Institute creates campus, community links for global engagement

OSWEGO — 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, staff and community.

Institute creates campus, community links for global engagement
SUNY Oswego 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 helping Saez develop connections in Kenya, where Saez wants to do further 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, institute director and professor of English and women’s studies.

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.

Encouraging scholarship

SUNY Oswego has set in motion a host of initiatives to deepen and broaden campus and community understanding of and engagement with other cultures, from the School of Education’s calculators-for-Benin project to the college’s Global Laboratory agreements with overseas institutions to enhance undergraduate research opportunities.

The impact on students of forming a cross-campus organization such as the Institute for Global Engagement can be substantial, Coultrap-McQuin said. This summer, 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 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 international perspectives 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 publicly and appear before classes. “This was an instance where the institute can serve as the hub for all of these announcements, engagements and collaborations,” Mejias said.

The institute and its diverse board provide a framework — and some clout — to spread the network of international connections on campus, said Jack Gelfand, an institute board member and director of the college’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

“An institute signals a commitment to its goals on the part of the college and its administration,” Gelfand said. “We are able to apply for grants on (research) topics with a very broad scope, because the organization here has a bigger footprint.”

Mapping global ties

Coultrap-McQuin said a graduate student helped launch the institute’s website, itself a resource on global activities that includes 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,” she 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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