A weekend interview with ...
... University of South Florida associate vice president Linda Whiteford, who recently was named associate vice president for global strategies by USF president Judy Genshaft. Times higher education reporter Donna Winchester talked to Whiteford, a medical anthropologist whose work has taken her to Ecuador, China and Argentina, about her new role.
This is a new position at USF. Why was it created?
It was created in part to help USF move toward achieving its strategic goal. Part of the strategic goal mentions quite clearly a whole series of different kinds of global initiatives. This position was created to facilitate some of the things that are already going on at this campus and the regional campuses and to allow us to develop some leverage with those successes to move into new areas.
So there already are global initiatives in place at the university?
Yes. We already have people deeply involved in organizing international activities for USF. One is assistant vice president for international affairs Ann DeBaldo, who has been involved in a number of initiatives in India and Panama. We also have Dr. John Sinnott in the College of Medicine who has led the medical school on major activities in India and other parts of the world. Dr. Marie Crummett, dean of international affairs, has led a course in Panama for the College of Business. She also spearheaded the Confucius Institute, aimed at increasing understanding of the language and culture of China. Part of my job is to help them do what they’re already doing very well and to facilitate other groups on the Tampa campus. Equally important, we want to learn what the regional campuses are doing.
Why is there an increased emphasis on this idea at this particular time?
It’s a combination of the fact that times have changed and the renewed commitment by president Genshaft and provost Ralph Wilcox to globalize the curriculum. In order to do that, we have to send students and faculty out and make way for foreign students to come and learn with us here. It’s the right time and the right people and the right place.
I understand that one of the initiatives that will come out of your office will be the creation of the USF World Task Force. What’s that about?
That task force will be looking at all the ways we can be the destination point for faculty, students and staff who want to have a global experience. We’ll be asking: How do we make USF a place where people want to train, to study and do research because they want the global experience? The flip side is: How do we become the destination for students who want to travel from Ecuador or Zimbabwe or Bejing? How do we create an identity and an infrastructure that will make them say, ‘The University of South Florida is where I want to go to school.’
You’ll also be creating opportunities to collaborate with international universities. What does that entail?
Making connections with other globally engaged institutions is something USF has been doing for a while, but we are now going to focus on a couple of areas we are calling the China Initiative, the India Initiative, the Latin American-Caribbean Initiative, and the African Initiative. They’re at the developmental stages.
What can you tell me about the community engagement initiative that’s attached to the global strategies mission?
The community engagement initiative is another attempt to bring us closer to achieving some of the goals identified in the strategic plan. As you know, USF was identified a couple of years ago as an engaged university by the Carnegie Foundation. Much of that activity came from a group of faculty and staff that had been working for probably 10 years in a grassroots push. The new community engagement initiative is building on the success of that.
Community engagement can take many forms. It occurs when members of a community organization – a school or a church, for example – come to the university and say, ‘We’ve got a problem we think someone at the university can give us some insight into.’ It could revolve around housing, health care, or education, which are all things that communities struggle with. Since the university is designed around these kinds of topics, the linking is critical to both groups.