Joan Petit ('06) receives Fulbright Award to teach and research in Ethiopia

June 1, 2016

Joan Petit (MSLS '06), alumna of the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program grant to Ethiopia for the 2016-2017 academic year. She and her family will leave for Ethiopia on September 1 and stay for 10 months, through June 2017.

Petit, an Associate Professor and Librarian at Portland State University, will be based in the Information Science Department at Jimma University, where she will teach and research.

“Jimma University is an ideal host for my project,” Petit said. “Their information sciences program is one of the few in Ethiopia that offers library and information science education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The university is well-established and offers a range of programs serving a large number of students.”

Petit will teach information science classes, train staff, and work with the Jimma University Library, as well as conduct a research project focusing on open educational resources in Ethiopia. Open educational resources (OER) are course materials authored by faculty and made available online for free for use and adaptation by instructors at other institutions. However, in less economically developed countries, infrastructure limitations can be a barrier to the adaptation and use of OER.

“The city of Jimma is several hours away from the Ethiopian capital and lacks the internet and power infrastructure that follows expats, tourists, and NGOs,” Petit said. “If OER can work well at Jimma, it suggests OER may be a reasonable option for higher education elsewhere in Ethiopia, East Africa, and beyond.”

Petit holds an MSLS and B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as an M.A. in English from Western Carolina University. She previously lived abroad for two years when she worked as a librarian at the American University in Cairo.

Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges.

“It’s an incredible honor to be chosen as a Fulbright Scholar,” Petit said.

She is one of more than 1,200 U.S. citizens, including SILS Assistant Professor Mary Grace Flaherty, who will teach, conduct research, and provide expertise abroad for the 2016-2017 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.