Sandra Mathern-Smith, professor and department chair of Denison University’s Department of Dance, has received a prestigious Fulbright Scholars Award to teach contemporary dance in Sri Lanka for the fall 2017 semester. Mathern-Smith will teach courses in contemporary dance technique, composition and improvisation at the University of the Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as part of a proposal titled “Dance Making and Training: Linking Contemporary to Traditional, Global to Local, and Community to the Individual.” Mathern-Smith is one of only approximately 500 scholars who will teach, conduct research, and provide expertise abroad for the 2017-2018 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.
“We are very proud of Sandy and her hard work that is reflected in achieving this Fulbright Scholar Award,” said Denison President Adam Weinberg. “Denison is fortunate to have a world class faculty of teacher-scholars who are at the top of their fields. Sandy is an outstanding representative of the excellence in teaching, research and mentorship that happens at Denison. Her artistic accomplishments, dedication to teaching and global outlook embody the hallmarks of a successful liberal arts educator. Through her work with students, she prepares them for lifetimes of personal and professional success.”
This fellowship builds upon Mathern-Smith’s previous trips to Sri Lanka with Denison students, where she exchanged, danced and collaborated with students and academic professionals in Colombo. “Colombo, Sri Lanka, is the ideal site for this teaching award because it is in the midst of intensified urban development and globalization,” commented Mathern-Smith. “Its atmosphere of optimism, stemming from a new government and the six-year span of post-war recovery, is rich with potential for emerging artists eager to find new ways to express themselves, participate in the production and exchange of dance-based aesthetics and ideas, seek ways to expand on their traditional dance studies and create a newly imagined future.”
While in Sri Lanka, Mathern-Smith will work with Denison alumna Umeshi Rajeendra ’13, founder and chief artistic director of Mesh Academy of Dance, Sri Lanka’s first experimental dance school.
Mathern-Smith believes that dance has a unique capacity to bridge differences and form relationships. Inspired by the process of combining contemporary dance forms with traditional dance forms, she strives to impart a sense of how each student’s own artistry can both impact their community and have a global reach.
“I believe that dance has the power to deepen communication and transcend spoken language,” said Mathern-Smith. “In our daily lives, we communicate with our bodies in countless ways, and when teaching or learning dance forms foreign to our own experience, this becomes particularly true. I utilize movement as a form of dialogue to create an immediate connection, nonverbal, yet significant.”
Mathern-Smith has been a member of the Denison faculty since 1988. She teaches courses in modern/postmodern technique, improvisation, performance, choreography and production, and courses in collaborative art using interactive technologies.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.