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Study Abroad: For Profs, the World is their Classroom

Posted by Lydia Aleman Associate Vice President of University Advancement
Lydia Aleman Associate Vice President of University Advancement
In her 18 years with UT Pan American, Lydia Aleman has provided financial expert
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In Study Abroad: World of Opportunities, we shared with you how the chance to travel and experience different cultures was broadening the worldview for a growing number of UT Pan American students.

Today, let’s take a look at some of the professors whose own sense of adventure and commitment to their students make possible the well-planned, academically rigorous and life-changing experiences simply referred to as “study abroad.”  

Dr. David Allen, Dean
College of Engineering and Computer Science

Dr. Allen, who came to UTPA as dean of the new College of Engineering and Computer Science in August 2010, had always been a big believer in students traveling abroad to expand their education. That’s why he led a group of engineering students on a study abroad experience in France last summer.

"I'm a very strong believer that engineering education has had a missing dimension and it's outside the classroom where the dimension was missing," said Dr. Allen, who is a 2008 recipient of the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award given by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities to honor educators who have made significant contributions to advance international education at these institutions.

Before coming to UTPA, Dr. Allen had created study abroad programs at Texas A&M University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has had more than 1,000 students from those institutions travel overseas for their education and had taught in 20 countries on four continents.

"Everyone needs to get out of their own backyard and see other parts of the world and see other cultural societies," he said. "One of the reasons I was so attracted to coming here (to UTPA) is because I spent so much of my life in other countries and other cultures – I lived in France, I lived in Italy, spent a lot of time in Brazil and a lot of time in Sweden – I wanted to come down here and see the culture, I wanted to be immersed in a different culture and see what it's like. It's a very interesting culture, but the people who are in this culture who have never been anywhere else need to see other cultures as well. It makes you understand the world, it makes you tolerant of other cultures, it makes you appreciate the complexity of the planet that we live on."

The dean said providing opportunities for engineering students to travel abroad is necessary because engineering has become a global field. "It's a worldwide economy now, engineering can be outsourced and the graduating students in China and India will work for one fourth of what our students will work for. So our students are likely to go and work all over the world.”

(excerpted in part from a story by UTPA Public Affairs Representative Jennifer Berghom)

Dr. Rebecca Mitchell, Assistant Professor of English
Dr. Caroline Miles, Assistant Professor of English

Professors Mitchell and Miles had an overriding goal when they took 20 undergraduate and graduate students on a journey to London and Bath, England.

Before going on the trip, the students who were enrolled in two English courses, Transatlantic Women Writers and Thomas Hardy’s Dorset Writing, were required to read several novels that were either set in or related to London or Bath.

“Our goal was to take the students in the footsteps of the authors and characters they had read about,” said Dr. Mitchell. “Instead of simply holding classes in a classroom, we decided to do all teaching ‘on site’; we were, thus, with the students a great deal more and feel they were more immersed in the places we visited.”

Dr. Mitchell said one of her favorite moments during the trip abroad was at the British Library, where the students participated in a workshop and reviewed manuscripts.

“On the handwritten manuscript, they could see that Thomas Hardy had crossed out his original title for the novel, and crossed out other lines as well. I think this was surprising to many of them – to discover these famous writers, that we so often consider geniuses, did in fact have to revise their work,” said the UTPA professor.

Adriana Lopez, master’s student in English literature, said studying literature in England added a level of excitement to learning that would not have been achieved in the classroom, and she said that having two professors who were familiar with the area was an added perk.

“Having Dr. Miles, who is from England, and Dr. Mitchell, who studied there, was extremely advantageous. Not only were they both extremely knowledgeable about the history, culture, architecture and literary significance of the area, but they were also both full of suggestions of places for us to visit on our evenings off, and overall travel advice to first-time travelers to London.”

(excerpted in part from a story by UTPA Public Affairs Representative Melissa Rodriguez)


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Study Abroad: Opening a World of Opportunities

Posted by Lydia Aleman Associate Vice President of University Advancement
Lydia Aleman Associate Vice President of University Advancement
In her 18 years with UT Pan American, Lydia Aleman has provided financial expert
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It’s easy to see why the International Women’s Board of the UTPA Foundation has made fundraising for Study Abroad Scholarships such a priority since the group’s inception in 1989.

Whether it’s studying art and creative writing in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; walking in the footsteps of venerable authors through London and Bath, England; analyzing the engineering and architectural wonders of Europe’s centuries-old buildings; or becoming immersed in the people, customs and cuisine of China, study abroad programs truly are opening a world of opportunities for a growing number of students at UT Pan American.

Dr. Kenneth Buckman, associate provost for student engagement and experiential learning and former director of the Rafael A. “Felo” and Carmen Guerra Honors Program, has guided numerous study abroad adventures and knows firsthand the impact of such opportunities on the students. “I think it is such a transformative experience unlike any other, where the world becomes the classroom, a world of immediate and experiential learning. It’s kind of a crowning jewel of education. Every year that we go, I am just blown away with the students giving those presentations on site,” he said. “Imagine the students in Turkey who gave their talk at the Haghia Sophia, the greatest church in Christendom for 1,000 years.”

This past year, the University offered some 20 different study abroad programs including ones in Peru, Spain, Thailand, England, Italy, France, China and Morocco. A number of the students who participated had never traveled before, and many couldn’t have gone without financial assistance – either scholarships or other aid.

