CSULB Grad Student Receives Fulbright Award to Conduct Research in Germany

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csulb-mba Fukbrite awaed Roma HernandezA master’s degree student studying German at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) has been selected for a U.S. Student Fulbright Award that will have her conducting research in Germany during the 2010-11 academic year.

Roma Claudia Hernández will conduct research on human interaction, perception and self-perception for her project, titled, The Phenomenology of the Self and the Other in the Works of Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein, at Germany’s University of Cologne, which houses the Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein Archives.

The Fulbright always stood out for me as one of the most difficult and rewarding programs available, so I applied for it, hoping that it would allow me to pursue education through research issues in phenomenology at the University of Cologne in Germany. Hernández said. After opening the large, manila envelope she received in the mail, I couldn’t breathe.  I was in utter shock and awe. I simultaneously felt honored and humbled, as I had been chosen from a pool of extremely well qualified of applicants.

Hernández, who will conduct her research with Professor Dieter Lohmar, will leave for her Fulbright study abroad year in July to attend a couple of summer programs that will complement her research over the next academic year.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program gives recent graduates, postgraduate candidates and developing professionals and artists opportunities for personal enrichment and international experience.  Approximately, 1,500 scholarships are awarded through the program each year.

The purposes of the program are three-fold: to promote mutual understanding through a commitment to the free flow of people and ideas across national boundaries; to expand the dimensions of human wisdom, empathy and perception; and to create true and lasting world peace through cooperation in constructive activities between different nations.

In explaining her project to the selection committee, Hernández noted that in pop-culture, everyone seems to be obsessed with the body, and although people are cautioned to never judge a book by its cover, it is difficult not to do so in a world that places such a heavy emphasis on the body. Moreover, she said, our consciousness about our own bodies is influenced by our awareness of other people’s bodies.  But how are people conscious of their bodies?

Investigating the nature of consciousness, German philosopher Husserl developed an account of the structure of human consciousness, while his student, Stein, explored interaction between human consciousnesses. While Husserl was interested in the nature of human consciousness per se, his student, Edith Stein, was interested in how two or more conscious humans relate to one another, Hernández explained. Empathy, Stein argued, enables us to see ourselves in others; it enables us to perceive others as just as we are.

It is only fitting that I turn to Stein to complement Husserl in my research, she added.  My research takes up their investigations and asks: how is my consciousness of my own body influenced by my consciousness of other bodies? In answer, I coalesce Husserl’s notion of consciousness and Stein’s notion of the phenomenology of the other, researching areas of human consciousness that lie at the intersection of the study of consciousness, the body and human interaction.

Hernández seeks to update Husserl and Stein’s investigations in consciousness studies over the course of the academic year through her research on phenomenology, a discipline of philosophy founded by Husserl that focuses on the study of consciousness.  Although there are more than 80 organizations dedicated to the discipline, the University of Cologne is the only place in the world that holds 500 of Husserl’s unpublished manuscripts, notes bundles and lectures. Additionally, the Cologne Carmelite Convent houses the only Edith Stein Archive in the world.

I anticipate that digging into the Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein Archives will shed light on the issues of human interaction, perception and self-perception, Roma Claudia Hernández pointed out. I know that the Philosophy Department at University of Cologne is on the cutting edge of research in these areas, but I also hear that the city itself is inhabited by incredibly open-minded and diverse people this sounds like a great place for me to ponder issues in human interaction, and the way in which people perceive others and themselves.

My hopes for the Fulbright experience are then twofold, she continued. I hope to successfully complete my research project so I can contribute to my discipline, and I hope to positively interact with those people I meet in Cologne, both at the university and in the local community in which I will live.

As the flagship international education program sponsored by the U.S. government, the Fulbright program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. With this goal, the program has provided more than 300,000 participants chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential with the opportunity to study and teach in others countries, to exchange ideas and to develop joint solutions to shared concerns.

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