Fulbright Alumnae Work to Advance Rural Engagement in Global Affairs

Mia Pohlman (left) and Taylor Libbert (right)

Truman graduates Taylor Libbert (’18) and Mia Pohlman (’14, ’18) recently participated in a seminar for alumni of exchange programs facilitated by the U.S. State Department.

Libbert and Pohlman both participated in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program after their time at Truman, serving as native-speaker experts in English-language classrooms in their host countries of Andorra and Greece, respectively.
The Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminar (TIES) on Rural Engagement in Global Affairs, took place in Birmingham, Alabama, Feb. 27-March 3. Previous Alumni TIES topics have included Public Health and Climate Crisis in the Indo-Pacific, Shaping the Global Narrative on Media Literacy and Preparing for a 21st-Century Economy, among others.

The State Department welcomed a cohort of nearly 40 exchange alumni living in the United States who represent a variety of career fields and backgrounds and are working on issues related to rural engagement in global affairs. During the seminar, the participants: worked to clarify the purpose and urgency of prioritizing rural voices in international affairs; learned about methods to increase the visibility of U.S. rural businesses in global markets; shared challenges and barriers experienced with rural engagement; discovered connections between U.S. and international rural communities; discussed pathways to international exchange opportunities for rural Americans and first-generation college students; and strategized creative ways to reengage community stakeholders, elected officials, technology companies and educators in expanding cross-sectoral efforts to improve rural engagement in global affairs.

“Thanks to the U.S. State Department Office of Alumni Affairs, I gained new knowledge of the many other U.S. exchange programs, along with insights into domestic public radio and globally-minded nonprofits,” Libbert said. “People shared stories on how rural life shaped their cultural identities, and I met passionate people from all walks of life, from current undergraduates to second-career government officials to university professors making impacts before retirement.”

Libbert and Pohlman were co-panelists for a discussion entitled “The Role of Media, Literature, and Art in Rural Communities.” The panel focused on how rural communities are presented in media, as well as how they are portrayed in literature and visual art. Libbert discussed fly-over literature and cognitive linguistic bias in the conceptualization of the rural-urban divide. Pohlman presented on Here. literary magazine, a project she founded three years ago in southeast Missouri that gives high school students in the region the skills, experience and publication credits necessary to pursue the arts after high school.

“The Alumni TIES seminar gave me hope that this conversation is only just beginning, and that rural communities and rural people are being considered and heard from in our nation’s conversations about the future of our country,” Pohlman said. “I am from a farm that has been in my family for more than 120 years. Rural communities and traveling abroad are two of my passions. It is so exciting to me that others are thinking about these two topics in the same sentence and about how to connect these ideas as well.”

TIES participants now have one month to apply for grants up to $10,000 for community-based projects that focus on innovative local or national initiatives to support rural Americans’ engagement and collaboration in global affairs. Selected grantees will then have approximately 12 months to complete their grant. Libbert and Pohlman are part of a group exploring an artistic way to engage rural American communities with both domestic and global rural communities, but the details have yet to be determined.

Libbert is currently in Truman’s online Master of Arts in English program and writing a thesis on Missouri literature in secondary curriculum. She will earn her degree in May 2023. Since graduating from Truman with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Romance language in May 2018, she has worked in hospitality, tourism and education. She also participated in the Teaching Assistant Program in France for 2019-20.

Pohlman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a concentration in writing and minors in photography and African/African American Studies, from Truman in 2014. She also received a master’s degree in English and a Master of Arts in Education degree in secondary education in 2018. She currently lives in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as the writer and editor of special publications with the media company rustmedia.
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