University of South Carolina

Faculty members take teaching, research abroad

By Liz McCarthy,, 803-777-2848

Imagine teaching here. Sunshine. Beaches. Constant warm weather.

For several USC professors this isn’t a dream. Through an exchange program with the University of Aruba, USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management regularly sends faculty members to the sunny island to teach and conduct research.

Robin DiPietro, an associate professor in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, travels to Aruba often to teach and coordinate the program, which is established through a grant. The program allows USC students to study abroad at the university at state tuition prices as well, and that’s a big component for why it’s a good thing for the university, she says.

“We can help broaden our students’ perspectives,” DiPietro says. “We want to encourage our students to go out and look at the broader cultural aspects of hospitality and tourism.” 

The benefits for Carolina are many, DiPietro says. Professors traveling to Aruba teach for eight weeks – although some teach in shorter increments – and must conduct a research project. The research part of the agreement between the two universities is another big plus for USC, she says.

“It helps give us some data and research ideas from an international perspective,” she says. “And they are very similar to South Carolina because so much of their economy depends on tourism, so we see a lot of similarities.”

For the university in Aruba, its Hospitality and Tourism Management program is able to offer more electives and give its students who may only have lived on the island a more global perspective, DiPietro says. 

 “It’s neat to get their perspective on global hospitality and tourism industry and to get their perspective on leadership issues,” she says. “I like the opportunity to see different student perspectives, depending on their backgrounds and what countries that they are from -- Venezuela, Curacao, China, Jamaica, Suriname or Aruba to name a few of the places represented there. I get that here but on a much smaller scale.” 

For Megan Frank, a junior hospitality major and first USC student to take advantage of the Aruba program, study abroad has given her a new perspective on life. Frank, who has traveled to several other countries through study abroad, says the Aruba semester is unlike her other experiences because she had to travel and live alone there.

“When I was about to leave for Aruba, most people gave me a hard time about going to live in paradise and questioned whether I was actually going to be taking classes on an island.  But what all of them didn't realize is that there is life outside of the beaches, resorts and tourist attractions,” Frank says. “My goal for study abroad was not to travel and see many countries in Europe.  Rather, I wanted to become immersed in a culture, become part of locals' lives, and learn what it is like to be a minority.  What better place to do that as a hospitality major than on an island, that in the eye of its tourists, have perfected the vacation experience?”

DiPietro hopes to grow USC’s partnership with the University of Aruba, expanding to different areas of study such as nursing and sustainability/environmental issues through the earth and ocean sciences department.

“We’re hoping to really broaden the network that we have with the University of Aruba because they do have a lot of connections with the European Union. So we’re hoping to maybe further some grant opportunities, research opportunities and include other departments in the partnership,” she says.

And now more faculty members at the university will be able to travel abroad to teach or conduct research. Through the University Studies Abroad Consortium’s Visiting Professor Program faculty members can teach in a variety of countries across the globe, from Chile to China.

USC’s Phil Bartlett, who co-teaches a U101 class and has taught a senior capstone course in strategic management at the Darla Moore School of Business, will be the first from the university to take advantage of the program when he goes to teach in Brazil next year. (Read more about Bartlett’s story in the recent USC Times story here).

The Study Abroad office also offers a variety of other opportunities for faculty members to teach abroad. And DiPietro recommends everyone try it.

“Do it. I would do it and bring lots of stories about things that have happened and have supplemented learning here in the U.S. But also go with an open mind and learn about the culture,” she says. “I feel like every time I go teach in Aruba I learn as much as I teach.” 

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Posted: 11/16/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 11/19/12 @ 9:11 AM | Permalink