Office of international programs
Andrew Gillespie is the assistant provost for international programs at Auburn. He holds a bachelor's degree in natural resource management from the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, a joint program with Syracuse University. He earned his master's degree in forest biology from the University of New Hampshire and his doctorate in soil science from Purdue University. At Auburn, he works with faculty and students to increase both the international aspects of academic programs as part of the university's mission and the strategic initiatives through program development, promotion of academic partnerships with foreign institutions and development of study abroad and student and scholar exchange programs. Gillespie assists in coordinating international research and outreach activities, working with the Auburn Abroad program, International Student and Scholar Services and the Intensive English program.
1. Your academic background is in forestry. What sparked your interest in that field of study?
I became interested in forestry and the environment as a young man, camping and hiking with my family. Later, my brother and I would go backpacking, and forestry as a profession seemed a natural outlet for my interests in understanding and working with environmental issues. I've worked in forests all around the world, from the arctic to the tropics, and they are all unique and fascinating, holding not only a diversity of tree species, but a diversity of animals and people, too.
2. What led you to your work in international programs?
Early in my academic career, a colleague and I developed a study abroad program for forestry students in Sweden, an outgrowth of our realization that environmental science and management were global concerns. This study abroad program is ongoing today, more than 15 years later. My research over the course of my career has been very international, so when my former institution needed a faculty member to teach other faculty how to develop and run programs overseas I was happy to share my experience and knowledge with colleagues across the disciplines.
3. How do you think students benefit from international experiences?
There are many answers to this, but an international experience never fails to transform our students. There is research that shows that students come back as better students, more focused and able to critically compare and contrast situations and data. And we see that employers typically focus on overseas experiences as they interview our students for their first positions out of college. But in my mind, the biggest benefit is the personal growth that a student experiences from living and studying or working in a different culture.
4. Your office has designated 2012 as the Year of East Asia at Auburn. How are you celebrating the cultures and contributions of this region?
It's hard to encompass the millenia-long history and culture of this world region in a year's activities, but we want to bring a variety of performances, lectures and events to campus so our students, staff and faculty can enjoy and begin to understand the rich diversity we find in that part of the world. Our signature event for spring semester is an April 12 lecture by Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the little girl from the iconic Vietnam War napalm attack photo. Today, Kim Phuc works to promote hope and forgiveness while helping children recover from the horrors of war. Our East Asian Film Series, co-sponsored by the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, kicks off April 18 and will highlight documentary, art and popular films from the region. In the fall, we're planning a series of culinary events in conjunction with The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center and the opening of the new Korea Center on campus. It's an exciting time. More information can be found at http://www.auburn.edu/academic/international/ap/yearofeastasia2.php.
5. What is your favorite thing about Auburn?
I love the people and the campus. I have my challenges, but this is a wonderful place to work because of the work environment we have and that we create for each other. Not having to shovel snow is a bonus!