Study Abroad Programs Provide World of Lessons to Students
Schloss Brunnenburg, a castle in northern Italy, hosts students from all over the world to study the works of Ezra Pound. Dr. Tim Redman, professor of literary studies in the School of Arts and Humanities, brings students to the castle for the only faculty-led program at UT Dallas held entirely off-campus.
When Russell “Charlie” Hannigan heard about an education abroad program in Italy led by one of his favorite UT Dallas professors, he couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the summer.
So Hannigan, a mathematics senior and a McDermott Scholar who loves literature so much he almost considered a double major, signed up to study Florentine literature in a 13th-century castle in northern Italy with Dr. Tim Redman, professor of literary studies in the School of Arts and Humanities.
“We all had a sense of wonder while we were there. You step outside and you’re on the cobblestone courtyard of the castle,” Hannigan said. “We couldn’t get over that. We were living in a castle. It was wonderful.”
UT Dallas study abroad programs help students experience a different culture and expand their worldview while pursuing a degree. The University offers several such opportunities: faculty-led programs, student exchange programs, internships and independent study.
For first-time overseas travelers, faculty-led programs can provide the security of a vetted location and a supportive group, said Lisabeth Lassiter, director of Education Abroad in the International Center. Last year, 337 UT Dallas students participated in a faculty-led program; 167 studied overseas through other programs.
“For the student who is not sure about traveling abroad but wants to learn about another culture, the short-term experience and group support from a faculty-led course is the best introduction,” Lassiter said.
UT Dallas students spent nine days in Costa Rica over the summer for hands-on lessons in environmental sustainability and ecotourism.
Most of these are offered through the Naveen Jindal School of Management (JSOM) and the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, and are embedded experiences, where the course begins and ends at UT Dallas, with a week or more of travel as part of the course.
For instance, Dr. Jillian Duquaine-Watson led 10 students on a trip to Costa Rica in June for hands-on lessons in environmental sustainability and ecotourism.
The course, offered through the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, includes classes on campus followed by a nine-day trip to study ecotourism, public policy and complete service projects in Costa Rica.
Students spent most of the time in Guanacaste at a ranch that also functions as an ecotourism destination. Participants built a biodigester: a structure of tanks, bags and tubes that converts human and animal waste into methane that can be used for energy. The rest of the material can be used as fertilizer.
Duquaine-Watson, a senior lecturer, said students can apply for the 2016 trip, which will focus on the relationship between environmental and human health. She said many of the participants receive scholarships and raise funds for the course.
“There is something inherently beneficial about students moving outside of their own cultural framework and familiarity,” Duquaine-Watson said. “With UT Dallas’ increasing focus on students becoming global citizens, a faculty-led study abroad is a way to do that in a very safe and supported manner.”
Dr. Habte Woldu, clinical professor of international business management, has led trips abroad for 20 years through the Office of International Programs in JSOM, which exposes students to business in a global context.
“There is something inherently beneficial about students moving outside of their own cultural framework and familiarity. With UT Dallas’ increasing focus on students becoming global citizens, a faculty-led study abroad is a way to do that in a very safe and supported manner.”
Woldu, the founder of foreign study trips at JSOM, focuses on helping students understand the business environments and socio-cultural dynamics of emerging markets in countries such as China, India, South Africa, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Poland, Estonia, Slovenia and Cuba. Students can apply now for the next round of faculty-led global experience courses.
“It’s amazing. The story of these trips is a story of changed lives for these students,” Woldu said. “We visit corporations and study their management practices, and students feel connected with those countries for many years afterward. Some go back to work with these corporations after they graduate.”
For Hannigan, the Italy experience fulfilled two dreams: to live in a castle and to spend one-on-one time with one of his biggest mentors.
“Dr. Redman is one of the intellectual heavyweights at UT Dallas. Having the opportunity to talk with him one-on-one was amazing,” he said.
Students stay at Schloss Brunnenburg, a castle that was built around 1250 outside the city of Merano and completely restored in the mid-20th century by Boris and Mary de Rachewiltz.
Mary de Rachewiltz is the daughter of the poet Ezra Pound. She still makes her home at the castle, where she also established the Ezra Pound Center for Literature. Students come from all over the world to stay in a large guesthouse and study her father's works.
Redman met de Rachewiltz when he attended a seminar there in 1976 as a PhD student. They have been close friends ever since.
When Redman as a faculty member received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to lead a group of 12 college professors in the study of Pound and his contemporaries, UT Dallas rented the castle for a month. Redman eventually arranged for students from the University to use the castle for a month, every other year.
It is the only faculty-led program at UT Dallas held entirely off-campus.
“It really is more of an immersion experience, with long weekends to travel,” Redman said of the program, which has covered the Italian Renaissance and the literature of Venice and Florence.
This year, de Rachewiltz’s son Siegfried, who has a PhD from Harvard University, taught a second course on sustainability and the environment. Students visited the castle’s agricultural museum and observed an irrigation system in a rain desert.
In 2017, Redman will pass the torch to Dr. Mark Rosen, associate professor of aesthetic studies at UT Dallas and a member of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History. Rosen specializes in Italian Renaissance art and history, and has held a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship at the Medici Archive Project in Florence, Italy.
A complete list of faculty-led and other study abroad programs is available at Education Abroad.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].