When Shontavia Johnson stumbled upon a unique international initiative and followed the path to the Fulbright Specialist Program, she never expected it to lead to an unforgettable professional and personal experience in Central Asia last year. And now, she is sharing her knowledge with others.
Uzbekistan, once linked to an ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean, is known for its mosques, mausoleums and colorful mosaic architecture. Associate Vice President for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Shontavia Johnson had traveled extensively but admitted Uzbekistan wasn’t on her radar until she applied for the Fulbright Specialist Program.
Like many, she knew about the prestigious Fulbright Program that offers long-term international education opportunities. When Johnson learned about the Fulbright Specialist Program, her interest was immediately piqued by a variety of shorter-term projects that better accommodated her schedule and tapped into her breadth of knowledge as an award-winning intellectual property (IP) lawyer.
About the Fulbright Specialist Program
The Fulbright Specialist Program is a U.S. Department of State initiative that allows academics and established professionals to engage in project-based exchanges – ranging from two to six weeks to complete – at host institutions worldwide.
After tailoring her application specifically to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which had recently overhauled its IP laws, her extensive expertise ultimately secured the opportunity to provide IP training in the country’s capital, Tashkent.
While Uzbekistan is a small country, it’s full of innovation and entrepreneurial activities, and we enjoyed meaningful deep dives into a wide range of topics,” said Johnson, also adding the country’s size and focus on agriculture reminded her of South Carolina, making the exchange that much more valuable. “From comparing the country’s IP laws to those in the United States and the United Kingdom to assessing global innovation data and rankings, the exchange gave me a new worldview of Central Asia’s emerging economies.”
Johnson created and delivered customized presentations and training materials to various groups. The goal was to address real-world issues for government officials responsible for protecting, managing and enforcing IP laws while attracting new economic development and entrepreneurship opportunities.
In addition to strengthening her professional experiences, her time in Uzbekistan – more than 90 percent Muslim and landlocked by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan – exposed her to a new part of the world. And while Johnson said there were significant language and cultural barriers, she felt safe as a Black Christian Woman when exploring the area.
We are proud to have experts like Shontavia take an international stage to make a positive impact through service,” said Clemson University’s Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Robert H. Jones. “We are excited to see what’s next as Shontavia continues her commitment to transforming lives statewide and beyond.”
According to Johnson, everyone she met treated her with respect inside and outside the training. She encourages those at Clemson interested in pursuing a shorter-term Fulbright opportunity to contact Associate Provost for Curriculum Innovation Sharon Nagy at email@example.com.
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