Afshar, Hess Share Expertise Overseas

One of the images Ingrid Hess created to open discussions of diversity and immigration during her recent Fulbright stint in Ireland.
One of the images created by Ingrid Hess to facilitate discussion and understanding of diversity and immigration during her recent Fulbright stint in Ireland.

By David Perry

Two members of the university’s Art & Design faculty have landed prestigious Fulbright Scholar awards.

Assistant professors Ingrid Hess and Pouya Afshar, both four-year veterans of the UML faculty, have earned 2018 honors from the Fulbright Scholar Program, the cultural exchange program designed to improve intercultural and diplomatic relations across the globe.

Hess, who teaches graphic design, served a two-week Fulbright “specialist” stint in Ireland, beginning in late June. A specialist scholar serves for three years and completes as many as two shorter assignments teaching abroad.

Afshar, an animator and visual artist, will head to Yasar University in Izmir, Turkey, in September to teach for a semester. While in Turkey, he also plans to conduct research and prepare for an art show he has in Paris in December.

Both professors are immigrants to the U.S.: Hess was born in Costa Rica, Afshar in Iran.

Ellen Wetmore, the Art & Design Department’s chair, says “international faculty offer so many points of view from their life experiences.”

In addition to what the Fulbright awards offer faculty, they also “open up new avenues for our students to link up with other communities in teacher-guided trips and overseas collaboration,” Wetmore says. “We knew Pouya and Ingrid were excellent when we hired them. They make great work, and we look forward to seeing their ideas develop in the long term.”

Wetmore says Afshar’s and Hess’s “perspectives of education and humor, childhood experiences and multiculturalism enrich everything we offer here.”

“I teach design,” says Hess, “but my passions have always included social justice issues – literacy, immigration, fair trade.”

A piece from "The Charm of the Unfamiliar/Compliancy of the Displaced," a work in progress by Pouya Afshar.
An image from "The Charm of the Unfamiliar/Compliancy opf the Displaced," a work in progress by Pouya Afshar.
In addition to teaching, Hess is an award-winning children’s book author, and the themes that run through her work include peace, economic justice and diversity. Her books include “Sleep in Peace” and “Doodling Dragons.”

Hess spent two weeks at the University of Limerick and Mary Immaculate College in Ireland, using design to help teachers incorporate lessons on emigration and diversity into their lessons.

 The short timeline works well for her, she says: “Doing this in the summertime is perfect.”

Afshar – who teaches 2-D and 3-D animation, character and layout design, composition and motion graphics and storyboarding at UMass Lowell – will teach general animation classes in Turkey.

Established in 1946 and sponsored by Sen. J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright Scholar Program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. About 8,000 grants are awarded each year to representatives from 160 countries. More than 360,000 people have participated in the program since its inception.

In her first year at UML, Hess attended a lecture on grants, scholarships and other opportunities, and one of the people on the panel was a Fulbright specialist.

“It seemed like something I’d be interested in, so I kept it in mind,” she says.

Afshar says he learned about the Fulbright when he was an undergraduate student at California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita, Calif., and a professor and mentor took on a Fulbright assignment in Turkey. 

“He passed away a couple of years ago, and I had always wanted to do this,” says Afshar. “A voice in my head finally said, ‘Try it.’”

He plans to “teach a few classes, do some research on the side,” and absorb what Turkey offers. It is a familiar place, he says.

“I am from Iran, and the place I’m going in Turkey is where we would go on vacation when I was young.”