Frank Baber, an associate professor in the Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration at CSULB, has been named the Fulbright Distinguished Chair of Environmental Policy at the Politechnic Institute of Turin (Italy) for 2009.
Baber will be in residence in Italy during the institute's 2009 spring semester, teaching and conducting research on international environmental law.
"There are more than 800 Fulbright scholars selected every year, but only 38 are named distinguished chairs," said Baber, a faculty member at CSULB since 2001. "That's one reason I'm so honored by this recognition. It's the achievement I'm proudest of in my entire career."
Awards in the Fulbright Distinguished Chairs program are viewed as the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholars programs. Other chairs exist this year at the Australian National University, Austria's University of Siena and the University of Trieste.
As distinguished chair of environmental policy at the institute, located near the Italian Alps, Baber will teach a graduate-level course. "It is up to the professor to decide when to meet and how to orient the course," he said. "This gives me a level of flexibility I've never known before. And when you realize my office will be in the Castello del Valentino, which was begun in 1275, you have some idea how excited I am about this opportunity."
Baber believes one reason for his selection was his dual background in policy and law. He received his B.A. from CSULB (class of '75) and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law and is admitted to the practice of law in California.
He expects his J.D. to come in handy when dealing with a national justice system not based on English common law. "Italy is a traditional continental Roman law country," he explained. "This is an opportunity to explore that legal environment in a way I couldn't in a book."
Baber is an accomplished globetrotter, but this is only his second trip to Italy. "My first trip came 10 years ago when I helped to escort a high school youth orchestra on tour," he said with a laugh. "It's a lot like herding cats." He added, "I'm going to make an effort to visit as many other universities as I can. It will be easy to cross the border into Switzerland, Germany, Austria and for my first visit to France."
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 government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries."
The Fulbright program awarded approximately 6,000 grants in 2007 — at a cost of more than $262 million — to U.S. students, teachers, professionals and scholars to study, teach, lecture, and conduct research in more than 155 countries and to their foreign counterparts in the United States.
Baber is the author (with the University of Vermont's Robert Bartlett, a former Turin chair) of Deliberative Environmental Politics: Democracy and Ecological Rationality from MIT Press in 2005. During a 2007 sabbatical, he and Bartlett completed their new book about international environmental law, now under MIT Press review, titled Global Environmental Law: Toward a Sustainable Jurisprudence.
CSULB's only previous honoree was Geological Sciences Professor Stan Finney, who served as Fulbright Distinguished Chair of Natural Sciences at Austria's University of Salzburg in 2002.
Baber encourages his CSULB colleagues to consider the Fulbright challenge. "I've been thinking about the idea of a Fulbright for a long time. Most of those who apply think about it for years before taking the leap," he said. "With our youngest now off to college, it seemed like a good time for me personally.
"In the end, the Fulbrights are enormously helpful. You get so much return on the value," he continued. "This is the kind of experience that can be the turning point in a career. It's going to make a tremendous difference down the line."