But for all of them, the sacrifices to get to their destination were well worth the effort. You only have to read their trip reports to understand the impact study abroad experiences have had on them. We wanted to share just a few comments from students from the Rafael A. “Felo” and Carmen Guerra Honors Program who benefited from IWB Study Abroad Scholarships in 2010-2011:

Edgar Armando Casillas, Senior Biology Major from Edinburg, Texas

We arrived at the Beijing Capital International Airport, with the valuable aid of the International Women’s Board. When I set foot on China, I was one excited student. I was unaware that I was about to start an adventure that would change my life and expand my horizons in an unimaginable manner. There was an incomparable sense of accomplishment in knowing that I was chosen to participate in the China-Honors Study Abroad Program, and that I was standing on the other side of the world.

Charles K. Danso, Junior Finance & Business Major from Ghana, West Africa

From walking to Tiananmen Square to withdrawing money from the bank to a three-hour drive to see the Qing tombs, everything was a learning experience. Presentations from students on various topics such as Confucius, The Great Wall of China, Traditional Medicine, the Great Leap Year, the Forbidden City (Gu Gong) and various others were significant as they were done in the environment to which the topic centered on. I remember being incredulous when a student was presenting her topic on the Forbidden City in the Forbidden City. I could not believe I was in China, sitting in the Forbidden City and listening to a presentation on the Forbidden City. “City as Text” was a wonderful experience which made me pay particular attention to the environment.  

Stephanie Rico, Senior Biology/Pre-med Major from Olmito, Texas

I have lived my entire life in a region where being Mexican-American is the predominant heritage and the language of choice oftentimes is a mixture of two languages. Interestingly enough, it is only in the border towns that such a blending of two cultures is so vivid. Unfortunately, I had been exposed to this area for so long that I had lost an appreciation for how unique this region is. During my travel experience to China, I regained a perspective that I had lost and achieved knowledgeable appreciation for traditions and social customs of a foreign culture.

Ashley Bose, Spring 2011 in Chemistry/Pre-med Graduate from McAllen, Texas (now enrolled in Baylor College of Medicine, Houston)

Studying abroad was a wonderful experience and I definitely encourage more people to try it, especially science majors. My major is pre-medical chemistry and my minors are biology, business, and psychology. This trip was completely out of my comfort zone and made me re-think what I had believed for so long – that art lacked purpose. The whole purpose of college is to become a more open minded individual and studying abroad did that for me. I am going to medical school next year and, yes, I will be living, eating, and breathing science, but I have a unique experience that sets me apart and makes me a more cultured and worldly individual – my three week adventure in Italy – and I have the Study Abroad Program to thank for that. If I can see the science in art and learn to appreciate the beauty of sculptures and paintings the way that I appreciate atoms and cells, then it is clear that studying abroad has made an indelible impression that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Kristen Alayne Hopperstad, Summer 2011 Graduate in Biology from San Benito, Texas

As a biology major with an interest in ecology, studying humanities in Venice, Florence, and Rome would, at first glance, seem out of place. If I wished to pursue science, shouldn’t I choose a program more closely related to my degree? I say no. I chose to go to college, not merely for a diploma, not merely to increase my salary prospects, but to receive an in-depth, holistic education – to become a learned individual in not only the sciences but the arts as well.…While in Italy a sense of the universalism of humanity was inspired within me. I developed a deep appreciation for the accomplishments of humankind, an understanding of the unbounded greatness and terrible destructive forces we possess, saw the interconnectedness of all forms of learning, all peoples and all events.…I see the world with new eyes and have grown as a human being. I cannot thank you (IWB) enough for helping fund this trip and allowing me this beautiful experience. It will not only forever remain as a treasured memory, but will shape the way I live my life, my interactions with my fellow people, and my goals as a career woman and as a person.

If you would like to learn how you can help more UT Pan American students change their lives through Study Abroad, just drop us a note at or give us a call at (956) 665-5301.

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Estate Planning is really "Life Planning"

Posted by Cecilia Johnson Director of Planned Giving
Cecilia Johnson Director of Planned Giving
Cecilia Johnson builds relationships between the University community and indivi
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Estate planning isn’t just for the wealthy – or elderly.

It’s for individuals in various stages of life who want to plan ahead for themselves and for the people and things they leave behind. To help ensure that your estate – no matter how large or small – benefits the family and friends, programs and projects that are important to you, The University of Texas-Pan American Foundation Board of Trustees invites you to join us for a series of free estate planning seminars each spring.

Every year, attorneys Bill Ellis and Morgan Talbot, who co-chair the Foundation’s Estate Planning Committee, recruit an outstanding group of estate planning professionals – attorneys, financial planners, CPAs and investment brokers – who guide those who attend the free seminars through the basics of estate planning in simple, non-technical language.

The Foundation’s free seminars provide the public an excellent opportunity to meet with and ask questions of extremely competent and knowledgeable estate-planning professionals about a number of topics that are important to individuals and their families.

All the presenters are volunteers who participate in the Foundation’s annual seminars to increase the level of awareness of individuals as to what opportunities are available to prepare for and protect one’s lifestyle and possessions. No products are promoted or sold at these events.

We hope you will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity offered by the UTPA Foundation. For dates and locations of upcoming seminars, please contact Cecilia Johnson, Director of Planned Giving, at (956) 665-2352 or



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