By Breanne Smith
Benita Blessing frequently encourages her students to apply for prestigious awards and even received a Distinguished Service Award from the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards for assisting them with their applications. This year, she took her own advice and applied for a Fulbright Scholar Award. And she earned one.
Blessing, an assistant professor of European women's and gender history in the Department of History, earned the award through the U.S. Department of State-sponsored program that sends 800 U.S. faculty and professionals abroad each year to lecture or conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.
She is writing a book drawing from her current research on East German children's films and the portrayal of gender roles and sexuality to a young audience.
"I am a child of the Cold War," Blessing said. "So when the (Berlin) Wall fell in '89, I had to look behind the wall."
She initially did so as a high school exchange student to Germany, later returning to complete her dissertation at Humboldt University in Berlin. She spent last summer there conducting research for the book through an Ohio University Research Committee grant.
Her Fulbright award will allow her to return to Berlin next academic year to continue her research at a film archive outside the city.
"Internet and seminars can never replace going to a country and talking to the people there," said Blessing, who will use Humboldt University as her base of operations. "It's not just a one-time contact that you benefit from, but a lifetime of contact with your colleagues."
Blessing already is thinking ahead to her next research project, which will involve writing about children's sleep rituals in 19th-century Europe.
"Students and colleagues are a part of the reason I'm so ready (to continue my research abroad)," Blessing said, noting the supportive atmosphere at Ohio University. "To have a university where colleagues and students are excited about my work and asking questions about it really pushes me."