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Nursing’s Dr. Carla Fry walks on “hallowed grounds” with towering achievement of a Fulbright Scholarship

Dr. Carla Fry, Undergraduate Director of the Nathan M. Bisk Center for Online Learning and Director for the Keigwin School of Nursing’s RN-BSN Program at Jacksonville University, has been awarded a prestigious 2017-18 Fulbright Scholarship to teach and conduct research at the University of Belize.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the State Department. Dr. Fry is in heady company: she joins the ranks of esteemed participants who have become heads of state, ambassadors, CEOs and university presidents, and include 58 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners and 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.

Dr. Carla Fry, Fulbright Scholar, Keigwin School of Nursing

“To me, a Fulbright Scholarship represents hallowed grounds, and my head is still spinning with excitement, questions and ideas,” said Dr. Fry, an Assistant Professor of Nursing in the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences. “As a first-generation college graduate, military veteran and mom, I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on where I started, where I am today, and what my legacy should be. I hope to make my biological family and my JU family proud. I would not be receiving this honor without their love, support and mentorship.”

Dr. Fry departs for Belize in late 2017 and will return the following May. She said her 14-year-old daughter will attend school in Belize for the semester. They plan to travel to the Central American nation on their 36-foot sailboat with Dr. Fry’s partner, Curt.

The Fulbright Program is a highly competitive merit-based award with a rigorous application and selection process, and since its inception in 1946, it has provided more than 370,000 participants the chance “to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns,” according to the State Department’s Fulbright website.

“We are so very proud of Dr. Fry’s achievement, which represents our continued support for academic excellence in our college,” said Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences Dean Dr. Christine Sapienza. “Dr. Fry’s research is critical to today’s global healthcare issues, and we respect her immensely for her Fulbright Scholarship accomplishment.”

Dr. Fry joins a distinguished group of seven other known current and former JU faculty members who have earned Fulbright awards: Prof. Harry Teitelbaum, Education, College of Arts and Sciences, 1970; Prof. Cheryl Sowder, Art, College of Fine Arts, 1983; Prof. John Sullivan, Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences, 1987; Prof. Sharon Scholl, Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, 1988; Prof. Ray Clines, English, College of Arts and Sciences, 1991; Prof. John Garrigus, Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, 1998; and Prof. Wenying Xu, English, College of Arts and Sciences, 2002. Former JU President Dr. Franklyn A. Johnson, who died in 2013, was also a Fulbright Scholar.

Provost Dr. Donnie Horner called Dr. Fry’s scholarship an “extraordinary honor for an extraordinary scholar.”

“Dr. Fry represents the very best of our faculty: a great teacher with a compelling research agenda, well published, completely immersed in the University and local community, and an amicable, engaging colleague,” he said. “This prestigious recognition will have a profound effect on Dr. Fry’s research and career, and speaks exceptionally well to the quality of our faculty.”

As part of her application, Dr. Fry plans to teach nursing courses, assist with curricular design, and conduct research on health disparities and vaccine uptake consistent with her doctoral dissertation focus. In fact, it was in the Yucatan studying vaccines in 2010 that she first learned of the Fulbright award from revered Nurse Anthropologist Dr. Charlene Simpson who mentored her, and she vowed from that point on to make a difference after her schooling.

“Obtaining a Fulbright has been a dream of mine ever since,” she said.

One of Dr. Fry’s passions is in increasing affordable, accessible education, and she said she looks forward to helping influence population health trends with her work at the University of Belize, which offers an undergraduate nursing degree focusing on public health.

With a background in studying U.S. levels of trust in healthcare providers, overall fears and knowledge deficits as related to vaccines, Dr. Fry plans to spend the research component of her scholarship trip looking into vaccine attitudes, beliefs and practices in Belize. She said she’d like to perhaps examine the similarities and differences in the challenges to vaccine uptake between Belize and the U.S.

“I hope I can use my time and talents to assist faculty at the University of Belize with whatever they need, and if we can create a lasting and meaningful relationship with Study Abroad opportunities between UB and JU, that would be terrific,” Dr. Fry said.

Sen. J. William Fulbright was a prominent American statesman, and with support of the U.S. government and through partnerships with foreign governments, the Fulbright Scholarship Program has sponsored U.S. and foreign participants for exchanges in all areas of endeavor, including the sciences, business, academics, public service, government and the arts.

Dr. Fry said she could best sum up her rationale for pursuing a Fulbright scholarship with a quote from the senator himself: “The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.”