Muthusami Kumaran, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences associate professor in the UF/IFAS family, youth and community sciences department, works around the world to advance nonprofit management and community organizations.
During an upcoming a six-month visit to the island of Jeju, South Korea, Kumaran will represent UF and the United States as a Fulbright Core Scholar. He is the first Fulbright recipient from his department and among 1,200 U.S. scholars selected for the 2019-20 award.
Kumaran, who was born in Southern India and immigrated to the United States in 1993, said a personal and professional goal has long been to win a Fulbright Scholarship to share his knowledge with others around the world.
“The beauty of what I do is that when I improve the capacities of nonprofits, they improve the lives of countless others – people who are disabled, poor, hungry,” Kumaran said. “That is powerful for me to be in the process of helping somebody help others. They are doing the real work. I am just giving them the tools.”
He said he views his role as a faculty member in much the same way.
“Everything I learn in real life, I trickle down to my students,” said Kumaran, who was recently recognized with the UF system-wide Superior Accomplishment Award for Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace. “We are creating the next generation of nonprofit leaders. I take that responsibility very seriously.”
In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, serving on several nonprofits and traveling to organizations around the world to give advice on best practices, Kumaran has for the past several years led a study abroad program in India. The five-week program immerses students from a variety of disciplines in the country’s nonprofit sector, and he said past participants regularly send him letters about the life-changing trip.
“I always tell my students: Without nonprofits, this world would be a much darker place,” Kumaran said. “Nonprofits provide everything the government cannot or fails to provide.”
During his Fulbright Award period, Kumaran will teach a graduate course at Jeju National University, conduct research on South Korean environmental nonprofits in collaboration with the World Environment & Island Studies Institute and Asia Climate Change Education Center, and train environmental NGO leaders to protect the natural resources of the island of Jeju.
“I encouraged Dr. Kumaran to apply for the Fulbright based on his track record and success in international teaching via his study abroad course, his research in capacity building for NGOs across the globe and his unique level of engagement in international service,” said Tracy Irani, FYCS professor and department chair. “Winning this award brings great recognition not only to Dr. Kumaran’s exemplary work, but also to the department itself and to the international work being done by many of our faculty and students.”
The Fulbright Scholar Program serves as an international exchange program among top U.S. and international students, teachers and researchers. It awards 8,000 grants each year, operating in more than 160 countries.