UT International Board of Advisors creates new globetrotting opportunity

Sara Schleede

Thanks to the UT International Office’s newest program, the entire world just became a classroom.

In an effort to expand UT’s global network and enhance global education opportunities, the UT International Board of Advisors launched its first–ever program: the President’s Award for Global Learning.

“This program will allow students to learn hands-on experience of working with various stakeholders from the beginning of the project conception to the end result,” said Laurie Young, director of special projects for UT’s International Office. “That is something that doesn’t necessarily happen in a textbook.”

Seven teams of students and faculty mentors will be picked to pursue projects relating to international research, social impact and entrepreneurship in regions across the globe. Regions include Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Europe.

The program allows students to spend 10–12 weeks in a foreign country developing skills they can bring back to Texas and benefit their continued academic growth at UT, said Laura Kaplan, study abroad program coordinator.

“The goal is to engage with global partners and learn from them while you’re there,” Kaplan said. “(It’s) not for you to go abroad and feel like you’re going to arrive and solve a bunch of problems over a summer, which is not necessarily realistic.”

Only current sophomores are eligible for the program due to the length of it, Kaplan said. Finalists will travel to their assigned regions in the summer of 2019 and present their experience in a one–credit hour course in fall 2019. The deadline for team proposals is June 1.

Luca Tomescu, electrical engineering and math sophomore who has been a part of a drone–based consulting team since high school, said he hopes he and his team can apply their knowledge to examine agricultural optimization and population control in developing nations through the program.

“Drones are an element of technology that no one really knows the potential of, whether it’s in the developed or the developing world, and so we think there are so many potential uses,” Tomescu said. “Every month there is a new space for drones, beyond all these really fancy things you can do in the developed world.”

Maike Morrison, biology and math sophomore, said she wants to combine her interests in math, public health and evolutionary biology to develop research that can make a profound impact on the world.

“It’s good to get out of the bubble of academia,” Morrison said. “(The program) would be a really valuable experience to expand my network and collaborators.”

Students may form teams of 2–4 members, but no team can only have students from the same major. Young said the award combines faculty, students from all colleges and international partners to create a truly interdisciplinary experience.

“This prepares students to be adaptable and to be able, even if they don’t have an international career after they graduate, to apply these skills to whatever career they choose after they graduate,” Young said.