USD's International Faculty Make a World of Difference
It’s only the opening week of spring semester classes, and the University of San Diego International Center is already abuzz with activity. Students and faculty advisors engage in animated conversations about recent intersession trips to far flung locales like Argentina and New Zealand. Front-desk receptionists field calls from eager future student travelers looking for more information about study abroad courses in Spain. Even the four mounted clocks displaying current times in San Diego, Madrid, Kuwait City and Shanghai seem to be ticking away with added purpose.
Maybe it’s got something to do with USD’s consistent rank among the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate participation in study abroad programs. Or maybe it’s the excitement surrounding the university receiving the prestigious Sen. Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. Whatever it is, Associate Provost for International Affairs Denise Dimon is excited to build on all the energy and forward momentum it has provided.
“I’m a little biased about USD, but I think it’s a great place for students and faculty, regardless of where they might be from,” she says, smiling. “We’re proud of our consistent ranking among the best schools in the country for internationalization, and the [Simon Award] affirms that.”
Dimon is quick to note that the award doesn’t stem solely from the myriad international travel opportunities USD students have; it’s also inextricably tied to the university’s ability to attract some of the best and brightest international faculty in higher education. Dimon cites USD’s globally diverse faculty, such as China's Eric Jiang in Computer Science (pictured, above) or Serbia's Biljana Adebambo in business finance, as a key component of not just the International Center’s success, but the institution as a whole, now and in the future.
“When we have international faculty, it’s just another way to bring diversity and different perspectives to the student experience, which is critical to their development, as well as the development of the university. We embrace multiculturalism here, and that doesn’t happen without a faculty that can bring a truly international perspective to the classroom.”
Social Justice Engineering
Whether they’re from England, Israel, India or all points in between, international faculty have had a profound impact on the Torero community. Case in point: Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering Professor of Praxis Caroline Baillie’s road to Alcala Park began as a materials engineer in her native Great Britain, but an “overinflated sense of social consciousness” led her to a career in higher education and she hasn’t looked back.
“My focus here is very much on education and engineering and social justice,” Baillie explains. “USD happens to be the only university that I am aware of in the world that is interested in seriously understanding and teaching engineering from a social justice perspective. It was very exciting to understand that and to see what was happening and to come here and help with the endeavor.”
Baillie’s socially-driven engineering projects have led her to teach and work in countries all over the globe. She’s been especially focused on finding ways to create sustainable waste recycling programs in developing countries, and has found a willing partner in the school of engineering — particularly its faculty — to help advance her research and practice.
“There is a fantastic diversity of people teaching here,” Baillie says. "Teaching with that understanding in mind and celebrating that diversity is very important. Sharing those differing perspectives enhances the learning experience for everyone, which is what it ought to be and what it really is.”
School of Business Associate Professor of Management Rangapriya Kannan-Narasimhan is focused on employing a people-first mentality to her learning and research. Born in Mumbai, India, Kannan-Narasimhan is intimately familiar with the issues facing populations in developing countries, and brings those perspectives to courses she teaches.
“Growing up, my teachers read directly from textbooks and taught for students to perform on tests, which disengaged me from the learning process, to some degree,” she recalls. “That’s not an issue particular to Mumbai, and it touches on a larger issue of how we, as faculty, really connect with our students.”
To be truly competent and engaged future business leaders, Kannan-Narasimhan challenges students to discuss their interpretations of her class teachings, with the end goal having them connect the dots on applying what they’ve learned to creating innovative, sustainable business practices.
“I think my experience growing up in a different country, with a different perspective, has really helped my students understand the value of listening and learning,” she says. “When you collaborate with people from different cultures, you tend to come up with some very unique solutions to problems, which is one of our main objectives at USD.”
Finding His Niche
A self-confessed “mediocre basketball player and cantankerous coach,” Assistant Professor of Psychology Nadav Goldschmied is keen on exploring the fascinating intersection of sports and psychology in his research and his class teachings. Growing up in Israel, Goldschmied was a huge hoops fan. He marveled at the ability of some players to consistently deliver in the face of adversity, while others seemed to shrink in the moment.
“Sports has always been a very important part of my life. Psychology was another passion of mine. If you can combine the two, it is great. The intersection of those two is really interesting to me. I am very privileged that USD allows me to explore this niche.”
When discussing the value and significance of a globally diverse faculty, Goldschmied draws intriguing parallels between the perspectives of his fellow educators, and those of fan bases of some of the world’s most popular sports teams.
“I think one of the things you try to do in education, in teaching, is provide diverse perspectives, and a globally diverse world certainly accomplishes that. Yet, we’re committed to the same goal: developing our students into the best version of themselves. Similarly, fans of teams like Barcelona, Manchester United or the New York Yankees may come from different places around the world and have different perspectives on their team’s strengths and weaknesses, but the fundamental goal is the same: to see their team win championships.”
Whatever part of the world they call home, USD international faculty help shape the university’s dynamic educational landscape, and enhance the learning experience of the students who take their classes.
Now that’s what you call a dream team.
— Mike Sauer
USD News Center