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Africana Studies’ Mandy Going to Sri Lanka on Fulbright Fellowship

Published: July 15, 2010

Africana Studies’ Lionel Mandy recently received a Senior Visiting Fulbright Fellowship to teach clinical psychology courses in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka from September through June.

The Fulbright program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the largest U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide. Established by Congress in 1946, the program enables the U.S. government to increase mutual understanding between its citizens and those of other countries.

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, known as Ceylon before 1972, is an island country located off the southern coast of India. It has been a center of Buddhism from ancient times and is famous for the production and export of tea, coffee, coconuts, rubber and cinnamon — which is native to the country.

Mandy is pleased and honored by his Fulbright recognition and thinks one reason for his selection was his 2006 graduation from Pepperdine University with a doctorate in clinical psychology. “I’m up on the latest information,” said Mandy, who joined CSULB in 1999. “Plus, Sri Lanka has experienced recent political upheavals by Tamil separatists. From afar, you might look at Sri Lanka as a danger zone. But as a psychologist, I look at Sri Lanka as a place where a lot of psychological therapy is needed and where we can train people to do that. To me, it is a perfect opportunity. I’m excited. It will be fun.”

Mandy is a world traveler whose most recent African visit came last December/January when he spent a month training with traditional healers in South Africa. Prior to that, in April 2009, he sojourned with an organization of traditional healers in the West African nation of Senegal, where he lived and taught in the 1980s.

His global experience tips him off to some of the perils of world travel. “When booking flights, I’ll make sure there is a wide gap between each flight because if you think you can go from one airline to another in an hour and your first plane begins your journey by departing two hours late, you have missed all the other flights,” he explained. He has learned to sleep on planes and in airports, to bring his own food and to get used to airport security. “I’ve learned to book as many things in advance as I can because when I get where I’m going, I want to make sure I can get all the way to the place where I’ll sleep with a minimum of challenges,” he said.

Cultural flexibility is important, too. “As an African-American, I’ve learned to be really calm and sensitive about these things, especially when I’ve traveled to Asia, Africa and Europe,” he explained. “I’m fascinated by meeting people whose core beliefs are different from mine.”

There is one more special gift Mandy brings to the table. “The national sport of Sri Lanka is cricket which I actually understand and enjoy,” he laughed. “Sri Lankans have one of the best cricket teams on Earth and I’m ready for it.”

As a tourist, he has spent as long as a month at a time in South Africa. “When you are present in a culture for only a few days, you do not experience immersion in that culture,” he said. “You don’t have enough time. A trip like this will give me plenty of time to get to know the culture. There is a certain superficial understanding of a country you can pick up from Wikipedia. But that often has little or nothing to do with the actual experience.”

Lionel Mandy
Photo courtesy Lionel Mandy
Lionel Mandy

He is especially interested in such issues as the depth of the African influence on Sri Lankan culture (Africans were imported as slaves during the epoch of enslavement), the impact of Islam and linguistic similarities between Sri Lanka and the Indian subcontinent. “How many ethnic groups are there and is the ethnic majority in power? What does international commerce do to traditional culture? I’m interested in all these things,” he said.

After his 2009 study with Senegalese traditional healers, Mandy is eager to study the issue in Sri Lanka, especially in light of reports that the nation’s president has his own faith healer. “Compare that to the Reagans using astrologers to determine foreign policy,” he said. “If the Sri Lankan president is healed through faith rather than the Western medical paradigm, I want to understand that. I want to understand how spirituality fits in with the way they practice the psychology I’m there to teach. I want to see how everyday people live their lives. How do they get along? Are they happy?”

Mandy is a faculty advisor to CSULB’s African Student Union, the Black Psychology Student Association, and the Black Scholars Student Association. He earned a B.A. in English literature, an M.A. in African American Studies, and a Master’s in Social Work from Boston University. He also earned an MBA and J.D. from UCLA. He earned his Psy.D. in clinical psychology from Pepperdine in 2006. He also has a BMsc, an MMsc and a Ph.D. in metaphysical science from the University of Metaphysics.

The biggest lesson Mandy expects to learn in Sri Lanka is to listen before speaking. “I’m anticipating learning a lot,” he said. “I’m anticipating experiencing things I never imagined. I’m hoping I’ll get the opportunity to present in places I haven’t presented before in addition to the university. I hope I’ll get to travel both within Sri Lanka to and neighboring countries. I’m hoping to learn about differences in food and herbs and healing methods and religion and sports.”

He encourages other CSULB faculty members to apply for a Fulbright. “First come up with something you really want to do,” he said. “Secondly, talk to CSULB’s Center for International Education and Linda Olson-Levy, their coordinator and advisor for international programs, events and scholarships, because they know more about it than anybody else. Third, don’t get upset by rejection. This was my second application. Fourth, applications appear in March and are due in August, so get your paperwork done early. The key is the five-page statement of purpose. Know what you want to do and make that clear to the reviewers.”

–Richard Manly