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RIT has been a special place for me to enhance both my own international experiences and even more so those of my students in the School of International Hospitality and Service Innovation. During many teaching assignments back-and-forth to Croatia, I was able to experience students studying abroad at both campuses. It was exciting to see students return from Croatia having a new appreciation and understanding of Mediterranean tourism, post-war hotel development, and the role of the European Union in a transitional economy. Additional time in Kosovo and the Dominican Republic has given me an appreciation for RIT’s global reach and role in helping economies develop their service sector and create new entrepreneurs.
Support from the Statler Foundation and Constellation Brands, Inc. has allowed me to lead groups of students on short-term study abroad trips over the last four years to Italy, Croatia, and the United Arab Emirates. The highlight of these trips is always seeing the expression on the students' face as they experience many firsts and achieve many dreams: to see Europe, ride a camel in the desert, or to walk where the gladiators fought in the Colosseum. Many first-time experiences bring a smile to my face as students take their first 14-hour international flight, drink a latte swirled with gold leaf, ski indoors, or walk the Walls of Old Town (Dubrovnik) looking out over the Adriatic Sea.
While travel is exciting, learning is what makes all of the challenges and effort worth the trip. The last three years of taking students to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates has allowed students to learn about industry standards and tourism policy issues that can’t be taught in the classroom. Creating a global classroom experience where students can hear the General Manager of the 7 Star Burj Al Arab Hotel discuss how to satisfy a guest who is paying $2,000 a night, or how to develop indoor snow experiences for children who never grew up sledding or making snowmen, is a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity provided to students here at RIT.
I have taught at RIT’s campuses in Kosovo and Dubai and I have also taught in Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, the Czech Republic, and some other countries. I hope to teach at the RIT campus in Zagreb, Croatia in the future. I have always felt very welcome and appreciated by my International students. Many of them continue to stay in touch with me. The students at RIT’s global campuses are very interested in studying at RIT’s main campus and they want to meet more professors and students from the main campus. My experiences have reinforced my previous opinion that there are far more similarities across cultures than differences. Motivated and appreciative students always bring out the best in a professor and students at International campuses always seem eager to gain as much knowledge as they can from a visiting professor. I have been able to bring some of my best students from Ethiopia and Kosovo to the U.S. to earn their MBA. This is an opportunity that is out of reach for most of them, so these experiences remind me of how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to impact the lives of the young people who I teach.
I have been privileged to have a wide variety of international experience throughout my personal and professional life, and to be able to share these experiences with my students. As a researcher in robotics, a truly global field, I have traveled to conferences in Japan and across Europe, and have co-authored papers with colleagues in Japan and Australia. These experiences have enabled me to better understand the different types of research and the different goals and motivations across various cultures. As a teacher, I had the wonderful opportunity to lead a study abroad program to Dubrovnik, Croatia, for 10 weeks, teaching computing students and being able to immerse ourselves in the local environment. As students with a technical focus, it can be difficult to study abroad and maintain progress toward a degree, so this program was a real benefit for these students to become more broadly aware of another culture and take classes with local students while continuing their studies.
It was my first visit to Germany. I was fortunate enough to be assisting with the set up of a study abroad program for computing students within my college. It was Thanksgiving morning, and my first big holiday away from family and traditions at home. I woke up early, and went for a walk to take in some sites and capture some photos. It was quiet and the air was crisp. I stumbled upon a narrow, brick laid path and decided to take it. Part way down the path, I turned around to view the scenery behind me. It was beautiful, with a light wintery mist in the air, smoke billowing from the rooftops, and just then, an older couple came strolling around the corner toward me. The couple seemed to have entered my scene straight out of the 19th century solely to be a part of my photo. That first trip was the beginning of a series of future trips that I would take to help promote study abroad to computing students and I have enjoyed each and every one of them. While I did not study abroad as a student myself, I have had the pleasure of helping students positively influence their world view and recognize the significance of experiencing the world from a different perspective; a world that at times seems so incredibly large, but is in fact quite small. After all, you never know what you will find when you turn around and change your scenery.
As both an educator and a professional I have had a number of international experiences. Together theses inform my way of thinking and teaching. As a professor in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences I bring my experiences in a global society directly into my classroom. I am interested in the influence of place on one’s practice and how we explore the unfamiliar to learn about a new culture and to seek to understand something we do not already know. I have lead design workshops at RIT/CIAS Design Dessau program, at RIT Croatia. In January 2014, I will lead a workshop at RIT / Dubai where students will collaborate with Architecture students at the American University of Sharjah. The opportunity for our students to work on the ground with local students affords a richness of experience that can be easily missed when traveling. These are the experiences I emphasize in my international programs.
In 2010 I received a senior scholar Fulbright to Turkey where I taught in the design programs at Kadir Has University and Istanbul Technical University. Back at RIT I continued to find ways to involve my students in cross-cultural collaborative experiences, even if it means you do not leave home. Most recently working on a social design project with colleagues at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. This project was commissioned by LASDER Tire Industrialist Association of Turkey and explored the development of new products through the re-use of End of Life Tires (ELT).
For our students to be successful in the 21st century they need to have exposure to working across cultures in order to gain a clear understanding of the global society in which they live and work.