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Sylvania Campus lands Fulbright Scholar from India for fall term

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As the college celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, it will play host to Stany Thomas, a Fulbright Scholar from Palai, which is in the southern Indian state of Kerala. He will teach at PCC for the fall term. Of the 25 recipients of a Fulbright-Nehru Award for the upcoming academic year, Thomas is the only one from India assigned to a community college in the United States.

Michael Sonnleitner (left) gives a tour of the Sylvania Campus to Stany Thomas, a Fulbright Scholar from India, and his wife, Shanty.

“Having Dr. Thomas here is a real coup for PCC,” said Michael Sonnleitner, a political science instructor at the Cascade Campus, who also coordinates the college’s peace and conflict studies efforts and championed Thomas’ selection for PCC. “In addition to pursuing personal areas of scholarly interest and teaching on site, Dr. Thomas will help to strengthen the Indian component of the Asian Studies Focus Award at PCC. That’s a huge win for the college and the program.”

Sonnleitner – himself, a Fulbright Scholar – first met Thomas last year, when he traveled to India to teach at St. Thomas College, where Thomas is a political science faculty member. St. Thomas College, Palai, was founded in 1950 by the Diocese of Palai and is affiliated with Mahatma Gandhi University. The Catholic Christian institution boasts an enrollment of more than 2,000 students who reflect a wide diversity of religious, ethnic and economic backgrounds.

Thomas, along with George Cole, will teach “Geopolitics of South Asia” (PS 299) at Sylvania. The class still has room for students interested in the topic and region. The course will be offered from 1 to 2:50 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information about the class, contact Sonnleitner at msonnlei@pcc.edu or Loretta Goldy, Sylvania social sciences division dean, at lgoldy@pcc.edu.

“The emergence of India as a major global economy, the impact of South Asia’s continued population explosion, and current conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a handful of topics to be addressed as part of ‘Geopolitics of South Asia,’” Sonnleitner said.

“These are timely and topical issues, taught by an expert in the field and someone native to the country. Students taking this course will have an opportunity to engage in an incredibly rich and meaningful academic experience,” Sonnleitner said.

Thomas earned his doctorate from Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, Kerala, India, with a thesis titled, “The Politics of Higher Education in Kerala, A Study of the Politics of Reform: 1957-1987.” His research focused attention on the Communist Party of India, which has been in power in Kerala for most of the period from 1957 to the present. Thomas also is the published author of numerous papers ranging in focus from education reform to human rights in India, including issues relating to intellectual property, the impact of the British Raj on Indian education, and many other policy concerns.

“To host Dr. Thomas at PCC after my experience in India, at his college last year, is to come full circle,” said Sonnleitner. “I hope our students – as well as PCC faculty and staff – jump on this special opportunity to learn from a Fulbright Scholar and broaden their understanding of what is happening in this burgeoning part of the world.”

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