FIDA awards allow faculty to experience new cultures

2/18/2010 | By: Skyler Dillon  |

The University of Nevada, Reno-based University Studies Abroad Consortium has announced the 2010 recipients of the Faculty International Development Award. The award, which is given by USAC in conjunction with the University, gives professors and advisors an opportunity to take part in USAC programs as students.

In summer 2010, University faculty members Tamara Valentine, Maria Pregitzer and Leslie Elliott will travel to three different countries through USAC, which offers semester-, year- or summer-long programs in 24 countries around the globe.

Valentine, director of Nevada’s Honors Program, will be traveling to San Ramon, Costa Rica-a part of the world to which she has never travelled. She expects that by directly experiencing a study-abroad trip, she’ll be better able to advise students about the benefits involved.

“A lot of my students experience this,” she said. “Now I’ll get to learn what they learn.”

Valentine, Pregitzer and Elliott will attend classes during their roughly month-long trips, including language classes, and will take part in all aspects of the USAC program just as students do.

In addition, Valentine is planning to explore ways to give students honors credit during study-abroad trips, and Pregitzer, coordinator of student affairs and outreach at the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, plans to keep a blog that her students can follow.

“I want to investigate ways to show students how worthwhile it is,” said Pregitzer, who will be traveling to Viterbo, Italy. “So many students never see studying abroad as a possibility, but with the aid and opportunities available, it’s within reach.”

She also says the experience abroad will help her relate to her students more effectively.

“Learning a new language, being in a different environment and different lifestyle—that teaches you how to interact better with everyone you meet,” she said.

Elliott, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Community Health Sciences, has similar hopes for her trip. She is excited for the Spanish-language immersion opportunities, including living with a local host family. She plans to use the experience to provide outreach to the extensive Hispanic population in Washoe County.

“I’ve only had maybe one Hispanic student in the two years I’ve been working here,” she said. “I want to bring more into the curriculum, to engage them more, and that is hard to do with an interpreter.”

While in college in the 1970’s, Elliott took a semester off to travel through Mexico, which is where she’ll be visiting this summer. She didn’t realize at the time there were opportunities to travel without taking time off from school, and to earn credit at the same time.

“USAC is very good at providing programs to help students culturally and academically,” she said. “The programs plant the seeds to let them go out and interact with all kinds of different people. Everyone should take advantage of that.”


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