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November 19, 2008
By Guia Del Prado
For University of Nevada, Reno faculty members and administrators, it may seem that studying abroad may be a venture meant only for students. But with the University Studies Abroad Consortium Faculty International Development program (FIDA), University employees have the chance to study and live abroad as students do. With the application deadline of Monday, Dec. 1, for the 2009 summer terms fast approaching, University administrators and faculty members can consider this option for their own professional development or to pass on their experiences to their students.
The University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) will award four FIDAs. The awardees can study in locations including Chile, China, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Mexico and Spain. While all applications will be taken, preference will be given to applicants who have little to no international experience. The award includes a tuition waiver, field trips plus an additional amount that can be used for airfare, housing, insurance or other trip-related expenses.
The FIDA program was designed specifically to fulfill one of USAC’s mission goals, which is to internationalize the University and expose the University to international influences. Two of the ways this goal is fulfilled is through the Visiting Professors program and the FIDA, said Carmelo Urza, director of USAC.
“The University really is its people,” Urza said. “They [FIDA participants] are able to directly experience the USAC experience, not read about it, not be told about it, but actually be a student…have a deeper understanding of what we do and how we do it.”
While a professor is able to maintain their role in studying abroad with the Visiting Professors program, those participating in the FIDA program become students. They take classes, have the same living options and go on field trips with other students studying abroad. This program allows professors to study abroad as a student would so they can better advise and inform their own students of what USAC experience is like, as well as use their resulting international experiences as a teaching tool.
“Having a world perspective or an international perspective in the classroom is something that is transmitted to their students by way of anecdotes, research, contacts and so on,” Urza said. “By way of being able to be a far more complete and richer resource for their students.”
Professors or administrators who study abroad are also given a chance to develop professionally. Yvonne Stedham, a managerial sciences professor in the College of Business, was a FIDA recipient and studied abroad in Torino, Italy in the summer session of 2004. While there, she was able to gather data and research for a paper about Italian and German business ethics that she is working on now.
“I saw with my own eyes many things that will relate to the results that I have,” Stedham said. “It’s not just theoretical knowledge on what the culture is like and why there may be differences in business ethics between Germans and Italians. I have a much richer knowledge now.”
Stedham was also able to see what it was like for students to study abroad in comparison to traveling abroad as a professional or on vacation. As a business professor who recommends many of her students to study abroad through USAC, she was able to empathize with the experiences students have when studying abroad.
“As a professional traveling on business it is quite easy for me to travel,” Stedham said. “Usually I have a contact who will assist me throughout my stay in a foreign country. Being abroad as a ‘student’ forced me to take care of things more often by myself. I could see the study abroad experience from the student’s perspective and I am more aware of the kinds of problems and challenges they may have.”
Urza and Stedham both said that the FIDA awardees receive the same hospitality that is offered to students. For professors who have never studied abroad, the FIDA program is the best way to go.
“To go with USAC is the best way to do it because you’re not thrown in there in cold water and expected to swim on your own,” Stedham said. “You have just wonderful support.”