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MTSU alumnus named vice provost of international a...

MTSU alumnus named vice provost of international affairs

 Middle Tennessee State University’s new vice provost of international affairs is taking the helm and steering the ship through what he calls a “perfect storm.”

Robert Summers assumed his new position July 1. Most recently, Summers was assistant provost for global engagement at State University of New York-Buffalo State in Buffalo, New York, and also previously held leadership positions at universities in Alabama, New York and Florida.

Dr. Robert Summers, vice provost for international affairs at MTSU, assumed his new position July 1. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Robert Summers, vice provost for international affairs at MTSU, assumed his new position July 1. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Working at MTSU under the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic and national foreign policies over which he has limited control, Summers, nevertheless, seeks to increase the number of international students on campus.

“International students bring in a tremendous amount of money to our economy,” Summers said. “They bring a tremendous amount of support to the institution, and they are, without a doubt, a valuable and even integral part of an institution in 2020.”

At present, slightly under 500 international students are enrolled for the fall 2020 semester. Summers’ mission received a boost July 14 when the White House decided to drop its previously announced intention to deport international college students who plan to take classes only online.

“I am pleased that the administration saw that the guidance that they sent out was going to be punitive and was going to hurt institutions and hurt students,” Summers said. “I am happy that they took the high road and that they rolled it back.”

Summers said that students who choose to stay in their countries of origin can take classes at a distance or take a leave of absence for a semester. If they live on campus, they can self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival.

While MTSU’s relationship with the Confucius Institute is winding down, Summers said there will be no adverse impact on the university’s memoranda of understanding with Chinese institutions or educational endeavors involving Chinese partners.

“China remains an important player and partner for us in our international objectives on campus,” Summers said.

Melissa Miller, right, director of the Office of Education Abroad at MTSU, explains study-abroad courses to master's degree candidate Jeanette Stevens of the Career Development Center at the Learning, Teaching and Innovative Technology Center in October 2019. (MTSU file photo by James Cessna)

Melissa Miller, right, director of the Office of Education Abroad at MTSU, explains study-abroad courses to master’s degree candidate Jeanette Stevens of the Career Development Center at the Learning, Teaching and Innovative Technology Center in October 2019. (MTSU file photo by James Cessna)

In addition to recruiting more international students, Summers seeks to undertake a reexamination of study-abroad courses for relevancy and cost-effectiveness with an eye to making sure the classes are pertinent to students’ career goals.

Summers said he seeks to expand the number of international internships and required courses or substitutions for courses that can be held abroad.

“We will be reconceptualizing some of our agreements to encompass more of an exchange component,” Summers said.

 He said this can be accomplished by swapping the usual tuition for the tuition offered by the host institution so that the students need not necessarily pay any more.

However, the pandemic has dealt a temporary setback to study-abroad classes for the fall 2020 semester. MTSU students will not take part in any long-term study-abroad programs in the semester, and a “wait-and-see” posture is in place regarding short-term programs.

Office of Education Abroad logo; study abroad; https://mtsu.studioabroad.com

Click on the logo for more information.

A Putnam County, Tennessee, native and son of a schoolteacher, Summers earned bachelor’s degree in French and history from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee; his master’s degree in French from MTSU; and his doctorate in second language acquisition/industrial technology from the University of South Florida.

Previously, Summers was director of international programs in the College of Education and assistant professor of educational linguistics at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

His resume also includes stints as director of the Center for Language and International Communication at SUNY-Albany in Albany, New York, and director of the World Language Education Technology Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida.

For more information about the MTSU Office of International Affairs, go to https://www.mtsu.edu/intered/index.php or send an email to international@mtsu.edu.

— Gina Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

 


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