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School of Health Studies hosts Fulbright Scholar

April 26, 2021

Dr. Tomoyuki Shibata, associate professor in the School of Health Studies, was thrilled to welcome Dr. Chit Wityi Oo from Myanmar to NIU as part of the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Dr. Chit Wityi Oo (left) arrived from Myanmar in January as a Fulbright Scholar under the mentorship of Dr. Shibata (right).

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program sponsors U.S. and foreign participants for exchanges in areas of research including the sciences, business, academe, public service, government and the arts. A major goal of the program is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

“I have been to Southeast Asia every summer since 2010 except for the last year due to COVID-19 pandemic,” Shibata said. “Since 2016, I have hosted many workshops that accommodated over 1,000 professors, graduate students, and young professionals in Indonesia and Myanmar to help them improving their competencies to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which is a global agenda consisting of 17 goals with 169 targets.”

Shibata said he really enjoys the opportunity to assist individuals in improving their interdisciplinary research skills as well as global competencies, but there is little time to mentor individual scholars onsite.

“I am always excited to host international scholars here in the U.S. so that I can spend longer time to mentor them,” Shibata said.

Shibata is mentoring Chit, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s from West Yangon University in Myanmar and a doctorate degree from De La Salle University in the Philippines. Before coming to NIU, Chit was a lecturer at West Yangon University where she taught undergraduate and graduate students and participated in departmental research.

Chit left Myanmar in January 2021 and arrived at NIU during extremely challenging times, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty in her home country. In a Huskies help Huskies fashion, university partners stepped up to offer support.

“I would like to thank my colleagues in the Center for Burma Studies, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Institute for the Study of Environment, Sustainability, and Energy, and School of Health Studies for supporting Dr. Chit’s work at NIU and life in the U.S.,” Shibata said.

Through the past several months, Chit was able to make significant strides on her project, titled “Public perceptions, knowledge, and attitudes associated with urban air quality in the two most populous cities in Myanmar.”

“The goal of this project is to contribute to sustainable development in Myanmar,” Chit said. “The objective of this study is to evaluate air quality and public knowledge, perceptions and actions related to air pollution and climate change.”

Besides research to advance her knowledge of sustainable development goals, she gained insight into what a U.S. university is like, albeit during unprecedented times.

“I am going to share my experiences about the education system of NIU and the hybrid operating system during the pandemic,” Chit said. “I will teach my students about public health, air quality and climate change, which I learned from my mentor, Dr. Shibata.”

Chit said her experience at NIU will help contribute to improving the curriculum at her home university in Myanmar.

And there’s more.

“I will share about American culture and food with my family and friends,” Chit said.

Dr. Tomoyuki Shibata will be hosting an “International Symposium on Sustainable Development Goals in Myanmar and Beyond” on August 6–8.  Please email the Global Environmental Health LAB ([email protected]) for more information.