Inside USD

Critical Funding for Faculty Provided by International Opportunity Grants

Friday, November 20, 2009

iog-photoIf you could have up to $4,000 for an international research grant, where would you go?

For Leonora Simonovis, Kevin Guerrieri and Amanda Petersen (pictured, left to right), all professors in the University of San Diego’s Department of Languages and Literature, the answer was the same: the Latin American Society Association’s XXVII International Congress Conference June 11-14, 2009, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

They were among five USD representatives who, through a successful International Opportunity Grant application, received the critical funding to attend an event that takes place once every 18 months. Their attendance enabled them to present or enhance their respective research topics and to network with international colleagues.

“It’s the premier conference in our field,” Petersen said. “There are panels and dialogues and contacts there that we would have missed out on no matter where you are in the United States.”

Guerrieri’s grant afforded him the chance to travel to both Colombia, where his book project is focused, and to Brazil to present a book chapter at the conference. “Without the grant it would have been very expensive,” he said.

The experience also provided a chance to learn more about themselves.

“It was my first time in Brazil,” Simonovis said. “I struggled with Portuguese, but that was good because it taught me to be a beginner and helped in teaching my students in Spanish classes. It’s good to remember that you’re a beginner in other things.”

The three professors were among USD grant recipients attending a special presentation Thursday during International Education Week in the Hahn University Center’s Exhibition Hall. Each presenter gave a brief synopsis of where they went and what they did. Travel encompassed such diverse places as Lithuania, Guatemala, Grenada, Galapagos Islands, Kenya, Palestine and Israel, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, South Africa and South Korea.

Carl Jubran, associate provost for international affairs, and his office took charge of the IOG program in 2006 when internationalization became a strategic initiative at USD. He said 118 faculty and staff have been awarded grants; the average amount awarded this past year was $1,850.

“The grants are usually able to fund a project fully,” he said. Most USD departments provide faculty with a yearly amount designated for domestic and international travel combined, Jubran added, but it’s often not enough. Jubran likes providing opportunities for international intellectual enhancement as well as the benefits that come back to USD.

“Faculty often, when they go abroad, ultimately come back to our office and want to propose a faculty-led program in that country or they’ll think about teaching a course abroad,” Jubran said.

A 2008 grant awarded to Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Deputy Director Dee Aker actually led to an impromptu introduction to Milburn Line, then working with an NGO in Colombia where Aker was doing research. They met, talked and when the IPJ recently sought a permanent director, Aker mentioned Line as a potential candidate. He applied, interviewed and in August was hired.

Aker’s most recent IOG was also noteworthy. She partnered with Major Jason Ruedi, a Naval Science officer instructor in the San Diego NROTC program, “to conduct an on-the-ground assessment to analyze changing security priorities in Nepal,” according to Aker’s project description.

“It was a terrific opportunity, not just to participate, but to participate across departmental boundaries at USD. Together we were able to model a whole community approach to security,” Ruedi said.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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