Eric Fretz had waited nine months to hear back from the Fulbright Scholar Program.
So when the email rolled across his computer Thursday, the professor of peace and justice studies at Regis University paused, stood up and took it into Dean of Regis College Tom Bowie’s office.
“I made him read it” Fretz said. “I wanted to make sure I was interpreting it correctly.”
The email was correct. Fretz was named a Fulbright Scholar in Romania, where he’ll teach three classes in the American Studies Department. He’s the ninth Fulbright Scholar from Regis University.
His course work will focus on how violence and non-violence shows up in American literature, and how the authors dealt with it. Some of the anticipated course work will look at Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” Mark Twain’s “Huck Finn” and Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” among others.
Part of the reason he was selected, Fretz said, was he will be teaching in Timisoara, Romania, where communist Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown in 1989.
“These are themes they are still struggling with,” he said. “We will be able to connect those American narratives with the Romanian narratives.”
The process began last summer when Fretz decided to apply in hopes of incorporating a teaching post during a planned sabbatical. He cold emailed several contacts and struck up a good relationship with the University of the West. He leaned on Biology Department Chair Cath Kleier, who had been a Fulbright Scholar previously, for advice and a recommendation letter. He also received a recommendation from Bowie and the University of the West.
“Picture a professor who in every best sense of the word actually loves and cherishes his students, a professor who unselfishly gives his very best to them every day, and one who mentors them with just the right balance of challenge and support to help them become the very best people they can be,” Bowie wrote in his letter. “Once you’ve done so, you have the perfect picture of Eric Fretz as a teacher.”
In August, Fretz will leave with his wife, Sujata, and two children, Atticus, 10, and Eleanor, 7, on a vacation to Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Japan. They will arrive in Romania in the middle of October, where he will teach for three months.
“I know there are a lot of details to sort through,” he said. “I know it will get less abstract and more real, but right now it feels great.”
Fretz has taught at Regis for seven years. He has his Bachelor of Arts in English from Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa. He has his Master of Arts in American Studies from Penn State Harrisburg and his doctorate degree in American Studies from Michigan State University.
The Fulbright Program is for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists. Under the program, those selected are receive grants to study, do research and teach. Each year 8,000 grants are provided.