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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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on Wednesday, 30 November 2011 in News & Updates

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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Lydia Aleman Associate Vice President of University Advancement

In her 18 years with UT Pan American, Lydia Aleman has provided financial expertise and wise counsel to the UTPA Foundation as the primary day-to-day liaison between the two entities. A BBA and MBA graduate of UTPA, Lydia began her career at the University as accountant to the Foundation and in recent years has twice been tapped as the chief advancement officer while national searches were conducted for a divisional vice president. Today, she oversees the Office of Development and Advancement Services, working closely with the President on all fundraising initiatives for both the University and the Foundation. Before joining UTPA, she served as director of finance for the City of Alamo and as manager of accounting for COSTEP (Council for South Texas Economic Progress).


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