Beyond Education

Fulbright Scholar at Thomas

Deepika Papneja - Fulbright Scholar

Thomas College is honored to host Deepika Papneja as its first Fulbright Scholar. Deepika is here from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi, India, where her research interests include Gender and Feminist Studies, Gender and Schooling, Sociology of Education and Social Science Education. At Thomas Deepika is teaching classes and sharing her experiences with the Thomas community. We had an opportunity to catch up with Deepika and talk to her about her time at Thomas. 

Q: Has the experience as a Fulbright Scholar met your expectations?
A: This opportunity has been so much more than I could have expected. This last semester, I have visited Thomas student-teachers at a local school every week with Dr. Phil McPhee. Between watching the learning styles of the seasoned teachers and watching the young students grow, I can say I have experienced quite a bit in the classroom. It has given me the opportunity to compare and contrast the different learning and teaching styles from here and in India. It has also allowed me to get to know my Thomas students outside of the classroom. Some students who might be reserved in class are completely different out in the field. They are extremely motivated and really care about the children they are teaching. I have also met many Thomas alumni at the schools we have visited. It is a sense of comfort knowing that they are out there teaching the next generation. I have also found a great friend in Phil.

Q: Has this experience lead you to some life-learning moments?
A: It is fascinating that no matter where you are from, we all share similar life struggles and happy moments. Humanity is what connects us all. If you are from here or from India, if you are from what is considered a wealthy or poor family, we all share many similar daily experiences. When I arrived in Maine, I used to say to my family that I live in a house, but that soon changed to my telling them that I live at home. I have received a lot of love and affection at Thomas.

Q: Has this Maine winter challenged you in any way?
A: I was ready for winter, but not this ice we have had. People I have spoken with say that this has been a terrible winter even for this area. Learning to walk on the ice and preventing a fall has been one of the bigger challenges I have learned to deal with. What surprised me the most is the loneliness of it all. I have had to prepare for days inside with no safe way to get out. Keeping a few days’ worth of food and planning out things to keep me busy has helped. It is very different than what I am used to. I enjoy being with people and like keeping busy.

Q: What courses are you currently teaching?
A: Last semester I taught two courses, Gender & Schooling and Family Culture and Community. The first course was attended by students with a mix of majors, while the other course was all Early Childhood Education majors. This semester I am co-teaching Women, Dissent & Change with Pamela Thompson and Teaching Methods of Elementary Mathematics. I have taught similar classes at my college in India before, but this is the first time I have had male students in the class. It has brought a new perspective to the class, one that I will take with me the next time I teach it. Co-teaching a class has also been a great experience. Pamela has been a great mentor and colleague.

Q: What are your plans after Commencement?
A: Oh! I have talked with the President of my college back home, and she said that I have been missed and she has lots of interesting work waiting for me. I cannot wait to share all of my experiences with my colleagues in India and in my next set of classes. Everyone at Thomas has been so warm and welcoming that I have not missed home as much as I thought I would. I hope to keep the contacts that I have made here and continue the flow of information and sharing. The experience I have had and the relationships and friendships I have forged during my Fulbright experience have been life changing.

For more information on the Fulbright Scholar Program, visit

Thomas College. Beyond Education.