Fulbright Award Sends Associate Professor to Ukraine

portrait of Mayhill Fowler for Stetson University in the News
Stetson assistant history professor Mayhill Fowler
Mayhill Fowler, Ph.D.

Mayhill Fowler, PhD, associate professor of history and former director of Stetson’s Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (S.P.R.E.E.S.), has often talked to her students about the importance of networking — of using study abroad to make worldwide contacts and build professional relationships.

Now, largely by virtue of her own networking, Fowler is a Fulbright recipient.

In August, the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board presented Fowler with a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to research and teach at the Ivan Franko National University and the Center for Urban History in Lviv, Ukraine.

Fowler already is there, with her work part of a project entitled “Theater on the Frontlines of Socialism: The Military-Entertainment Complex in Ukraine, 1940s-2000s.” 

Fowler will be focusing on military theater that was located in the city of Lviv: the “Russian Dramatic Theater of the Sub-Carpathian Military District.” She hopes to further trace the shifting role of the public, government and arts in Postwar Soviet Union, as well as in current wartime Ukraine. 

Through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, Fowler is one of more than 800 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and/or provide expertise abroad for the 2019-2020 academic year. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected based on academic and professional achievement, along with a record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

“This Fulbright comes from my network, my years of living and working in Ukraine,” Fowler said via email from Ukraine, where she has traveled and studied extensively in the past.

Fowler first went to Ukraine in 2006 and has been back every year since then, including long stays researching her doctorate dissertation and teaching on a postdoctoral fellowship. She describes Lviv as a “city that has always been on the borderlands of empires and nations, a multi-ethnic city.”

At the Center for Urban History, she will work with the oral histories, photographs and digital media on the center’s website, while also creating new materials about postwar theater for teaching and research. 

In addition, Fowler will teach in Ivan Franko National University’s Department of Theater Studies. “I want [the students there] writing and creating visual material for a wide public — and for my students at Stetson! We’ll be discussing how we teach theater in a digital age,” said Fowler.

Plus, she will work on a second book, “Theater on the Frontlines of Socialism.” Her first book, “Beau Monde on Empire’s Edge: State and Stage in Soviet Ukraine,” published in 2017, demonstrated how Soviet Ukraine became a cultural center through biographies of young artists and officials. The second book will take a deeper dive into the topic.

“It’s well-known that World War II created a new foundation myth for the Soviet Union, but theater was a major part of how that story was re-told for each generation,” Fowler said. “We look a lot at Cold War culture, and how the arts built diplomatic bridges, but I’m really interested in the arts created by and for those guys fighting the Cold War. 

“We know who we are through the stories we tell. Now there is a new war in Ukraine. It’s so fascinating watching the arts today create new narratives of this war.”

Ultimately, Fowler plans a return to Stetson, where she intends to share a literal world of new insight. 

“It’s helpful, I think, for us faculty to model going abroad,” she said. “I hope that my Fulbright encourages my students to apply to Fulbright, and other grants.”

– Carley Fockler