Smith is one of five people nationwide chosen for academic exchange program.
Dr. Robert F. Smith, assistant dean of humanities and social sciences at Northampton Community College (NCC), has been selected to participate in an International Education Administrators (IEA) Seminar in Russia, a U.S. Fulbright program. The Fulbright IEA program is a prestigious academic exchange program and highly competitive. Smith is one of five people nationwide selected for the program. He will visit St. Petersburg, Tver, Moscow, and possibly other locations. The trip will culminate with a debriefing at the American Embassy in Moscow.
Smith, a native of Lansdale, PA, who currently lives in Hatfield, is the author of Manufacturing Independence: Industrial Innovation in the American Revolution and of articles published in the online journal Encyclopedia of Philadelphia and a forthcoming article in Military Collector & Historian.
During his visit to Russia, from March 30 – April 13, Smith will serve as an expert in community college administration and speak with Russian colleagues about how the American community college system works, how NCC serves students, and how programs and course offerings are determined. Major goals are to establish partnerships with Russian schools within the ESL (English as a Second Language) and student exchange areas and to gain cultural understanding to return to the United States with the ability to speak to American colleagues about the benefits of Russian partnerships and to build a beneficial relationship between the two countries.
“I’m honored and amazed to have been chosen for this program,” Smith says. “A Fulbright program in general is an honor, but I think this one is of critical importance in our current political climate. I think our nation has more in common with Russia than we tend to realize. Our bitter past rivalries seem to put us at odds, but we don’t have to be that way. I think that if we came to understand each other more, our two countries could be successful partners in both trade and global politics. I’d like to play a role in helping build the bridges that make partnership possible.
“I’m also happy at my selection because it will open doors for our students, who can benefit from meeting Russian students. I took NCC students to Moscow in both 2012 and 2013. Students in each trip were enthralled with Russia and commented that the trip gave them a new outlook on the world. Russians, still today, are painted as unending cold-warriors, but our students found that the Russian people are friendly, fun-loving, and generous, just like we are.”
Christine Pense, dean of humanities and social sciences, is enthusiastic about Smith’s upcoming visit. “For us, any perspective that helps us improve our teaching, and think differently about how we interact with our constituent community, is good,” she says “Russian schools work with a very different set of constraints (how much funding, and where it comes from; and what students want and need) but they problem-solve every day, like we do. Seeing what other schools do there will help Bob to do his job here. I expect we will all learn.”