In Depth: Visiting professors give global perspective

By By Carlos Mayorga

By Carlos Mayorga

After spending the summer in her native Belgium, Therese De Raedt hurried back to teach her course on literature and culture of French-speaking nations.

De Raedt, a professor in the Department of Languages and Literature, has been with the U since 1999.

De Raedt first came to the United States in 1992 to teach at a small college in Ohio and earn her doctorate from UC Davis. She decided to stay in the country to work at the U as a visiting lecturer.

“I really like Utah,” she said. “I come from a small and densely populated country. I love the open spaces here.”

More importantly, De Raedt is proud to be a part of higher education in the United States, she said.

“In the U.S., the student/teacher relationship is closer than overseas,” she said. “In Belgium, if you are a student, you’re a number.”

Her specialty is in francophone studies, which is the examination of the literature and cultures of French-speaking countries other than France. Nations like Senegal, Vietnam and Haiti fall into that category.

Because higher education is inexpensive in Belgium, larger class sizes are the norm and the curriculum is more rigid. The sentiment is more formal — instructors stress memorization and are less likely to engage students in conversations, she said.

De Raedt is one of many faculty members visiting the U from another country. Instructors in the department of languages and literature alone come from all over the globe — Turkey, Egypt, Mexico, Spain, Germany, Iran, China, South Korea, Brazil and Switzerland.

The U becomes an international campus as the university continues to collaborate with schools abroad to bring in faculty and scholars, said Johanna Watzinger-Tharp, associate dean of the Office of International Programs.

The U currently partners with universities around the globe, such as Seoul National University in South Korea, Sichuan University and Shanghai Normal University in China and Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany.

International instructors not only bring knowledge and expertise from their disciplines, but also hold different views on the United States, which encourages students to understand why other cultures might look at the world differently, Watzinger-Tharp said.

“It’s a rare opportunity to learn from others,” said Susan Olson, associate vice president for faculty. “You can bring in different perspectives to the research lab and the classroom. It’s a way of emphasizing what universities do.”

Along with forming partnerships with universities in other countries, the U is involved in the Fulbright Program, a federally sponsored initiative that encourages Americans to work and study abroad. Government aid under the program helps fund faculty and student exchanges with other universities worldwide. Students and faculty at the U have participated in the program since its inception in 1946.

International faculty members who come to the U as part of an exchange stay for two weeks up to a full school year.

The program is not new, but many students and faculty are not aware it exists, said Howard Lehman, a professor of political science who helps manage the U chapter of the Fulbright Program.

Fulbright is open to undergraduate and graduate students and faculty, but last year only three faculty members were on the program.

[email protected]