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Widener instructor to teach in Nicaragua as Fulbright Scholar

Chelsea Abbas, Fulbright

Anthropology instructor Chelsea Abbas was selected to travel to Nicaragua under the Core Fulbright Scholar Program.

Chelsea Good Abbas, an anthropology instructor at Widener University, was recently selected to travel to Nicaragua under the prestigious Core Fulbright Scholar Program. Over the next two summers, Abbas will continue her research on migration between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and teach at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua.

The Fulbright program is the United States government's flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. The program is designed to give participants an opportunity to study, teach and conduct research abroad, while also building relationships between the U.S. and other countries to help solve global challenges. Recipients are selected on academic and professional achievement, as well as service and leadership in their respective fields.

Since 2010, Abbas has researched two frontier communities located in the Costa Rica-Nicaragua borderlands, particularly in the conflicted region known as Isla Portillos or Isla Calero, depending on the country. Abbas grew up in Washington, Pennsylvania and now lives in Philadelphia.

Her work – based on 14 months of in-depth fieldwork and over 60 interviews – explored the social realities of living between an international border dispute that spurred heavy militarization and security buildup in the once-isolated and remote border zone. Using ethnographic methods in the form of a community study, she examined the social relations and interactions between the Costa Rican National Police, Nicaraguan migrant workers and Costa Rican landowners during the conflict.

"During my dissertation research, I interacted with Nicaraguan migrants on a daily basis," Abbas said. "Without ever having set foot in Managua, Leon, or any other major cultural or tourist center of the country, I felt a connection to the country and culture based on the time I spent with this group of Nicaraguan people. They taught me how to live in the jungle, how to shed my Manhattan sense of impulse, and most importantly, how to listen. For their trust, patience and kindness, I am indebted. This is a large factor of why I am going to Nicaragua to teach, learn, share and grow."

Abbas will use her research and teaching experience, as well as her conviction for social equality and extensive knowledge of the Nicaraguan border region and its people, to teach courses in Nicaragua during the summer of 2018 and 2019. Her teaching will be structured upon the needs of Universidad Centroamericana, but will likely include undergraduate and graduate courses on border studies, migration studies and qualitative research methods.

"As communities all over the world are affected by dynamics of migration and internal, as well as external, barriers, I look forward to discussing these realities with students and to devoting my academic and personal pursuits to the shared reimagining of our lived realities beyond the boundaries we are too often confronted with," Abbas said.
As a Fulbright scholar, she will also assist the Nicaraguan university with creating a departmental research agenda on migration, write and publish a scholarly journal article on migrant education, and revise her doctoral dissertation into a publishable manuscript.

"I am truly dedicated and excited to be able to practice my passion in a place where it takes on a new meaning alongside the students and faculty in the School of Humanities and Communication at Universidad Centroamericana," she said.

Abbas joined the Widener University Department of Anthropology in August of 2017. She is teaching courses this semester on cultural anthropology and about Latino experiences in the U.S.

Abbas received a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and Bachelor of Science in international area studies from Drexel University in December 2008. She received a Master of Arts in anthropology and education from Teachers College, Columbia University in May 2012 and a Master of Philosophy, applied anthropology from Columbia University in May 2014. She is currently completing her dissertation as a doctoral candidate in applied anthropology at Columbia University.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises seven schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. Visit the university website,