Bill Taylor, associate dean of Fairfield University’s School of Engineering, embarks on trip of a lifetime

Submitted by Nina M. Riccio on January 31, 2012

Fulbright Scholarships aren’t just for 22-year-olds.

Just ask Bill Taylor, Ph.D., north of 60, grandfather and associate dean of Fairfield University’s School of Engineering.

He has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to help guide the development of a new engineering school in the African country of Cameroon. The eight-month trip takes him to the Catholic University of Cameroon, Bamenda (CATUC). It’s home to only the second English-speaking engineering school in a Republic of 20 million people that is about the size of California.

“I will help get it up and running,” said Dr. Taylor, quite seasoned in engineering school accreditation procedures and curriculum development. “The need for engineers in Africa is significant enough to establish the school, and so far they’ve admitted 70 to 80 students.”

To Taylor, the Fulbright promises to be an adventure. “This is wonderful to have one at this point in my life,” he said.

Established more than 60 years ago, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the United States government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the American people and the people of other countries. Taylor is one of approximately 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals to travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program during the 2011-2012 academic year.

The Fulbright reunites Taylor with the Most Rev. Cornelius Esua, Archbishop of Bamenda, founder and chancellor of CATUC, who asked Taylor if he could lend a hand. The Archbishop met Taylor 15 years ago when he was Bishop of the Diocese of Kumbo and Taylor was undertaking a decade-long National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research Support program about fertility and lactation. “We studied ovarian recrudescence among American mothers, and then, simultaneously, we set up a Cameroon branch of our study.”

Taylor noted that Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., Fairfield’s president, had given Archbishop Esua some helpful guidance about establishing CATUC’s engineering school –  the first engineering school in the Northwest province of Cameroon. The school’s mission entails offering engineering programs “in an African context in order to increase civil, electrical, mechanical and agricultural production, develop industries and improve the standard of living of [Africa’s] population.”

“Engineers, from mechanical, civil, electrical, computer engineers, you name it, are professionals that are in demand throughout Africa,” said Taylor, who came to Fairfield seven years ago. “I expect to gain leadership skills from the experience and bring them back to Fairfield.”

The Fulbright also enables Taylor to return to his first love of teaching. He won’t have a challenge with the language there. Although more than 270 African languages and dialects are spoken in Cameroon, English is the language used in CATUC classrooms.

“English is not [students’] first language,” Taylor said. “Rather, the students will have a tribal language, such as Lamso, and will converse with one another in Pidgin English. I have some knowledge of that language and am working to gain fluency.”

Taylor’s Fulbright experience also promises to be a family affair. His wife, Donna, is joining him. Daughter Mary Claire, a pre-med major at Loyola University Maryland, will arrive in the spring for an internship at an area hospital, and son Emmanuel, soon be ordained a priest in the Dominican Order, is joining them. (The Taylors also have two older children, Paul, an architect, and Beth, a physics professor.)

“It’s good to do things out of the ordinary,” said Taylor. “Wonderful trips like this can be beneficial for not only your spirit but your whole family.”

To follow Dr. Taylor’s adventures in Cameroon, visit his blog on the Fairfield University web site at http://blog.fairfield.edu/fulbright/.

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