By Lam Ho
Photo courtesy of sewanee.edu
After over twenty years, Dean Jones, associate dean of the College for Global Education, will pass the role on to Dr. Scott Wilson, professor and chair of Politics.
Before his Sewanee career, Wilson attended Oberlin University, where he first experienced China during a trip in 1985. He studied there for a semester and the country sparked his interest in the language and culture. He went on to graduate school at Cornell University, studying Chinese Politics. Wilson spent two years in China doing field work, and during half of this time, he lived in a village outside the Shanghai area. According to him, it was an hour-long bike ride away from the city, and he lived in the countryside with farmers doing interviews with them. His studies focused on rapid industrialization and the structural changes in income and rural lifestyles. Since then, Wilson has only expanded upon his passion for international studies. He arrived at Sewanee in the fall of 1994 for a one-year appointment.
Associate Dean of the College Elizabeth Skomp says, “Dean Papillon and I interviewed several faculty for the position near the end of last semester. Within a pool of exceptionally strong applicants, Professor Wilson possesses skills, experience, and expertise that will help in reimagining the Office of Global Education and broadening its scope.”
As a professor, he has helped lead students on programs through Sewanee’s offices with Economics Professor Dr. Yasmeen Mohiuddin. His various experiences studying abroad as a student and teacher have contributed to his visions of expanding the offices at Sewanee.
Wilson’s goals include creating a program to help students coming back from abroad transition back into life at Sewanee. “You’ve got a lot of adrenaline when you go abroad, but when you come home, sometimes there’s a letdown. Sometimes you’ve matured more than your friends or everyone expects things to be like they were, but everyone has changed, especially for students at that formative age. Reintegrating can be a greater challenge than going away, and I think our office will focus a lot more on that aspect. My goal next year is to organize a program to prepare students for going away (they already do some of that at the office) but also have a return program for students to reintegrate and make sense of their experience while they’re away.”
He reimagines the office, broadening the scope from global education to global citizenship. “One idea is that there’s study abroad, but there’s also study away — so studying in various parts of the United States. By focusing on global citizenship, the focus would be more on addressing global problems, like global poverty, ethnic and racial tensions, environmental sustainability, and public health. So in addition to cultural competence and cross-cultural communication, which is part of what the university focuses on, this would be more problem-based learning we might enhance during study abroad or study away.”
With this, he emphasized that working in New York, California, or Sewanee may be just as important as crossing borders and understanding and addressing global problems. “By focusing on these global issues, we can change the way we think about globalization. We can deal with transnational or global issues within the United States,” said Wilson. These discussions open the study away concept to scientists and social scientists. He says, “By changing the focus of what we’re doing, we can transform the way we think about these issues on campus.” With the expansion of programs comes the issue of risk assessment. Wilson will develop guidance to improve programs, including programs that detail risk assessment and potential emergencies that can occur abroad, such as sexual assault or bombings.
Finally, potentially his most challenging obstacle will be working with University Relations and other administrators to create a new building — or to repurpose and refurbish an existing building that “would be dedicated to global studies. The idea is to have a mixed-use building with a first-floor office space for various aspects of global studies: internships, study abroad, visa issues, and International and Global Studies faculty members. There would be dormitory space above, a place where students who are interested in global affairs can reside and people returning from abroad could reintegrate. The building would allow for better mixing of international students with students going abroad or coming back from abroad and having a real residential home.”
Some challenges he anticipates involve how financial aid for study abroad is handled, as he wants to make the program more available to students. Over the past few weeks, Jones and Wilson have met to discuss the nuances of the position. Through Jones’ wisdom, Wilson continues to learn the scope of the Office of Global Education.
Along with his new role, Wilson looks forward to interacting directly with international students and potentially advising them on course selection. He will help students going away and coming back from abroad with their transitions.
Maddy Gould (C’16), who took her first class with Wilson last semester, says he sparked a new interest for her. She had never taken a class on China or international economics before, but she said she learned a great deal.
She says, “Professor Wilson is someone who really cares about the success of his students, and the extra time and attention he pays to his students is reflected in the quality of work that they produce. I have enjoyed getting to take some of my classes in college with Professor Wilson and wish him the best in his new endeavor as dean!”
Excited to build on his relationships with students and make decisions that improve the study abroad and study away experiences, Wilson wishes to complete each of his goals within the next five years. He begins his time as the new dean on July 1 of this year.