Dear Honorable James Duncan Jr.,
I am writing this letter to thank you for your continued support of the Fulbright Commission and it’s important mission in enhancing international collaboration and communication between the USA and international partner countries. This letter is written on behalf of me as a private citizen Timothy M. Young and does not reflect any official communication from the University of Tennessee at which I am a Professor.
I recently learned that the President’s budget for “Public Diplomacy” and the flagship academic exchange Fulbright funding program is being reduced and reapportioned. The importance of the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961 and promoting mutual international understanding that has been financed bilaterally since its inception is the correct direction for USA in promoting peace and understanding of USA and other cultures throughout the world. This also directly facilitates research collaboration which has direct economic benefits to the USA through international collaboration on new product development, industrial partnerships, global trade, etc.
The reason this so important to me is that I would like to share with you my recent Fulbright experience which was predominately funded by the Austrian government as part of the Austrian-American Fulbright Commission in Vienna. The importance of leveraging funding is critical for these programs but I am afraid we may lose this critical leverage if our critical funding mass gets too small.
I conducted research and teaching during the fall 2013 semester at Salzburg University of Applied Sciences in Kuchl Austria as a visiting scholar as part of the Austrian-American Fulbright Commission. My visiting scholar responsibilities involved teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in statistics and conducting research on cross laminated timber (CLT). The experience
was beneficial for all parties involved. There were many learning experiences from teaching students, meeting parents, meeting people in the local communities, and visiting mills in the CLT industry. I believe I represented the USA, Tennessee, and University of Tennessee at a high standard as an unofficial citizen-ambassador during my stay. These types of Fulbright international experiences serves the USA very well in international stewardship and outreach. There are stereotypes of Americans that can be clarified and improved from these types of “shoes on the ground” experiences. The Austrian college students get certain stereotypes of Americans through TV and mass media that are often times incorrect. I believe I was effective in breaking down communication barriers and leaving a good impression about Americans. Many of the older Austrians I met in the smaller villages had their own perceptions of Americans from the WW II era and were sometimes hesitant to engage in conversation. Once the initial communication barriers were broken down, I believe I definitely improved their perceptions of America. The bottom-line from what I learned from this Fulbright experience was that it is some of the most important outreach the USA can do in international diplomacy.
My research may also have direct benefits to Tennessee and the USA. Cross laminated timber (CLT) is a rapidly expanding industry in Austria and Europe. It has added many jobs and economic value there. CLTs are cross laminated lumber panels made from low-grade lumber. A market for low-grade lumber would directly Tennessee producers. Large walls and structures can be developed from CLT for both residential and non-residential construction. There is on-going fundamental research on CLT in the USA as funded by USDA for this important forest products sector of our economy. My research involves documenting the Austrian CLT industry and developing an industrial template for development of CLT mills in the USA. It would be nice to have a CLT mill in Tennessee someday. I did interact with Austrian CLT companies that are looking for joint venture opportunities for CLT manufacture with American companies. I will facilitate this to the best of my abilities with my business contacts in the forest products industry in the USA.
In closing, I would like thank you for all you do for American citizens and Tennesseans. This Fulbright teaching/research experience for me would not have been possible without your support in Washington D.C. I strongly urge our leadership to rethink budget reductions for important programs like the flagship academic exchange Fulbright program. This program has a direct impact on how students and people in other countries perceive America, and I believe Fulbright experiences leave them with a positive viewpoint and breaks down misperceptions of America.
Please feel free to contact me if you require any additional information from me or if you have any questions.
Thanks for all you do!
Timothy M. Young
from United States to Austria
Scholar at Salzburg University of Applied Sciences in Kuchl (2013)