar, Davis says, is “exactly what it sounds like. They base you in Oslo but then I will travel to schools all throughout the country over the course of 10 months. And that will allow me to see an entire country’s schooling system.”

She’ll be working with secondary students - ages 14 to 16 - and examining Norway’s civic education and civic engagement.

“I want to ask ‘How do they view their rights and responsibilities? What does it mean? How do teachers teach it?’ I’m really curious to learn more about how that all works together.”

Davis, who will defend her doctorate in educational leadership this summer, says she’d like to eventually create a video link between her students and students in the Lehigh Valley to allow them to discuss their thoughts. 

Putting the two classrooms in touch with each other will be an “amazing opportunity,” Davis says, “to bridge where I’ve been and where I will be.”

When Davis says “where I’ve been,” she’s speaking about her roots as a teacher, both in Florida and locally -- at the Allentown School District and Allentown’s Literacy Center. 

But Norway is quite literally in her blood. When Davis traced her ancestry, she found that she’s about 20 percent Norwegian.

Her journey to Norway happened almost by accident. Davis had been supervising a group of students attending the college’s scholarship presentation. During the session, she reviewed the Fulbright Scholarship page and found the Norwegian opportunity.

“Fulbright seeks candidates who are clearly aligned with the application criteria,” says Dr. Bill Hunter, Lehigh’s Director of Fellowship Advising and UN Program.

“The more we came to know Tracy, the clearer it became that she was a perfect match to all the criteria, even to her Norwegian heritage. Rarely does that happen. She also had an extensive and diverse academic background, including teaching in a number of different environments and settings. Tracy is also a very strong writer, which made the essays come together very well.”

Once Davis became a finalist, a team of faculty members and staff grilled her in mock interviews in preparation for her Fulbright interview.

“We want the toughest interview she faces to be here,” Hunter said. “She got unanimous approval from our screening committee and we are delighted she won the award.”

Davis, in turn, is grateful to Hunter, to her advisor Dr. Craig Hochbein, her mentor Dr. Christina Lutz-Doemling, and to everyone at Lehigh who has helped her along this journey.

She is the first person from Lehigh to apply for a Fulbright in this category and part of a proud tradition of Lehigh students joining the program, with the school achieving a 50 percent placement rate. Hunter said 14 of the 15 Lehigh faculty members who applied for Fulbrights have also been successful, including several from the College of Education.