Dr. Briziarelli sat down with Nii Akrofi Smart-Abbey to discuss the importance of taking a global approach to education and what she hopes to accomplish in her new role as assistant provost for global affairs.
Susan Briziarelli, PhD, came to Adelphi University in 2008 as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, drawn by the Levermore Global Scholars program and what she saw as a “campus where people were focused on teaching and finding the balance between teaching and research, as well as a close-knit and caring community.” She became acting dean in July 2016, then interim dean. This summer, she took on a new position: assistant provost for global affairs.
Dr. Briziarelli sat down with Nii Akrofi Smart-Abbey, a graduate student from Ghana in the MFA in Creative Writing program, to discuss the importance of taking a global approach to education and what she hopes to accomplish in this new role.
What are you going to be doing in your new role as assistant provost for global affairs?
It’s a brand-new position that reflects the University’s commitment to engaging with the world and comes out of our strategic plan’s call to increase global engagement. Adelphi recognizes that the world is increasingly connected and that giving students the chance to engage with and learn about other cultures is one of the best ways to prepare them for their lives and careers. So this position is about creating those opportunities for students, whether it’s abroad or right here on our campus or in our community. It’s also about continuing to make international students feel at home with us and supporting faculty in their international research and global teaching initiatives.
What will this new position mean for current and future students, especially international students?
This position oversees the Center for International Education and [the Office of] International Services, which deals with immigration status and documentation processes and provides mentoring and cultural programming for international students. The aim of this new position is to make global culture a part of everyday life at Adelphi. This means creating new global initiatives and, equally important, supporting and promoting the many exciting things that faculty and students are already doing but that we don’t always hear about. For example, our faculty members are doing things such as co-teaching with a university in South Africa via Skype, taking students to volunteer in an orphanage in Kenya, conducting research in a chemistry lab in Poland and publishing scholarly articles with colleagues across the world.
Does your work include making Adelphi better known outside the United States?
Definitely. Continued development of faculty professional relationships, strategic institutional partnerships, and exchanges and research across the world will absolutely build Adelphi’s reputation for scholarship and teaching.
This is a newly created position, but what are your initial objectives for it? What are some of the things you want to see, say, by next summer?
There are three main areas. The first is to collaborate with the Center for International Education on a plan to help more students to study abroad. We will work on affordability, mentoring and careful pre-planning, among other things. The second objective is to work with International Services and Adelphi University International (AUI) on the ongoing and continuous enriching of international students’ experience at Adelphi and in the United States. The third area is support of existing institutional partnerships and the creation of new relationships, many of them with universities with whom our faculty are already engaged. New relationships will, in turn, generate more opportunities for student exchanges and study abroad opportunities as well.
What about graduate education? I know many people, especially in Africa and my country, Ghana, are looking to the U.S. and U.K. for graduate education. Do you have any plans in that area?
Yes, definitely. When I mention international students, I’m always thinking about both the undergraduate and the graduate populations. But though they share some of the same experiences coming to a different country, some of the challenges graduate students face may be different: Some might have families of their own with them or in their home countries; others might have put careers on hold to come here to earn an advanced degree. So their needs while at Adelphi will be different from those of an undergraduate. I’m looking forward to meeting with the Graduate Student Council this semester and working with the council members in the future.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about your new role?
Not everyone is aware that even though this position is new, Adelphi has a long tradition of global engagement. In 1925, Adelphi President [Frank D.] Blodgett signed a scholarship exchange agreement with the University of Grenoble, France. And in 1963, Adelphi’s international students came from 33 different countries!
This new position reaffirms the University’s long-standing commitment to global engagement, and it’s exciting to be a part of it.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
This position seems like a natural continuation of some of the things I’ve done in the past. I came to live in the U.S. when I was 12, so I know what the international students and the study abroad students go through: the culture shock but also the feeling of awe and excitement. My degree is in Italian literature and I’ve taught at universities for a long time, but way before that I was teaching, translating from Italian to English and tutoring students learning Italian: It was my after-school job in high school and I did it in college and graduate school. As a faculty member, I’ve always been involved with global initiatives on campus in one form or another, and I have led a lot of college study abroad programs in the universities where I have taught.
I have never stopped being surprised at the magical effect an experience in another country has on students. Everyone talks about it being a transformative experience, and it truly is: It changes lives profoundly, and that’s why I’m so committed to this position now.
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