Campus media studies professor receives Fulbright Award to teach in Czech Republic

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UC Berkeley lecturer Jean Retzinger has received the Fulbright Scholar Award, enabling her to teach abroad in the Czech Republic for the next academic year.

Retzinger, a faculty adviser and assistant director of the media studies program, was selected to teach at Masaryk University in Brno starting next fall after a lengthy selection process. As a Fulbright scholar, she will receive funding to lecture abroad for up to one year.

Retzinger has been at UC Berkeley for 20 years. Her research is mainly focused on the role of food and agriculture in the media. Her published works include “Spectacles of Labor: Viewing Food Production Through a Television Screen” and other articles involving the academic study of food.

Retzinger said she is interested in the extremely low proportion of Americans who perform agricultural labor — about 2 percent — compared with the number of Americans who consume farm-produced products.

“Media is often the bridge between what we eat and what we know about food, so I want to know what kinds of stories are being told about food and food production in the media,” Retzinger said.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program provides about 8,000 grants every year enabling students, teachers, researchers and professors to study, teach or conduct research abroad in more than 155 countries.

The application process is highly competitive, with each applicant reviewed by U.S. officials and representatives from the receiving country, according to Retzinger. UC Berkeley was ranked as one of the top producers of Fulbright scholars in the 2013-14 academic year, when six professors and 18 students at UC Berkeley were awarded Fulbright funding.

“It is a wonderful and well-deserved honor for professor Retzinger,” said Tom Goldstein, professor and director of the media studies department.

Despite her absence, Retzinger asserts that the department will be business as usual. The media studies department is in the process of finding a new lecturer to temporarily replace Retzinger for the next academic year. According to the department, the two classes Retzinger was scheduled to teach in the fall will still be offered in the upcoming semester.

“I can assure students that all things will go on as smoothly as possible,” Retzinger said.

Retzinger, who said she is a strong proponent of student study abroad programs, said this award is an exciting opportunity to experience academia abroad and what the receiving country has to offer.

“I feel it’s important for people to have firsthand experience,” Retzinger said. “A person is never too old to explore other cultures and be open to those experiences.”

Contact Frank Yu at [email protected].