Christine Metz Howard
International Affairs

Barbara Kerr receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Iceland

Wed, 07/12/2023

Barbara Kerr, Fulbright Award winner

LAWRENCE — Barbara Kerr, University of Kansas Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Counseling Psychology, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to travel to Iceland to study creative communities.

Co-funded by the National Science Foundation Arctic Scholars program, the Fulbright Fellowship will allow Kerr to spend the 2023 fall semester in Iceland exploring how communities composed of creative people differ from other organizations. Icelanders have a high participation rate in creative industries, and the country has more patents, copyrights and art sold per capita than much larger nations.

“We want to see if creative communities in Iceland have some part to play in national innovation,” Kerr said.

Fulbright U.S. Scholar Awards are prestigious and competitive fellowships that provide unique opportunities for scholars to teach and conduct research abroad, as well as forge partnerships with international institutions. Kerr is one of 800 U.S. citizens who will teach or conduct research abroad for the 2023-2024 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Kerr’s research will contribute to her capstone work, a book on the psychology of creativity that summarizes 15 years of research at KU’s Counseling Laboratory for the Exploration of Optimal States in the School of Education & Human Sciences.

For years, Kerr has studied creative individuals but recently began exploring creative communities. With a group of doctoral students, she observed and interviewed people in Kansas at makerspaces, art collectives and writers’ workshops.

Because so much of Iceland’s creativity takes place in community, Kerr said it’s important to study not just the individuals but the organizations in which the creativity and innovation occur.

Kerr has conducted research in Iceland several times. In 2013, Kerr and her daughter, a photographer, documented their experience interviewing creative people in Iceland. She has since returned three times with doctoral students to study why Iceland is so creative. This summer Kerr is leading a study abroad group to Iceland where they will study creative communities.

“In Iceland, I discovered that creativity takes place not only in the context of community but also in the context of gender equality and tolerance, social democracy and high economic equality,” Kerr said. “From that point on, I have studied how variables of gender, privilege and opportunity interact with individual variables to predict the development of creative talent.”

While in Iceland, Kerr will collaborate with Hanna Olafsdottir, a professor at the University of Iceland who teaches courses in art education, art and nature, and art therapy. Kerr will guest lecture in Olafsdottir’s classes and visit creative groups with her. Through the National Science Foundation Arctic Scholars program, Kerr will also work with scientists and scholars in the fields of geology, natural history and culture of Arctic regions.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries. Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

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