Wright College Professor Selected for State Department Summer Seminar Program


Wright College assistant professor Merry Mayer is a strong believer in experiential learning. A political science professor, she enjoys seeing her students come alive through immersive learning experiences in her classes. Now Mayer has been selected to participate in the 2023 Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program in Mexico, where she’ll have the opportunity to experience the power of experiential learning herself.

Mayer is one of just 16 educators across the United States selected to participate in the Seminars Abroad program in Mexico this July. The group will spend four weeks learning about the arts, social sciences, and humanities in three cities. Her cohort will have the opportunity to connect with Mexican scholars and learn from museum visits, guest speakers, and intercultural exchange opportunities.

The Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad program is administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s International and Foreign Language Education office and the Office of Postsecondary Education, in cooperation with the U. S. Department of State. It provides short-term study abroad opportunities for educators with the goal of improving their understanding and knowledge of the people and cultures of other countries.

Mayer sees the program as a chance to grow as an educator and a citizen of the world.

“I teach international relations, and, in my application, I mentioned my strong desire to learn more about Latin American history and culture,” she said. “I have never traveled to Mexico before, and I’m so glad to have this opportunity as an educator. I love that I am always learning.”

A passion for learning is not new to Mayer. After earning a master’s degree in government from Johns Hopkins University, she worked for over a decade as a journalist, covering government-related news for various media outlets in the Washington, D.C., area and freelance writing in the Chicago area. Those experiences gave Mayer an appetite for learning new things, and she carried that hunger to her second career in higher education.

She joined the Wright College community as an adjunct instructor in 2005 and began teaching political science full time in 2012. Soon after, she became the service learning coordinator there, helping faculty and students to connect classroom learning to real-world service to the community.

In 2016, while teaching her students how to research Congressional committees, Mayer came across a U.S. State Department program called Diplomacy Lab. She knew right away that she wanted to bring the program to Wright College. A partnership between the State Department and United States colleges and universities, Diplomacy Lab connects college students with State Department research projects, giving Wright College students the opportunity to explore topics like women’s economic empowerment, human rights, and global health and security. Students then present their findings to diplomats across the country and around the world.

Mayer is looking forward to spending four weeks immersed in Mexican scholarship and culture alongside 15 other educators.

“Spending a month in another country will be a life-altering experience, and I can’t wait to bring stories and information back to my students and colleagues,” she said.

The program requires participants to develop a plan for how they’ll share what they’ve learned with their home college. Just as she’s done for nearly twenty years in the classroom, Mayer is excited to share what she’s learned with the Wright College community during the upcoming academic year and beyond.