The summer month-long program, Jews and Muslims, is offered through the UC Berkeley Center for Middle Eastern Studies, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education, and is dedicated to the study of the ethnic, cultural and religious complexity of Morocco through study of darija (the local Arabic dialect) and Moroccan Jewish civilization with renowned specialists Professor Emily Gottreich (UC Berkeley) and Professor Aomar Boum (UCLA).
This is Sussman’s third Fulbright-Hays Award. She previously participated in programs in Mexico and China.
In addition to extensive pre-departure and post-return programming, program participants will learn techniques for recording and analyzing information systematically, based on ethnographic research techniques used by anthropologists and other qualitative researchers, in order to develop concrete lesson plans.
In Morocco, Sussman and fellow program participants will live and study in a riad (traditional Moroccan house with interior garden) within the madina, a walled city and UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the heart of Marrakech in the 11th century CE (Common Era).
Day trips and excursions will introduce participants to aspects of life and history in and around Marrakech. Two longer trips, the first to visit the rural Arab and Berber Jewish communities of the Atlas Mountains, and the second to the historical Sephardic settlement at Atlantic fishing village of Essaouira, are also on the itinerary.
Applying for a Fulbright-Hays is rigorous and time-consuming. Sussman was required to provide several essays, including describing her strengths as a teacher, a lesson/project that she might implement based on her study abroad experience, and how she will share the experience with colleagues at O’Dowd and beyond. She also had to provide letters of recommendation and a detailed curriculum vitae. The project directors selected 30 teachers based on their applications, interviewed those teachers, and then chose the 15 award recipients.
Sussman’s fluency in French was attractive to directors, as many people in Morocco speak that language. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to use my French language skills,” she said.
As Sussman conducted research in preparation for her essay writing, she ran across the book Among the Righteous, by Robert Satloff, about the Holocaust’s long reach into the Arab world and how some Jews were sheltered by people in Morocco. This, too, is material she will incorporate into her Holocaust course curriculum. “Bringing another dimension into the Holocaust is always interesting,” she said.
Principal JD Childs is excited that O’Dowd students will be the active beneficiaries of Sussman’s deepened and more expansive world view.
“The Fulbright Award facilitates a learning experience for a teacher that promotes understanding of the complexity and riches of a topic in a deeper way than can be gleaned through books,” he said.
“At the heart of a school is a community of learners,” Childs added. “Bonnie pursued this opportunity, just as she has several other times, because she loves to learn and loves to share that passion with her students.”
Whether she is reading, traveling, or meeting people from different cultures, Sussman simply loves learning and tries to impart that love to students. “It’s rejuvenating,” she said.
And, participating in educational trips has provided Sussman some unforgettable memories. “When I was in Mexico in 1996 on a Fulbright I sat next to then Governor of Guanajuato Vicente Fox (who subsequently served as President of Mexico from 2000-2006) and we talked for three hours,” she said.
Sussman hopes to encourage her colleagues to seek out similar opportunities, and not be discouraged if they aren’t initially selected for a program. “I applied for Fulbright Awards twice before I was accepted,” she said. “Each time you apply, you get better at it.”
Childs says he plans to invite Sussman to share her expertise with her fellow faculty members regarding applying for and pursuing Fulbright Awards.