Faculty Forging International Connections

January 22, 2015
By: WSU News

When Dr. Marape Marape, a physician and epidemiologist from Botswana, visited campus in December, he gave the Worcester State University community valuable insight into the ongoing Ebola epidemic in Africa, saying, “Public health challenges are no longer just local or regional. They are now global and demand that everybody chips in.”

Dr. Marape’s visit was a direct result of a connection made by Anne W. “Shiko” Gathuo, Ph.D., associate professor of urban studies, who visited Botswana five months earlier as a participant in the summer International Faculty Development Seminars, a program run through the Council for International Educational Exchange and funded by grants from the Worcester State Foundation 

Gathuo returned from her 10-day trip with a list of recommendations for collaborations among WSU and other institutions in Botswana, a stable African country with an acute need for trained local nonprofit professionals. Other faculty visited Australia, Northern Ireland, Peru, Jordan and Turkey, and brought back enhanced international perspectives to their classrooms.

“It is important for our students to have international experiences, but it’s important for faculty as well. They need the opportunity to develop professional relationships, conduct research and bring back first-hand experiences that will enrich our academic community and ultimately help our students become globally aware and engaged citizens,” says Katey Palumbo, director of international programs.

Researching The Troubles

Julie Frechette, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication, visited Northern Ireland and attended a seminar that investigated the historical challenges surrounding “The Troubles,” the conflict between Protestant and Catholic religious and ethnic populations. Participants met with area leaders who are promoting peace efforts through traditional music celebrations and cultural events.

“The entire experience was enriching and relevant to my research interests in critical cultural studies, an interdisciplinary academic discipline that enables cultural researchers to theorize about the forces from which the whole of humankind construct their daily lives,” wrote Frechette in a wrap-up report. “This faculty seminar allowed me to analyze how localized cultural identity is preserved through traditional Irish music, sound and space, and how such practices help thwart the American dominance of popular culture through transnational global media corporations.”

Field Visits to Jordan

In addition to practicing her linguistic skills, Madeline Otis Campbell, Ph.D., assistant professor of urban studies, was able to witness history by visiting Jordan and Turkey during the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.

“I partook in field visits, connected with refugee service providers and networked with other researchers that will potentially allow me access to new research sites and participants,” Campbell wrote, adding that her experience has already enriched her current urban studies classes and has led directly to the development of new classes.

Other participants included Sebastian Velez, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, who traveled to Australia; and Shelley White, Ph.D., assistant professor of health sciences, who visited Peru.

Faculty interested in applying for the summer 2015 seminars should contact Palumbo at  kpalumbo2@worcester.edu. Worcester State Foundation grants of up to $5,500 cover the CIEE fee and some travel expenses. The deadline to submit applications is Feb. 23.

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