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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Candidate for study abroad director lays out strategy, visions

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat __________, a new cantidate for Study Abroad Director at UA, reviews the goals that she will strive for if she gets the position. ______ was at a forum where UA community members could ask questions about her plans.

Wendy Williamson, one of two candidates for UA director of study abroad and student exchange, unveiled her vision for the university’s study abroad programming at a forum on Monday.

“We’re looking at the big picture, we’re looking at global engagement, we’re looking at becoming a global university,” she said.

As the current director of study abroad at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill., Williamson has added 20 international partnerships and 10 new countries to that university’s programming. In order for the UA to expand its own global reach, she said, it needs to integrate study abroad experiences with the university’s curriculum, creating an international network linking individual UA departments to global institutions.

If she is selected, Williamson said she will audit the UA’s programming to discover its strengths and weaknesses. Then, the office can foster connectivity with the rest of the UA community and communities worldwide.

One of the flaws in the university’s study abroad system is a lack of partnerships between UA programs and those at foreign institutions, Williamson said. The UA needs to use programs at these schools as an extension of the UA’s curriculum.

“Here’s an example: Your school of art (is a) top art school in the nation. I go to the website and there’s no mention of any global network connection that I could find,” Williamson said.

She pointed out that the Office of Study Abroad and Student Exchange has partnerships with schools abroad that boast strong art programs, like the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, “but there’s no connections” between the two art departments.

Williamson also said she hopes to integrate the study abroad experience with the UA’s general education curriculum. She cited the UA’s “general education spiel,” which says the goal is to prepare students to respond more effectively “to an increasingly complex and ambiguous world.”

“That’s study abroad,” she said.

Her idea includes making study abroad experiences applicable to the UA’s diversity emphasis requirement and allowing transfer credits from foreign universities to count toward students’ grade point averages.

“It encourages study abroad, it puts study abroad on your main menu, and it’s not an hors d’oeuvre anymore,” she said. “It’s part of the main course.”

Williamson got some of her own travel experience as a member of the Peace Corps from 1994 to 1998. She worked in Cameroon and Ecuador doing health education and community development.

“We had very little resources in the Peace Corps, so I always had to figure out how to make it work with the resources and the people that we had available,” Williamson said. “It opened up my mind and my appetite for culture, trying to see how the world works. It gave me an ability to think more critically and analytically about things. I wouldn’t be here today had it not been for that Peace Corps experience.”

Williamson is one of two vying for the directorial position. Her competition, Richard Miller, is the associate director for the Center for East Asian studies at the University of Wisconsin.

The winning candidate should be someone who can transform the UA’s study abroad office into “a powerhouse to be reckoned with,” said Renee Griggs, the interim director of the office of study abroad. “It’s gonna take a special person to bring all of it together and make us a global university and mean it, not just say it. Mean it.”

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