Adam Brown, Vice Provost for Research, Selected as Fulbright Specialist for the University of the Bahamas North
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Bahamas, the country was still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Dorian, the strongest hurricane on record to hit the country. These stressors took a toll on the academic achievement of students at the University of the Bahamas North, leading their administrators to search for experts to help.
Recently Adam Brown, vice provost for Research at The New School and associate professor of psychology at Eugene Lang College and The New School for Social Research (NSSR), has begun working as a Fulbright specialist with the University of the Bahamas North. Brown has been lending his expertise in trauma and global mental health to help the university build its mental health capacities and reduce barriers to care for their students. This is the fourth time Brown has been selected to receive a Fulbright.
“That combination of dealing with the hurricane plus COVID-19 has made it very difficult for a lot of students to be fully engaged with their learning at the university. So the faculty there have been trying to come up with a way to assess and evaluate both the educational and the mental health impact of these two events and to develop a strategy to support students,” says Brown. “They knew about the work I’ve done in other countries and the work of our Trauma and Global Mental Health Lab at NSSR, which is heavily involved in helping organizations to understand the impacts of traumatic stress on people’s well-being.”
Brown will travel to the Bahamas to work with the university for two weeks, this summer and again in the fall. The short duration of these in-person trips is one of the features of the Fulbright Specialist Program. Part of the Fulbright program, the specialist program was established in 2001 by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program pairs U.S. academics and professionals with overseas institutions for short projects that last from two to six weeks, during which they share their expertise, strengthen institutional linkages, gain international experience, and learn about other cultures while building capacity at their overseas host institutions.
While Brown’s stays in the Bahamas will be short, the project is a long-term endeavor. Brown has been meeting weekly with the Bahamian university’s team to prepare the foundation for the project. “So far, we are having weekly planning meetings and have been laying the groundwork for the surveys that we’ll be using,” says Brown. “We’re meeting with cross-sector partners including government officials, policymakers, and leaders at the university to think through how best to assess the educational and mental health impacts on their students and to begin developing our strategies for the mental health trainings that we will be implementing throughout their campus. It’s been a really wonderful relationship we’ve been building over the past couple months, and it’s laying the groundwork for a much longer relationship between The New School and the University of the Bahamas North.”
Brown has served as a Fulbright specialist before, most recently in Bern, Switzerland, where he developed mental health assessments in hospital emergency rooms to better identify and understand the mental health needs of refugees and asylum seekers. “Following the big wave of migration from Syria and North Africa several years ago, emergency rooms were seeing high rates of asylum seekers complaining of stomachaches and headaches and a number of other somatic issues. They began to wonder how many of those issues were related to the stressors and trauma the refugees had experienced,” says Brown. Since then, he has received a Mellon Foundation grant that allows him to take a small group of students to Bern to continue working with the emergency department. “The trips have been on hiatus the last two summers due to the pandemic, but we’re looking forward to restarting this work with our students this summer,” says Brown.