Scott Titsworth, associate professor in the School of Communication Studies, participates in a Buddhist ritual in Thailand.
Photo courtesy of: Scott Titsworth
A villager from around Pak Mun, Thailand.
Photographer: Scott Titsworth
A Jordanian woman makes bread using traditional methods.
Photographer: Miriam Shadis
Aug 11, 2010
From staff reports
Students studying abroad is a fairly common occurrence, but what about the faculty who instruct them?
The office recently sponsored two faculty members in attending workshops abroad through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE).
“CIEE has been doing this for years, and it’s something that, when they send the materials, I just think, ‘I wish we could do this.’”said Catherine Marshal, director of the Office of Education Abroad. “Last year we made the decision to invest in our faculty. We had a competitive process, and we sent out e-mails to all the deans and asked them to push the call for applicants out to all the departments and schools.”
Full-time, continuing faculty were eligible for the office’s sponsorship. To apply they had to submit a statement of purpose, their curriculum vitae and a letter of support from their director or dean. But, more than that, that also had to show an interest in internationalizing their teaching and research.
“It gives faculty and staff an opportunity to immerse themselves in a geographical area and a topic. So, it isn’t just location, but it’s the topic too,” said Marshall.
A faculty committee selected Scott Titsworth, associate professor in the School of Communication Studies, and Miriam Shadis, associate professor of history, to attend workshops with CIEE abroad.
Titsworth participated in the Thailand program “Human Rights in Thailand: Military Coups, Social Movements and Rule of Law,” held July 11-23. Of the programs selected by the Office of Education Abroad, he chose to apply for this one because of previous experience in the country.
“The topic explored social protest and human rights in Thailand,” said Titsworth. “It can be the rural people versus the urban people. There are ongoing human rights issues, but not like, you find under a dictator. The people in the rural areas are often being exploited.”
The workshop, almost two weeks long, took the 11 participants on an exploration of human rights from all perspectives. Members of social groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and representatives from business and the government addressed the group.
“The very first village we visited was on the Pak Mun Dam, and that really affected me,” said Titsworth. “The dam was constructed in the 1970s, and we met villagers who had lived there before and after the dam was built. We heard stories of how the dam had eroded the village's ability to sustain itself by destroying tens of generations’ knowledge of how to fish in the river.”
Shadis participated in a five-day program half a world away in Amman, Jordan. The workshop, “Middle Eastern Women: Tradition, Development, and Change,” explored the role of women in the Middle East, and Jordan, in particular.
“Every hour was packed,” said Shadis. “It was like eight days fit into five.”
Among Shadis’ favorite experiences were meeting women in a village north of the capital city of Amman who were earning their livings by producing traditional Jordanian crafts and foods. Like Titsworth, they spoke with a variety of officials and activists, from the first female senator in the Jordanian parliament, to a novelist, to a judge, and many more.
“There is a real complexity of identities there in women’s lives in Jordan,” she said. “This program highlighted that for me.”
The travel abroad, and refreshing experience of being a student once more, has also impacted the way Titsworth and Shadis plan on teaching this fall.
“Even then, in Thailand, it was easy to see how I could bring this stuff into my COMMS 101 class,” said Titsworth. “It was easy to see the different case studies that I can use with this class. It is moved out of the hypothetical into the real world. The experience was so enriching to me as a teacher.”
Shadis agreed with him that she anticipates her time abroad impacting her approach to teaching.
“I will be able to speak with more authority on subjects. It helped me to really see how complex women’s lives are. I’m more aware that there’s more to the story that I don’t know,” Shadis said.
The Office of Education Abroad will begin accepting applications for academic year 2010-11 programs in the fall. Shadis has advice to her colleagues who are considering an application.
“Just do it,” she said.”If you have the opportunity to do this, do not hesitate over it. Do the reading the program requests, get a guidebook, go and don’t hesitate. You’re there to learn, and it’s great to be a student again.”