Dr. Felicia Cavallini, a Professor of Physical Education at Limestone College, has been selected for a Fulbright Scholar Grant, which will provide her a research and teaching position for a semester in Canada.
Dr. Cavallini was informed of her selection by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board on March 25. As a Fulbright grantee, Dr. Cavallini will join the ranks of distinguished participants in the program. Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, university presidents, journalists, artists, and more. A total of 43 Fulbright Award winners have won Nobel Prizes. The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then-Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Roughly 1,600 U.S. students, 4,000 foreign students, 1,200 U.S. scholars, and 900 visiting scholars receive awards, in addition to several hundred teachers and professionals. Approximately 310,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the Program since its inception in 1946.
"The Fulbright application process began on August 1st after spending many, many months selecting the right country, structuring my curriculum vitae, obtaining 3 letters of reference, organizing a bibliography list and carefully crafting a project statement,” Cavallini noted. “The project statement is very critical because that is where a compelling case is made to the Fulbright reviewers. Ten days before receiving the news, my mother passed away. We were enormously close and had a special mother-daughter bond. She was the most influential person in my life and was the center of my family's world. She was a successful bilingual education teacher in elementary education for over 20 years in San Antonio, Texas. I am dedicating my Fulbright to her. She knew I was in play to possibly win a Fulbright award and I feel strongly she knows.”
Once candidates turn in their materials, a rigorous first round of peer reviews commence by professors in the same discipline followed by a second round of evaluations from former Fulbright winners representing various disciplines. Then those who are approved have their applications forwarded for review by a committee from the host country they wish to visit. Only the very top percent of applicants who initially applied survive to be considered for one of the few grants available in the requested country.
“I received word back in November that my application had been turned over to Canadian Committee,” Dr. Cavallini explained. “I didn’t expect to hear anything for a while, but by the end of February, I began to get anxious. February rolled into March, and then it was on to Spring Break. At the time I thought that even if I didn’t get selected, I should still be proud to have made it this far. I was in my office when I opened that email on March 25th, and the first person I told was (Assistant Professor of Physical Education) Rhonda Fleming who walked into my office as my mouth was hanging open. Then I called my husband to tell him the good news.
“This was my first shot at a Fulbright, and I’m honored to be selected,” she continued. “I knew it was a very involved, competitive process. As a Fulbright recipient, I’m looking forward to becoming a teaching and research ambassador to Canada, but am hoping the experience will benefit Limestone College, Gaffney, Cherokee County, South Carolina, and this region.”
Dr. Cavallini originally applied to teach and do research at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, but instead she was awarded a grant to be the Chair in Food Security at the University of Guelph, which is about one hour outside of Toronto in Ontario, Canada
She said her course in Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity is ideally suited to Human Kinetic and Pre-Education majors that incorporate service learning principles within the curriculum to serve the community at large through her research undertaking. Service learning provides a practical method to link theory presented in class to the “real world” with her students taking ownership of this class through theory into practice projects involved in the course, Dr. Cavallini explained. Converging the two most important factors influencing overall health, the class dissects the critical health risk factors in a behavioral modification and intervention strategy approach. Students are coached to address these issues and provide information on effective strategies for adopting and maintaining these targets to improve health, well-being and quality of life. Moreover, this curriculum is designed to provide a foundation of nutritional knowledge as well as develop a pattern of healthy eating that is sustainable. The heart of the class centers around assisting students in moving through the journey of adopting and maintaining more healthful eating and activity behaviors while incorporating applied experiences that involve useful opportunities to work directly with the community.
“I am looking forward to the challenge of adapting my course to the University of Guelph,” Dr. Cavallini said. “My specialty areas are obesity concerns, physical activity levels among all populations, health prevention strategies and interventions and wellness lifestyle habits including nutritional needs. I understand that the Fulbright Board in Washington DC likes adaptability, and I feel confident I can do that with this course and my research.”
Dr. Cavallini said she selected Canada because the current obesity rates exceed 30 percent for children and youth in the Canadian Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and the health concerns in South Carolina are similar.
If all goes as planned, Dr. Cavallini, who has applied for a sabbatical from Limestone, will prepare for her journey over the summer and spend September through December in Canada.
While she didn’t apply for the honor, Dr. Cavallini said she was “thrilled” to find out she had been named to the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Health and Food Safety Program, and those selected are viewed as among the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program. Candidates should be eminent scholars and have a significant publication and teaching record.
A 1984 graduate of Rice University, Dr. Cavallini received a B.A. in Education and Kinesiology with a concentration in Coaching/Teaching from the Department of Human Performance and Health Sciences while earning academic honors. A dual sport athlete at Rice, she played both volleyball and basketball. While earning a M.A. from the University of Texas at San Antonio in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Cavallini was an assistant coach of the women’s basketball team at UTSA. In the seven years to follow, she coached women’s basketball at Siena College, Providence College, University of Southern Indiana and Colgate University. In addition, she taught and coached in secondary education in the state of Texas.
Pursuing a doctoral degree, Dr. Cavallini served on the faculty of Kinesiology at Rice University for seven years while also serving as a resident associate with students. While on faculty at Rice, Dr. Cavallini directed the University Wellness Program. She was honored numerous times as a “Distinguished Faculty Member” at Rice and was voted by students as the faculty member who made a significant impact in the Rice community.
Limestone can also boast of a former Fulbright Award winner in Alex Richardson, an English Professor and the Chair of the English Department. With the support of a Fulbright Scholar grant, Richardson taught two classes on American Culture while in Portugal at the University of Madeira from March to the end of May 2009.