SARASOTA, Fla. (Oct. 28, 2015) – Western Sydney University is more than 9,000 miles and 19 hours away from USF Sarasota-Manatee, but Dr. Yi-Chen Lan is hoping to narrow that gap by someday forging a study-abroad agreement between the two campuses.
Dr. Lan, deputy pro vice chancellor for international programs at WSU, made a presentation to students and faculty Wednesday about the university’s study-abroad program, which generally seeks closer ties with U.S. schools, including USFSM. Only a handful of U.S. colleges have agreements in place now to send students to WSU.
If approved by USFSM, Western Sydney would represent the farthest destination yet under the campus’ study-abroad program. This past summer, two USFSM students visited Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, 7,500 miles away.
Dr. Lan has another meeting – an informal “meet-and-greet” with staff and faculty – set Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to noon at room B-229 to talk more about WSU’s international programs, including some that allow visits by academics.
“It all depends on the agreement between the universities,” said Dr. Lan, who has also spoken with Dr. Terry Osborn, regional vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, and Amela Malkic, director of USFSM’s Global Engagement Office.
Dr. Lan oversees all of WSU’s international outreach efforts. His visit to USFSM coincides with a technical conference he’s set to attend next week in Dallas. A longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Bhuvan Unhelkar, an associate professor of information technology at USFSM’s College of Business, invited him to the campus to talk about his work.
Dr. Lan’s discussion was exploratory and casual. No formal request was made to establish a study-abroad agreement with USF Sarasota-Manatee.
“This was not an official trip, but Dr. Unhelkar, who is now on our faculty, has known him for many, many years,” Dr. Sunita Lodwig, an I.T. instructor in the College of Business, said.
“This actually was very opportune for us because it gives us insight into these kinds of programs,” she said. “I understand that we must have many more discussions before moving forward, but it is my hope that we will work toward an agreement. One of our goals here is to have an international presence and he was showing us what it takes to get that international presence.”
Most of Dr. Lan’s talk focused on the many programs at WSU, its international partnerships and the university itself, which at 45,000 students is much larger than USFSM.
He described WSU as consisting of 10 colleges, including schools of law, medicine and business, spread over seven campuses across Sydney, a city of 4.8 million situated on Australia’s southeast coast. WSU’s main campus sits about 6.5 miles west of the central business district.
Founded as a school for orphan girls in 1813, WSU grew to become Australia’s top agricultural college before transforming into a full-fledged university in 1989. Its international program includes 4,800 students. Most reside in on-campus apartments provided by the university and about a third come from China and India.
WSU’s study-abroad program includes several options. A one-semester, three-class package runs about $6,500 (U.S.), including on-campus housing.
“We welcome both student and faculty becoming visitors and would also like to welcome joint research opportunities,” he said.
As technology brings societies closer, study-abroad programs become increasingly important in easing economic and social barriers, Dr. Lan said. Beyond the practical benefits, the programs can help students become “well-rounded” by introducing them to new cultures and experiences.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but these programs can help you experience a different way of living and introduce you to people who live very differently than you,” he said. “It can open your eyes to a whole new perspective.”