Campus Life

Texas A&M Announces Inaugural Global Faculty Advocates

June 26, 2018

Texas A&M University logo

By Dr. Michael Benedik, Texas A&M University Vice Provost & Chief International Officer   

Texas A&M University continues its commitments as a globally preeminent university through its mission and efforts in transformational teaching, discovery, innovation and impact.  In 2017, to further align Texas A&M’s international activities, we announced the A&M Abroad: Global Engagement Plan.  The plan outlines our intentions to empower faculty, improve experiential learning, and enhance operations and partnership collaborations.

The plan called for the creation of Global Faculty Advocates (GFA) to enhance and enrich the international activities through Texas A&M’s three Signature International Service Provider partnerships in Italy, Costa Rica and Mexico.  A call for nominations was issued and a selection process undertaken throughout spring 2018 with input from our partners, International Programs Committee and International Advisory Board.

Initially recognized during the spring meeting of the International Advisory Board in April, we are proud to formally announce our inaugural Global Faculty Advocates.

For our signature partnership with Italart S.A., for Santa Chiara Study Center in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy – Dr. Elton Abbott, associate professor of practice & associate dean for international programs, College of Architecture

The College of Architecture was the first college to require all their students to have a semester away either in internship, studio or study abroad.  Dr. Abbott has worked tirelessly to incorporate as many of those in global experiences as possible, leading courses of study in Bonn, Germany, in Spain, and of course in Italy.  More than 35 years ago, Dr. Abbott worked to create a landmark student abroad experience at the Santa Chiara Study Center, featuring extended semester-long experiences, studios and exposure to the unique architectural history of Italy.

Italart’s Santa Chiara Study Center is clearly one of our longest standing and exemplar partnerships;  we are proud to have Dr. Abbott named as the Global Faculty Advocate for our signature partnership in Italy.

For our signature partnership with Casa Verde Corporation, for the Soltis Center for Research & Education in San Isidro, Costa Rica – Dr. Don Brightsmith, associate professor, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science

Dr. Brightsmith’s research focus is the ecology and conservation of macaws and parrots.  In teaching, he has led the ABS Amazon Field School in the Peruvian Amazon, which introduces students to the social and biological realities of conservation and research in Latin America. Students interact with a mix of native peoples, colonists, conservation organizations, loggers, gold miners, and eco-tourism experts.

Over the past 5 years, Dr. Brightsmith worked with the dean and associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and with Dr. Eugenio Gonzalez, to create the Costa Rica Biomedical Sciences program hosted at Soltis Center   This program provides required “core” courses and key electives for students working towards a degree in biomedical sciences, together with students interested in pre-med, pre-vet, and others from any major who want to take a semester abroad while advancing their degree plans.  Students receive an in-depth introduction to Costa Rican and Latin American health, conservation, culture, and nature, then learn and use Spanish through a combination of classes and home stays.

As we prepare for the 10-year Anniversary of the Soltis Center in 2019, we are proud to name Dr. Don Brightsmith as the Global Faculty Advocate for our signature partnership in Costa Rica.

For our signature partnership with Centro de Estudios e Investigación Santa Clara, Sociedad Civil (S.C.), for Hacienda Santa Clara in Mexico –  Dr. Julio Bernal, associate professor of entomology

Dr. Bernal’s research program in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and the state’s agricultural research agency, AgriLife Research, focuses on two areas: the theory and practice of biological control of insect pests in agriculture and the evolution of defenses against insect pests in crops, including how crop domestication may have affected the emergence of agricultural pests. Much of his recent research has focused on maize, or corn, and its wild relatives, the teosintes, and is conducted via field research in Mexico.  Dr. Bernal is a Fulbright Scholar (2016-2017) and has served on numerous editorial boards and as editor of a variety of scientific journals, spreading the impacts of scientific and international research, including substantial activity throughout Mexico.

Over the past two years, Dr. Bernal has been a member of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences faculty exploration of research collaborations with industry and academic institutions in the state of Guanajuato, home of the Hacienda Santa Clara.   He will be supporting symposia and collaborations this summer at the Hacienda with industry representatives crafting plans for access and potential sponsored projects in agriculturally related fields.

Hacienda Santa Clara is strategically located, and is graciously supported by Barbara & Pablo Marvin ’66.  We are proud of our partnership with them and to name Dr. Julio Bernal as our Global Faculty Advocate for our signature partnership in Mexico.

Texas A&M University continues to lead the nation as the top-ranked public university in number of students participating in credit-bearing study abroad and international experiences.  Shared resources and services for each of our colleges and schools to empower our faculty to develop, promote, implement and assess these high-impact experiences with our students has been the key to our current and future success.  We believe the Global Faculty Advocates will further this success and impacts.

Join me in congratulating these three faculty members for this appointment and we look forward to assisting all faculty with their planning and ideas for utilization of our signature global partnerships.

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