Two years ago, Marymount University Professor Dr. Kathleen Garces-Foley was preparing to leave the U.S. and live in Hungary for a semester, with plans to study and teach at the University of Szeged on the second Fulbright Award of her academic career. However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those plans and led to the cancellation of her award.
But now, after waiting through yet another application process, she’s on her way to Hungary after all. Dr. Garces-Foley was selected as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar once again and has been granted a four-month award to Budapest, where she will be hosted by the Department of American Studies at Eötvös Loránd University, the top-rated university in Hungary founded in 1635. There, the Religious Studies professor will study the changing religious landscape in Hungary and teach two courses – one undergraduate and one graduate – on religion and American culture.
Dr. Garces-Foley’s first Fulbright Award was in 2014, which took her to the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.
“When I was in Slovenia with my family, we traveled to Budapest on vacation for a week and we just loved it,” she explained. “It was just an amazing city – the history there, the architecture, the multiculturalism of the city, all of it. We immediately said, ‘this is where we’re going for our next Fulbright,’ so it’s great that it’s finally working out! I really love learning about new cultures, and it’s a much more enriching experience to stay not just for a week as a tourist but be able to live there for four months and get a better sense of what life is like in Hungary.”
An expert in a variety of religious topics, Dr. Garces-Foley holds particular areas of research interest in the effects of immigration, ethnicity and racial diversity on religious life. She expects to explore these issues in-depth in Hungary, a country with a Christian majority that has seen an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim form of populism grow in stature over recent years.
“This populist movement calls back to a previous era when Hungarian society was more homogenous – everyone was White, everyone was Christian. And while this political movement is in the majority, there are others who want to see a more multicultural society emerge and the conflict has raised tensions,” Dr. Garces-Foley said. “Of course, there are parallels between how this is playing out in Hungary and what we have seen here in the U.S.”
Over the last few years at Marymount, Dr. Garces-Foley has immersed herself in a similar research topic, playing a leading role in a nationwide study on “The Landscape Study of Chaplaincy and Campus Ministry in the United States.” Alongside a team of co-investigators, she has investigated how religion on college campuses has been transformed over the last decade.
Dr. Garces-Foley isn’t the first Marymount professor to travel to Hungary through a Fulbright Award. During the Fall 2021 semester, Dr. Adam Kovach – a professor of Philosophy at MU – was a visiting professor at Széchenyi István University (SZE) in Győr, a city in northwest Hungary. After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his travel, he began his long-awaited experience this past fall, and taught Introduction to Philosophy and Philosophy of Art courses to SZE students.
Fulbright is a prestigious award funded by the U.S. government with the goal of improving intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy and intercultural competence between the U.S. and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills. Marymount’s Center for Global Engagement (CGE) works with both faculty and staff who are interested in applying for Fulbright grants. Click here for more information about the Fulbright Student Program, or click here for more details on Fulbright Scholar opportunities.