Political Science Professor Reflects on Fulbright Scholar Award

By Rachel Gobep 

The chair of the Department of Politics and International Relations is believed to be the first professor at Youngstown State University to earn two Fulbright awards. This accolade has been a life-changing experience for him.

Paul Sracic was granted his second Fulbright award to lecture in Japan between September 2018 and July 2019. He first earned Fulbright honors in 2009.

The Fulbright Program was created by U.S. Senator James William Fulbright in 1946 to encourage the interaction and blending of cultures.

Sracic taught American trade politics at Waseda University in Tokyo, which is much larger than YSU with an enrollment of over 50,000 students. He also lectured at Yokohama National University in Yokohama.

Sracic said the opening slides in his first lecture were about Youngstown.

“Sort of showing them pictures of this area. … Black Monday, the closing of the mills and then showing them clips of Trump rallies here to give them a sense of the politics of the Midwest,” he said. 

Sracic said one student approached him after learning about Youngstown and said, “Now I understand why so many Americans were intrigued by the idea of ‘Make America Great Again.’ I never understood what that phrase meant.”

He said it’s important that he was given the opportunity to teach at Waseda because the school can produce the world’s next leaders. It has already produced six prime ministers.

Through having a Fulbright, Sracic has had the ability to get YSU’s name out there, and it’s given him opportunities that he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“The Fulbright changed everything. I had really never traveled abroad,” he said. 

Since 2009, he has visited at least eight countries and given more than 50 international lectures in places such as Tokyo, Beijing and Rome. He was invited to Japan in 2012 as a part of the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office Visiting Experts Program.

Sracic was also a part of the U.S. State Department’s election night program in 2016, and he answered questions from embassies around the world about the United States electoral system.

While in Japan for his latest Fulbright, he took his election night political analysis to Japanese television. He appeared on NHK World Japan in Tokyo on Nov. 6, 2018, as an on-air political analyst to provide commentary on the U.S. midterm elections.

NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting organization, delivers news and other programming in English 24 hours a day to 160 different countries and regions in the world.

Sracic said Japan is like a different world compared to the U.S.

“The dress of the students is oftentimes so much more formal. People don’t wear sweatpants to class. It’s just the overall sense of formality of properness — it’s so different than it is in the United States,” he said. “That’s what hits you when you get off the plane. Nobody’s in a uniform here or very few people. Everyone’s in a uniform in Japan.”

Nathan Myers, associate provost for international initiatives at YSU, said receiving a Fulbright is a “real professional recognition.”

“What’s rare is that someone would actually get two Fulbrights to the same country because the Fulbright Commission actually prioritizes people who haven’t been there before,” he said.

Myers said the intellectual resources Sracic can bring to YSU through his time in Japan are an incredible opportunity for his students, colleagues and the academic community.

Sracic recommends YSU professors apply for a Fulbright award.

“There is simply no academic experience that I have ever had comparable to my year as a Fulbright scholar,” Sracic said in a 2018 Jambar article. 

Paul Sracic, chair of the Department of Politics and International Relations, pictured alongside an NHK World Japan news anchor. Photo courtesy of Paul Sracic