International Institute
Institute creates cross-campus links for global engagement

SUNY Oswego will formally launch the Institute for Global Engagement this fall, though the organization already has been active in a world of ways promoting international awareness among students, faculty and staff.

Meeting to discuss research.The institute unites the wide variety of international activities on campus, encouraging growth in courses and programs, professional development, international research, Fulbright applications and more to boost global awareness and engagement.

“The institute is a network of the many people, offices, programs and committees at SUNY Oswego committed to expanding world awareness and global engagement,” said Susan Coultrap-McQuin, professor of English and women’s studies and director of the institute.

The institute’s early initiatives have included sponsoring the visit last spring of a Benin filmmaker, cosponsoring Caravanserai cultural programming with Artswego and a preview of Syracuse Stage’s “Cry for Peace: Voices of the Congo,” working with SUNY’s Center for Collaborative Online International Learning to develop courses whose students will partner with classes abroad, and mentoring student Fulbright applicants this summer toward deadlines this fall.

The institute and its cross-campus coordinating board and committees provide a framework—and some clout—to spread the network of international connections on campus.

“An institute signals a commitment to its goals on the part of the college and its administration,” said Jack Gelfand, an institute board member and director of the college’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

That can carry weight, Gelfand said, when researchers apply for large international grants through agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development or the Department of State—applications with which the institute has already assisted. “We are able to apply for grants on (research) topics with a very broad scope, because the organization here has a bigger footprint,” he said.

Encouraging scholarship

The impact on students of Institute for Global Engagement assistance can be substantial, too, Coultrap-McQuin said. Last month, she joined two other faculty members and senior zoology major Julibeth Saez to talk about mentorship for Saez’s upcoming application to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Saez, who aims to be a veterinarian or zoologist, wants to travel to Kenya to study the impact on prey habitat of large predators, after having studied chipmunk behavior on campus as a McNair Scholar. Associate professor of biological sciences Lucina Hernandez, her adviser for the earlier project, is helping Saez develop her Fulbright proposal. Faith Maina, an associate professor of education who is a native of Kenya and a recent Fulbright Scholar there, helped Saez make key connections in that country. And Coultrap-McQuin is a mentor to Saez and coordinator of other mentors for other students planning to apply for Fulbright fellowships this fall, preparing them for campus interviews and other aspects of the process.

“My mentors are helping me a lot,” Saez said. “I feel all zoologists want to go to Africa someday. I also feel this is the perfect time for me to leave the country for an international perspective.”

Ulises Mejias, a new member of the institute’s coordinating board, noted the organization’s role in also bringing the international perspective to Oswego. Documentary filmmaker Idrissou Mora Kpai was a visiting fellow at Cornell this spring, and Mejias wanted to bring him to campus to speak and appear before classes. Coultrap-McQuin contributed funds toward the visit, as did Joshua McKeown, director of international education and programs, who also serves on the institute’s board.

“This was an instance where the institute can serve as the hub for all of these announcements, engagements and collaborations to happen,” Mejias said.

Mapping global ties

Coultrap-McQuin said a graduate student helped launch the institute’s website, itself a resource on global activities, including a world map for identifying participating faculty members’ international collaborations on each continent.

“This past semester, we started a speakers series of faculty members talking about their research and their engagement with international opportunities abroad,” Coultrap-McQuin said. “We expect to expand the series this year by inviting scholars from off campus to talk.”

The Institute for Global Engagement also sponsored the formation of a chapter of Phi Beta Delta honor society for faculty, staff, students and alumni recognized for contributions to world awareness.

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PHOTO CAPTION: International horizon—Senior zoology major Julibeth Saez, second from right, talks with, from left,  Lucina Hernandez, Saez’s mentor for a research project on prey and predators; Susan Coultrap-McQuin, director of the college’s Institute for Global Engagement and Saez’s contact for the Fulbright Student Program application process; and Faith Maina, a former Fulbright Scholar who is helping Saez develop connections in Kenya, where Saez wants to do further research.

(Posted: Aug 14, 2012)