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Faculty exchange program fosters cross-cultural ties

The program allows faculty members to exchange positions with international professors for a week

University professors have the opportunity to “study abroad” with the Brown Global Forums, a program in which faculty members “exchange” with faculty members from international peer institutions for a week.

Started two years ago, the program is an initiative of the Office of International Affairs which has coordinated with numerous universities around the world and is looking to continue expanding its connections, according to the OIA website.

Matthew Gutmann, vice president for international affairs, said the program focuses on faculty members, as they are best able to create long-lasting and close ties with partner institutions. They are the “first step,” he said, in making connections that will benefit both the University and its students through classes, research opportunities and potential undergraduate and graduate exchanges. Gutmann said though Brown’s international teaching ties are not a new concept, the Global Forums are both new and unique. They function in a “very targeted fashion,” facilitating connections with “top schools in key regions of the world,” he said.

The exchange requires “buy-in” from both sides, Gutmann said, adding that without the mutual interest of both departments the exchange will not take place. He said a significant financial commitment is required from participating departments, which host the peer institution’s faculty member for a week that includes lectures, classroom visits, meetings, meals and housing.

Involvement and interest in the program have grown since 2011, Gutmann said, adding that he originally sought out faculty members to participate and now finds faculty members seeking involvement on their own.

“Many departments have participated,” with multiple participants from the engineering, sociology and applied math departments, wrote Diana Perdomo, international visit liaison, in an email to The Herald.

Participating faculty members, both from the University and from peer institutions abroad, have praised the program.

“I haven’t heard anything negative,” Gutmann said.

Jessaca Leinaweaver, assistant professor of anthropology, exchanged with Professor Ceres Victora at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Leinaweaver, who works in Latin America but neither speaks Portuguese nor focuses on Brazil in her research, said the trip offered a “great opportunity to make global connectionss” and adds to the University’s international visibility. She said it was “eye-opening” to talk to and listen to graduate students talk about their diverse, interesting and high-quality research. Leinaweaver highlighted the important opportunity for physical contact and communication that the Global Forums enable and said she will be part of another exchange in South Africa this summer.

Kenneth Wong, professor of education, exchanged with Professor Hongqin Zhao of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. He said the exchange provided him with the opportunity to understand how another university functions, the roles of professors, the types and relevance of research and how to best communicate his own department’s work. Wong said he believes the program will have “pretty wide-ranging implications in terms of the Brown impact and contribution in other countries around the world.”

David Badre, assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic and pscychological sciences, traveled to two different schools in Turkey, exchanging with professor Fuat Balci of Koc University and Aysecan Boduroglu of Bogazici University.

He said the forums were a “great experience” and offered the opportunity to interact with high-caliber science programs, facilitating feedback and collaboration. Badre said the program is a great way to improve the University’s visibility, adding there were more graduate students applying from Turkey to the University program this year.

Two Bogazici professors — Amitav Sanyal and Atilla Yilmaz, professors of chemistry and mathematics, respectively — also described positive experiences with the Global Forums in emails to The Herald.

Yilmaz wrote that one of the highlights of his trip was the discussions about math he had with his hosts — Kavita Ramanan and Paul Dupuis, both professors of applied mathematics — adding that “it was nice to find connections between our interests.” He wrote that the “experience overall was very pleasant.”

Sanyal wrote that time spent with the chemistry department discussing science and challenges faced by chemistry programs made “the week fly by,” adding that he felt students, professors and universities would all benefit in the long run. “These kinds of programs certainly help to build and strengthen relationships.”


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