Four UIC scholars earn Fulbright awards for research, teaching

Four faculty members from the University of Illinois Chicago have been selected as Fulbright scholars for 2020-21. They are among 800 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, the flagship international educational exchange sponsored by the U.S. government.

Brenda López Silva, a research and development specialist with the Learning Sciences Research Institute at UIC, will use her Fulbright award to teach in Portugal, where she will lead a course on problem-based learning for storytelling with the design of virtual reality environments. She is scheduled to teach at the Polytechnical Institute of Lisbon beginning in March 2021.

Brenda López Silva, a research and development specialist
Brenda López Silva, a research and development specialist with the Learning Sciences Research Institute at UIC. Photo by Lance Long.

“I am honored to be given this opportunity to teach and collaborate in Lisbon. My course will cover storytelling in real-time virtual reality environments, and will present students with a survey of learning theories, methods and hands-on activities. Students will realize their own ideas and explore different technologies in the process,” said López Silva, who also is a faculty member in the department of art and technology studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Products of this class will result in virtual reality applications that she will make available via various online platforms. Participating students will share their work and experiences remotely in a dedicated event, such as a show or virtual exhibit.

López Silva’s work at the Learning Sciences Research Institute is focused on the development of learning technologies, specifically augmented reality, virtual reality and extended reality, and the impact of those technologies for learning and teaching.

She has produced several technology-based projects that have been exhibited at the Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium, SciTech Hands-On Museum, and Alameda Art Laboratory in Mexico City. She also has been a guest researcher at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, where she conducted research on augmented reality and the impacts of embodied interactions on learning processes and physical efforts in children.

López Silva also is an adviser to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, where she develops technology-based educational tools for preschool students in Mexico.

She holds a master’s in electronic visualization from UIC, a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and communication from Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in México, and a post-baccalaureate degree in new technologies from Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in México.

Kim D. Ricardo, professor at UIC John Marshall Law School, will helm a research and teaching project while based at the Ambrosio Lucas Gioja Institute of Legal and Social Research at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she will begin her work in August 2021.

Kim D. Ricardo, professor at UIC John Marshall Law School
Kim D. Ricardo, professor at UIC John Marshall Law School. Photo by Thomas’ Photographic Services

“Depending on student interest and availability of resources, this course could be split into two separate but related offerings — English for Spanish-Speaking Lawyers and Introduction to U.S. Legal Systems,” she said. “This course, or set of courses, would be offered to undergraduate law students in Argentina, for the dual purpose of appreciating the U.S. common law system as well as learning how to assist clients with anything from international business transactions to immigration petitions.”

She previously has taught Introduction to the U.S. Legal System to law students in master’s degree programs at China’s State Intellectual Property Office and at Masaryk University Faculty of Law in the Czech Republic.

Ricardo directs the Lawyering Skills Program at UIC Law, which is designed to immerse students in the development of key practical skills, including legal reasoning, legal research, oral advocacy, drafting and counseling. The program is ranked among the top programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Her scholarly writing considers redress and reparations law, policy and social movements in the United States. Her work has appeared in the U.C. Irvine Law Review, the Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy, and the William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice, among other publications.

She is a member of the State Bar of California, and has been involved in several pro bono publico cases litigating a variety of legal issues, including post-conviction relief, Violence Against Women Act self-petitions and police brutality claims. She also is a member of the Chicago Dancemakers Forum board of directors.

Ricardo received her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned her J.D. from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She also earned a master’s in law, with distinction and a certificate in national security law at the Georgetown University Law Center. 

Nebiyou Tilahun, UIC associate professor of urban planning and policy, was awarded a Fulbright for research and teaching related to an integrated public transportation system in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which has experienced significant population and development growth since the 1980s. He had to cancel the travel because of the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.

Nebiyou Tilahun
Nebiyou Tilahun, UIC associate professor of urban planning and policy.

Tilahun’s proposed project aimed to examine the various challenges Addis Ababa faces due to the growing demands for public transportation despite significant investments in expanding the area’s transportation options.

“Opportunities exist to improve service through better coordination across operators and systems in route planning, fare sharing, transfers, better intermodal connections, as well as through better utilization of the roadway infrastructure. As things stand, users experience long wait times, delays, congested vehicles and excessive numbers of transfers,” he said.

Tilahun, who would have worked in collaboration with faculty and graduate students at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology, sought to examine these challenges from the user, service provider, and institutional perspectives with the goal of developing strategies that enable a more efficient and integrated intermodal passenger transportation system.

Tilahun, who earned a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota, has research interests focused on travel behavior, accessibility, and the social issues surrounding transportation, travel behavior and urban systems. He directs the Travel Behavior and Urban Systems Research Group at UIC.

Federico Waitoller, associate professor in the department of special education in the UIC College of Education, will utilize his Fulbright award to research and lecture in Spain as part of a project to improve the educational experiences of students with disabilities in schools. He will give a series of lectures on the topic of inclusive education in the Colleges of Education, Psychology, and Sociology at Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona and will collaborate with faculty to design a comparative study on the impact of current global educational policies in the education of students with disabilities.

Federico Waitoller’s Rising Star photo, arms folded
Federico Waitoller, associate professor in the department of special education in the UIC College of Education. Photo by Jenny Fontaine

“I am extremely honored and excited to receive this fellowship and represent UIC in Spain,” Waitoller said. “It is a unique year, to say the least, particularly in the U.S. and Spain. The significance to improve the educational experience for all students has been heightened by the COVID-19 context.”

Waitoller’s research focuses on urban inclusive education and racial inequities for students with disabilities. His research agenda has two strands: teacher education for inclusive education and market-driven reforms in education. Through engaged scholarship, Waitoller has collaborated with and presented research findings to various stakeholders in the Chicago area, including parent and neighborhood organizations, legal advocate groups for students with disabilities, Chicago Teachers Union, and school district administrators. He also testified in public hearings before local and national politicians. He is a member of the National Coalition for Latinx with Disabilities.

Among Waitoller’s most recent publications is “Excluded by Choice, Urban Students with Disabilities in the Education Marketplace,” published in June 2020 by Teachers College Press.

In his current research, which is being conducted through a grant from the Spencer Foundation, Waitoller is researching how parents of students with disabilities’ perceptions of urban social landscapes shape their ability to engage the school choice market.

Waitoller received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia College, his master’s in special education from the University of Washington and his doctorate from Arizona State University.

Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has enabled more than 390,000 dedicated and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and find solutions to shared international concerns. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State.

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