Bruce visits Sweden as Fulbright Senior Specialist

By Elizabeth Kim

Chip Bruce, professor in Library and Information Science, traveled to Sweden for the second half of October as a Fulbright Senior Specialist after being awarded by the Fulbright Senior Scholar Program in spring 2005.

“I was very pleased,” Bruce said. “I liked to interact with colleagues in other countries because I always feel that I learn a lot from them and felt honored and happy to go.”

The Fulbright Senior Specialists Program is designed to provide short-term academic opportunities (two to six weeks) for U.S. faculty and professionals. Shorter grant lengths give specialists greater flexibility to pursue a grant that works best with their current academic or professional commitments, according to the Fulbright Scholar Program Web site.

Bruce said applicants are accepted to a five-year term where once one is in the program, countries can put in requests for a specialist to come and visit. The Fulbright organization then matches the request of various countries to the specific discipline of the applicant, which in Bruce’s case was information technology.

“I was excited because I have never been to Sweden, and I also knew that in my area of studies that there were a lot of excellent research and other things going on in Sweden,” Bruce said. “It was a great opportunity for me.”

For the first week, Bruce visited the Department of Informatics at Ume† University where he had the opportunity to visit a learning center in Lapland, the northern part of Sweden.

A problem in Lapland is that a university does not exist in that town, Bruce said. People would have to go to another city if they want to receive higher education. It is more likely to get a job in the cities than in Lapland, but that is difficult for individuals from a traditional community background.

“So people in the cities came up with this project to bring together industry, community, and university to supply Lapland’s needs,” Bruce said. “There was a need for nurses who were specially trained in informational technology so a learning center was built to offer students to be able to get a college degree and a job in their own community.”

For the second week, Bruce traveled to the IT-University at G”ueborg where he presented, along with Diane Sonnenwald, from the University College of Bor†s, “Supporting Distributed Collaboration in Science: Reflections from Experiences.”

“It was about how scientists use technology to communicate and collaborate and how people of different countries are using these new tools like e-mail and blogs,” Bruce said.

In addition, he taught a two-day course on pragmatic design of information and communication technologies.

“Pragmatic design is the idea about really valuing people’s ordinary experiences and trying to connect what we do to people’s lives and values,” Bruce said. “It has a lot of implications for bettering designs in technologies and a more broader message is to better the world.”

Not everything that Bruce learned was about his academic field.

“I learned about fika, the time when everything stops and everybody gets coffee and pastries and sit and talk,” Bruce said. “Sometimes they talked over fika more serious than class itself.”

At the Swedish School of Library and Information Science in Bor†s, Bruce talked about the distributed knowledge project and the information school movement.

“There is a movement in the U.S. called information schools which includes our University’s graduate library and information science, Michigan and Berkeley, where alliances are formed based on similar needs and interests,” Bruce said. “In a university, to see what these information schools are doing, is very important for the future of the university. Yet, in Europe the same kind of connection between information schools is not seen.”

Bruce said there were few differences between Sweden and the U.S. He elaborated on how there is a little bit more flexibility in courses and programs in America, and there are more international students in the U.S. than in Sweden on the graduate level.

“Yet, oddly enough, even through that we have a lot more international students, I think students there are more aware of the world outside of their own country,” Bruce said. “In America, everything has to do with America, while countries like Sweden, are aware of things happening across Europe, Asia and United States. We can learn from other countries.”

Although being thousands of miles away from the University, Bruce was still able to lecture his classes by using a web-based tool called flash meeting that allows video conferences with students.

“It wasn’t ideal … but I liked the fact that I could stay connected with the students,” Bruce said.

Mihye Won, graduate student, said it was a different experience to have to talk with the professor through flash meeting.

“It was different since I did not know what the professor was thinking about my remarks,” said Miyhe Won. “It was nice to be able to talk to the professor in Sweden even if he was not in the classroom.”

Besides being able to talk to the professor, students in his courses were able to communicate with Swedish students through videoconferences.

“It’s always a pleasure to see how things look to people in a different part of the world,” said graduate student Rebecca Bilbro.