When international students travel to the United States to learn English, the language barrier is just one of their challenges. Cultural differences like being overwhelmed in the grocery store, being embarrassed about not tipping a server (there is no tipping…
Margaret Himley to Conclude Tenure as Associate Provost for International Education and Engagement, Return to Faculty in Fall 2018 Semester
Over the past six years, Margaret Himley has logged just shy of 150,000 airline miles.
As Syracuse University’s associate provost for international education and engagement, she has crisscrossed the globe in her work leading the University’s critical international education initiatives and study abroad programs.
“My experiences in study abroad have been amazing, making me both more humble and more curious about the world,” says Himley. “I have experienced history in Tianamen Square in Beijing and at the site of the former clandestine Villa Grimaldi torture and extermination center in Santiago; almost touched Michaelangelo’s David in Florence; gained understanding of the multiculturalism of London; seen the vertical density of Hong Kong; explored the architecture and history of Istanbul; sat in on a session at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg; and explored the Reina Sofia museum of contemporary art in Madrid. I’ve had to learn about laws and real estate, pedagogy and curriculum in different national contexts. I now follow the news of the world with great interest and urgency.”
Himley, who has been in her role since 2011, will step down on Sept. 30. A member of the Syracuse University community for more than 30 years and a Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence, she will return full time to her role as professor of writing and rhetoric in the College of Arts and Sciences in the fall 2018 semester.
Petra Hejnova, director of curriculum and academic services at Syracuse Abroad, will assume the role of interim executive director of Syracuse Abroad. Hejnova has worked for Syracuse Abroad since 2014. She also has a courtesy appointment in the political science department with a three-year term.
During Himley’s tenure, internationalization and study abroad has been identified as a key strategic priority of Syracuse University. “Our Academic Strategic Plan identifies internationalization and study abroad experiences as critical components of an undergraduate education,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly. “Margaret has elevated the University’s global presence through study abroad. All the while, she has worked tirelessly to develop programming and opportunities that engage all students early in their academic experience at Syracuse.”
One of the most important aspects of Himley’s job has been leadership of Syracuse Abroad, one of the nation’s premier study abroad programs. Students learn to become global professionals and citizens, address urgent issues from interconnected, global perspectives, work with others from different cultures and move ethnically across borders at the University’s eight abroad centers and through more than 100 partner programs in more than 60 countries and 35 short-term and summer programs.
Study abroad has always been about cultural immersion and field experience, the importance of going to other parts of the world and experiencing other languages, cultures and histories. “Now it’s also about global interconnectivity, about what it means to live and work within a complex, highly interactive and technologically mediated transnational world,” says Himley. “And it’s about what it means to be a global professional, someone who works well with other people from different countries and cultures (and time zones).”
At Syracuse University, over 40 percent of students take part in a study abroad experience, well above the national average of 10 percent. During Himley’s tenure, study abroad offerings have been expanded and efforts made to open study abroad opportunities for veterans, first-generation students and those in STEM and health studies. In 2016, the University partnered with Generation Study Abroad, a program of the Institute of International Education, to expand opportunities. Syracuse Abroad now collaborates with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Programs to create more scholarship and grant options, and has started working with students at the beginning of their studies at the University in order for them to plan for their education abroad.
The new offerings that have come to fruition during Himley’s tenure reflect the complex issues of today’s global society. One of the University’s featured programs, Exploring Central Europe, was launched in 2014. Based in Wroclaw, Poland, students explore how people from different national and ethnic identities—with different languages, cultures and traditions—can live together after wars and other violence. The program was awarded FORUM’s Excellence in Education Abroad Curriculum Design, the most prestigious national award for study abroad curriculum development.
“Margaret gave her intellectual force into envisioning what Central Europe could offer American students and together we built a thematic semester abroad, which focuses on issues of history, memory and identity in the context of past and current conflicts on the European continent,” says program director Hana Cerevinkova. “Embedded in the pedagogical framework of this international experience is an effort to support students’ global imagination—their ability to incorporate study abroad experiences into imaging their lives as engaged and caring citizens of the world.”
Himley has worked with the University’s schools and colleges to integrate experience abroad into students’ fields of study in meaningful, substantive ways. Sophomore engineering students now study in Strasbourg and Florence, and soon there will be a Discovery Engineering program for first-year, first-semester students in Madrid. Faculty-led summer programs have been designed to provide “value-added” experiences for their students.
Troy Gordon, director of the Syracuse Abroad Center in London, says Himley raised the academic standards of education abroad at Syracuse to a higher level. “She became the first senior academic to lead Syracuse Abroad, which stamped the field as primarily an academic and learning experience,” he says.
“Margaret has shown true leadership in her efforts to maintain and develop academically rigorous programs at the SU Abroad Centers, all while exploring new avenues for students wishing to study abroad,” says Raymond Bach, director of the Strasbourg Center. “She has worked tirelessly to strengthen and reinforce the connections between the schools on the main campus and the foreign programs, thereby ensuring that study abroad remains an integral part of a student’s overall educational experience.”
Himley has also focused much of her attention on students and the unique experience that is study abroad. “Margaret looked beyond academics to student services. She created the position of case manager at Syracuse Abroad and, in a larger center like London, for instance, she pushed for the creation of a specialist health and wellness advisor on staff. … The impact on the student experience has been incalculable,” Gordon says.
“Vision is a term that is all too often bandied about, but in Margaret’s case, it is perfectly appropriate,” says Bach. “During her tenure at Syracuse Abroad she has constantly striven to create an international experience that gives Syracuse students the tools they need to understand the marvelous, and sometimes daunting, complexity of the world that lies beyond the borders of the United States.”
Himley says that the success of study abroad at Syracuse should be credited to the Syracuse Abroad staff and faculty.
“All of these things are possible only because of an outstanding staff on campus and overseas, all committed to providing students with academically rigorous, transformative and safe education abroad experiences,” she says. “The dedicated and talented staff at Syracuse Abroad and at the overseas centers, led by gifted directors, have taught me a lot, and I will miss our collaborative work.”