Dr. Katherine Hertlein, whose research at the UNLV School of Medicine focuses on the effect of technology on human relationships, prints the email that announced her recent selection as a Fulbright Scholar.
As the program director for the medical school’s Couple and Family Therapy Program works at her desk, sunlight streams through her office window, highlighting a hand-printed note where the only technology used was a pencil.
“To Mom / I love you so much / I want you to know / Adam.”
Smiling as she looks at the note pinned to her wall, Hertlein explains that her son, Adam, now 10, was just five-years-old when he wrote the message that she always keeps in her office —
a space that is the former province of Jerry Tarkanian, the late UNLV basketball coach who led the Runnin’ Rebels to the 1990 NCAA men’s basketball championship.
“Yes, Adam’s going with me on the Fulbright Scholarship to Austria, to the University of Salzburg,” says Hertlein, the first member of the medical school faculty to win the prized academic distinction. Fulbright alumni include 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 57 have received a Nobel Prize, 33 have served as a head of state or government and 10 have been elected to the U.S. Congress. “It will be something he always remembers.”
As she gives a visitor the Fulbright announcement, she admits to an “incredible excitement” when she read the news. Her husband Eric, a software engineer, will join her on the five month research trip to Austria that begins in February 2019.
It was a month ago when Hertlein received her selection email from Jeffrey Bleish, chairman of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board appointed by the President of the United States. She notes she now can expand to Europe her current research that explores the presence of dating apps on phones for those people already in relationships, and how couples recover from infidelity, if at all, once it is discovered on their partner’s phone.
“I am specifically interested in how accessibility of technology, affordability, acceptability, ambiguity, approximation and other factors shape the structure and processes of relationships,” Hertlein wrote in her proposal for a Fulbright Scholarship.
The Fulbright Program, which operates in 160 countries, is an American scholarship program of competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists.
Founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946, the program, established to increase mutual understanding between Americans and other countries, gives the opportunity to selected American citizens to study, conduct research or exercise their talents abroad. Citizens from other countries can qualify to do the same in the U.S.
“My plan at the University of Salzburg is to understand more fully the role of technology in relationships outside of the U.S.,” she says. “First, I will be collecting quantitative data to validate, refine and expand my theoretical framework that explains how couple and family life is affected by technology…. The findings of this research will be used to inform therapeutic interventions and approaches for treating contemporary couples and families on a global scale.”
In addition to her study, Hertlein proposes to teach two courses at the University of Salzburg: “Technology and Relationships” and “Modern Sexology: Biology, Psychology and Behavior.”
Hertlein, who received her doctorate in human development with a specialization in marriage and family therapy from Virginia Tech University, has a well-established research career. She has published more than 60 articles, eight books, and over 50 book chapters.
Last year, her book, “A Clinician’s Guide to Systemic Sex Therapy,” was awarded the 2017 Book Award from the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. That book, along with another of her books, “Systemic Sex Therapy,” are used in over 20 couple and family therapy training programs in the U.S. She also serves as editor of the
Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy
The UNLV community is understandably proud of Hertlein’s accomplishment.
Dr. Ellen Cosgrove, the UNLV School of Medicine Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Education, was ecstatic that her colleague won one of the world’s most coveted scholarships.
"It is such a pleasure have a visionary thinker like Dr. Katherine Hertlein in the UNLV School of Medicine,” she said.
Dr. Alison Netski, chair of the UNLV Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Department where Hertlein does her work, noted that her “well-established research career” has been enhanced with a Fulbright Scholarship.“
UNLV President Len Jessup even used his twitter account to let the world know that the new UNLV School of Medicine had its first Fulbright Scholar.
The outpouring of congratulations from the UNLV community has moved Hertliein.
“The response from people at UNLV to the scholarship is amazing,” she says “ It is such a gift to work with amazing, talented, and supportive colleagues and friends who cheer right along with me. I am incredibly grateful for the institutional support offered to participate in this opportunity and honored to represent the school of medicine and UNLV in this next fantastic journey.”