A unique Virginia Tech program aspires to broaden international connections for faculty and students.
The International Faculty Development Program (IFDP) is the groundbreaking concept that is helping it happen.
Launched in 2005, IFDP — organized by Outreach and International Affairs — is the first program of its kind in the United States. It was designed to help faculty be proactive in developing global collaborations.
The resulting faculty collaborative programs are providing benefits to faculty and students alike.
Through the program, participating faculty are gaining contacts and skills to better educate their students with a global perspective.
The change in perspective is helping Virginia Tech graduates to be more competitive in today’s job market because of their international exposure.
Each year, the participating group of faculty members from Virginia Tech’s eight colleges meet with international specialists to learn ways to establish research, study-abroad, and student-exchange relationships with colleagues at European universities.
The veteran faculty members — those who have previously worked with European counterparts — help novice faculty members while working on new partnerships themselves.
Nominated by their college deans, the faculty travel to Virginia Tech’s Center for European Studies and Architecture (CESA) in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, which serves as an operations base.
Each faculty member also travels individually to meet with his or her European university contact and further plan their partnership.
Since IFDP's inception, more than two dozen faculty alumni of the program are consolidating their associations and forming new ones. In addition, the Virginia Tech faculty members continue to meet and mentor so others can learn from their experiences.
Students from all eight of Virginia Tech’s colleges are benefiting from the new international programs established by IFDP partnerships.
In the summer of 2006, 21 students from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) spent five days in Stuttgart, Germany, where they worked with German architecture and urban planning students at the University of Stuttgart to examine urban planning projects in the region.
The Stuttgart visit was also a component of a broader strategic research and teaching effort developed by Heike Mayer, assistant professor in the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, and Johann Jessen, University of Stuttgart professor. Mayer initiated the collaboration while she was an IFDP participant.
In addition, the Mayer and Jessen collaboration also received a grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany to conduct regional quality of life and economic competitiveness research in Portland, Ore., and Stuttgart, Germany.
A 2005 IFDP participant, John Rossi, professor and head of the Department of Mathematics in the College of Science, negotiated an agreement with the University of Karlsruhe in Germany fostering student exchanges. Two University of Karlsruhe students are in Virginia Tech’s master’s in mathematics program, and more exchanges are slated for next year.
Rossi’s project is also collaborating in a business venture. Rossi and James Turner, professor of mathematics at Virginia Tech, partnered with Frank Vogel, head of German-based software company inuTech.
The association created opportunities for Virginia Tech undergraduate students to intern at inuTech on a computational science model.
Bettye Walters, director of the college’s Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, worked to internationalize student experiences during her IFDP participation.
Walters’ 2006 connection with French colleagues resulted in two VMRCVM students applying for research internships in the Office for International Epizootics in Paris. The Office for International Epizootics is an animal diseases institute comparable to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, VMRCVM students Alida Kinney and Heather Groch spent their 2007 spring break in Mexico doing community veterinary work.
For more information on this topic, contact Susan Felker at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (540) 231-7188.
Lessons learned by faculty come from educational collaborations as well as cultural experiences.
William P. Belcher (left), College of Architecture and Urban Studies student, and Franz Schmid, an architecture student at the University of Stuttgart, examine specifications for Scharnhauser Park.
Look through previous Spotlight stories