Faculty Members from Latin American Universities Refine Skills at Virginia Tech – Virginia Tech Daily | Candle Made Easy

The Graduate School’s multipurpose room was the home base for 18 Latino professors and administrators attending Virginia Tech’s 21st Century Faculty Training Institute.

The program, a collaboration between Ecuador’s Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) and Virginia Tech Graduate School, explores key issues and pedagogical trends in global higher education and provides visiting faculty with opportunities to network with Virginia Tech scholars and the campus to visit the university. Laboratories and facilities in Blacksburg and Roanoke.

Claudia Tobar leads the USFQ’s SHIFT Academy, which aims to help professors become stronger teachers and researchers by focusing on inclusion, interdisciplinarity, technology and many of the topics and skills that the vice president and dean for emeritus focused on Graduate Education Karen DePauw has focused on several Virginia Tech graduate programs.

Tobar said she has noticed the effect the faculty training institute has had on professors who have come to Blacksburg for previous sessions. “Every year we have brought faculty here, it has been a pleasure to witness the transformation.”

The seed for the Virginia Tech Summer Training Institute was sown in 2015 when DePauw attended USFQ. She was asked to give a presentation to faculty members about the Graduate School’s Transformative Graduate Education Program, which aims to transform the way graduate students prepare to become professors or professionals outside of higher education. The program encourages interdisciplinary research and cross-sectoral collaboration, emphasizes diversity and inclusion, and provides professional development opportunities. It has remained the framework for the meetings of the training institute.

The 2022 cohort of Latino professors was the fifth to attend Virginia Tech, and this year’s sessions included discussions of how faculty members performed during the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graduate School Dean Aimee Surprenant attended this year’s Institute as both a host and panelist.

“It was my pleasure to host faculty and administrators from Latin America and discuss the future of the university and how we can learn and adapt from the good and bad lessons of the pandemic,” said Suprenant. “We have learned from each other’s successes and failures and are committed to continuing to work together to drive positive change.”

Tobar said USFQ has been working to increase the number of faculty members who participate in the Virginia Tech program. “It has had a lasting impact on our community,” she says.

Ana María Garzón, Associate Professor of Fine Arts at USFQ, she decided to join the Virginia Tech program this year because she had heard from peers who had attended previous institutes. “I was curious about the experience because it was certainly life-changing for these professors. So I wanted to come and see for myself.”

Tobar said her academy has reached out to other Latin American universities to enroll their faculty members in the Virginia Tech Summer Institute. This year, faculty and administrators from the Universidad Austral de Chile and the Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral in Ecuador were among the cohort.

The workshops at Virginia Tech included interactive panel discussions on the future of higher education worldwide, mentoring, science communication, inclusion and diversity, interdisciplinarity, and essential faculty skills. Panelists included administrators, directors, faculty members, alumni and current graduate students from all of Virginia Tech’s colleges.

For Pablo Burneo, associate professor of industrial engineering at USFQ, interviews with engineering professors at Virginia Tech and the hearing on the engineering education program validated his decision to change the way he teaches engineering. “I felt this program would help me find the gaps I was missing to improve my teaching and I think it did a good job in that regard.”

The group toured the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC; the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science with stations at the Drone Lab and Helmet Lab; the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology with a stop at the Moss Art Center Cube; the Fralin Life Sciences Institute and the Global Change Center; and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. At each site, they met with faculty members and students and explored cutting-edge work in progress. But Burneo and Garzón said talking to other members of their cohort from different backgrounds was also eye-opening.

When asked what he plans to do when he returns to Ecuador after attending the Virginia Tech program, Burneo said, “I realized we could do some collaborations with humanities, arts, or business teachers,” he said. “The first is that we will start collaborating with other professors who are not related to engineering.”

Tobar said this is one of the main goals of the collaboration between Virginia Tech and USFQ. “It’s a chance for visiting faculty members to learn more about each other. It may be the first time an artist has spoken to an engineer.”

Garzón also said she wants to focus on more interdisciplinary work and on diversity and inclusion “and see how we can work better for our diverse students because they have access but aren’t usually treated equally.”

Tobar noted that as a result of working with Virginia Tech, USFQ now has an innovation and outreach unit that is embedded in the university’s strategic management. “We have seen profound organizational changes.”

“It was inspiring to see the excitement and commitment of these educators and to see how the Virginia Tech experience helped them formulate and refine their goals,” said Suprenant. “We are already planning ongoing collaborations and knowledge sharing and I am confident that together we can make the university of the future a better, more inclusive and inspiring place.”

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