Inside Iowa State
January 28, 2005
International scholars study Western methods
by Anne Krapfl
Four international visitors to campus this year are observing American university teaching methods, taking notes on curriculum and developing courses to implement at their home universities when they return.
They are four of 86 scholars in the United States this year as part of the U.S. Department of State's Junior Faculty Development Program. American Councils for International Education manages the program for the State department and matches scholars with host schools. The intent of the program is to spark higher education reform in countries of the former Soviet Union by bringing young faculty to university classrooms in the United States to study Western methods. Since 2002, faculty from Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Albania also have become eligible to participate.
Iowa State has hosted scholars for many of the program's 10 years, initially through the College of Education and for the last two years through the department of foreign languages and literatures.
"They add a lot to our department, particularly since we have just one Russian language faculty member," said Dawn Bratsch-Prince, chair of the department. "And we appreciate the bridges this gives us to other departments on campus.
"This year's group of scholars happens to be just a lot of fun, too," she added.
Assistant professor of Russian Olga Mesropova coordinates the program at Iowa State. She recruits faculty mentors on campus for the visiting scholars, prepares Iowa State's application to be a host school and essentially serves as a colleague and big sister to the scholars while they're here. She finds housing for them, conducts ISU and Ames orientation sessions, arranges American culture outings and stays in touch with their ISU faculty mentors.
In return, she said, she has ready-made visiting lecturers to speak to her classes about the culture, history and current issues in their home countries. Mesropova, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, said she is grateful for the "fresh perspectives" the visiting scholars bring to her classes.
"The Russian studies program at Iowa State is very small. It's nice to have a community of scholars here, even on a temporary basis," she said.
Meet the scholars
The visiting scholars are rising stars at their universities. This year's Junior Faculty Development Program visiting scholars are:
Their faculty mentors are Kathy Hickok, English; Max Wortman, management; Mary Barratt, English (Intensive English and Orientation Program specialist); and Gene Takle, agronomy.
With help from their mentors, the scholars select appropriate graduate-level courses to attend, on an audit basis. Dubrovina, for example audited five courses last fall and will audit three this spring. They observe teaching methods and assess course content during these classes, as preparation for curriculum changes they'll propose to their home departments. They attend meetings -- of faculty and student organizations -- to get a feel for how members collaborate and what's accomplished during them. They spend long hours in Parks Library, a research resource Dubrovina called "a really wonderful surprise for us. It's a very excellent library."
She's developing a course on American women writers as part of her department's literature offerings next year. She also is studying American ways of teaching English as a second language.
Konobeev and Dubrovina also will lead a six-week, not-for-credit beginning Russian language class, beginning Feb. 1. To register, call 4-4046.
Dubrovina said her task is to "find the positive aspects of the American university" to propose changes to her colleagues at home.
Four scholars from the former Soviet Union are at Iowa State to observe Western teaching methods. The scholars will take what they learned back to their own educational systems.
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111. Published by: University Relations, email@example.com. Copyright © 1995-2005, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. All rights reserved.