Mills Named Fulbright Scholar
Bronwyn Mills (English) has received a Fulbright Scholarship to do research in the Republic of Benin, which is located adjacent to Nigeria in Western Africa. About 800 scholars nationwide are awarded grants each year to lecture, consult or conduct research abroad. Mills was one of only 19 Michigan recipients. She was notified of the Fulbright opportunity at about the same time she was hired by NMU.
“I didn’t want to give up on NMU and I didn’t want to give up the scholarship,” said Mills, who postponed her research trip until January. “The only thing I regret is that I couldn’t have put in a whole year at NMU before I left. Because I’m quite busy teaching and getting ready to go to Africa, I’m not as active in university life as I’d like to be. I’m sorry about that, but I’ll be back!
“I feel very grateful to receive the award. In particular, I feel very privileged to go to Africa. I think that’s one of the richest places, culturally, that I could visit. And occasionally I think, ‘Why are all these good things happening at the same time?’”
Mills plans to investigate the relationship between the way people think about their physical environment and how that is reflected in creative writing.
“I wanted to do more on the African part because I teach Caribbean literature, which is an African-based culture in many ways. I specifically wrote the grant to go to Benin because historically, and because of the slave trade, there was an interchange in Benin between the Caribbean, part of the U.S. and Brazil in terms of customs, religion and cultural practices."
During her time abroad, Mills said she will study ideas and concepts, textiles and the way ancient cities are planned. She will specifically look at Abomey, an ancient capital city that is gradually being restored. In addition to her studies, she will teach a course in her field. “I’d like to get the African take on my subject matter because there’s so much influence," she said. "It would be interesting to hear and welcome that perspective.”
Mills will write a book based on her research in Africa. “To me, textbooks don’t give you enough; they summarize so you just get an overview. I’m looking in depth at a very specific subject. As scholars, we don’t only teach. We’re supposed to contribute to some kind of knowledge, explore and add to the knowledge that’s out there. I’m not so vain to think I’m going to make a huge difference, but I’ll be happy if it adds a little to our understanding.”
Mills spent four years teaching in Istanbul, Turkey, before coming to Northern. She plans to set up more permanent stakes when she returns to the United States in late July or August. “I’ve travelled so much in the last several years: all over Latin America, living in Turkey, traveling around Europe and now Africa. After this, I’m coming back. I’m not moving.”