Lesa Griffiths knows firsthand the power of international experiences. She calls them "life changing."
Since 1999, the professor of animal science in UD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has been leading study-abroad trips to New Zealand, one of the most efficient producers of beef and lamb in the world. During a month with the Kiwis, students visit cattle and sheep stations and talk with farmers about how they produce so much food in such a sustainable manner.
These experiences have not only enriched her students' understanding of the world, but also have expanded her own horizons, Griffiths says. Her wonderful collections show it, from Rimu wood carvings and sheepdog whistles, to books on Maori culture, ranch life and fly-fishing in New Zealand. She also learned needle felt, a wool fiber art, there.
Today, as associate provost for international programs and director of UD's Institute for Global Studies (IGS), Griffiths oversees over 70 study-abroad programs in 45 countries, helps support faculty in the development of international programs, and fosters cultural awareness through public events with a cosmopolitan flair. She has traveled to 11 countries so far as part of UD's global initiatives.
During the University's strategic planning process, the need to build upon our already strong tradition in international study was mentioned over and over again in meetings with constituents across campus and in the broader Delaware community. Their input is reflected in the Path to Prominence strategic plan, with the "Global Initiative" identified as one of the University's six strategic milestones. The Institute for Global Studies was established to provide leadership and support for programs and experiences which help all of us to be informed, skilled, open-minded citizens of the world.
The IGS partners with faculty, academic departments and colleges to (1) strengthen multidisciplinary programs with a global focus including the offering of study-abroad programs in over 40 countries on all seven continents; (2) foster the development of strategic, sustainable, mutually beneficial global partnerships; (3) provide administrative and logistical support for extramurally funded education, training and research programs; and (4) support a wide variety of educational, social and cultural events and programs in our community.
The institute has 14 full-time employees along with several undergraduate and graduate students. We have a group of program coordinators with expertise in areas ranging from business to language and culture, a financial and logistics team, and support staff. The leadership team includes the directors of the Area Studies programs and the Confucius Institute. The director of our partnerships, contracts and grants group has experience in political science and international relations, and the associate director of our study-abroad programs has expertise in language and culture.
The IGS will provide students with opportunities to become engaged in academic, research, social, cultural and other programmatic activities that will foster knowledge and awareness of the economic, environmental, political, cultural and social issues facing the world.
The IGS supports a wide variety of activities. For example, we are currently partnering with Professor Mark Miller to launch in January the National Security Institute funded by the U.S. Department of State. We are a partner in the International Coaching Enrichment Program funded by the United States Olympic Committee and directed by Professors Matt Robinson and Jeff Schneider.
The IGS sponsors its own funding programs such as the annual International Research Awards Program and the International Travel Awards Program. We are working with the Area Studies program and the Department of Anthropology on a new Global Studies Certificate program and with the Latin American Studies program on the Global-At-Home semester program. It's very hard to name just a few of our initiatives because so many individuals and departments are involved in very exciting activities.
I believe that we will leave the world in the hands of a generation of students that not only are more knowledgeable and better prepared to solve complex global problems such as health, food, energy and the environment, but are also more engaged and embrace the human experience. I will never forget a parent who called me a few weeks after her daughter returned from study abroad and told me that if it wasn't for the fact that her daughter looked much like she did before she went abroad – she would never know she was the same person. Global experience has incredible impact. How could you not believe?
The IGS hopes to engage teachers, community organizations and industry by sponsoring programs that focus on global education, culture and world events. We are already involved in assisting with and sponsoring conferences, lectures, and social and cultural programs. The new Confucius Institute located in IGS will play an important role in bringing Chinese language and culture to the greater community.