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International Conferences Benefit CCI Faculty

Dr. Bharat Mehra at 2012 IFLA conferenceAs the world continues to become smaller and more interconnected, CCI faculty members have expanded their horizons by traveling to conferences throughout the world. During the past year, faculty traveled to such places as Italy, Turkey, Great Britain, and Singapore to share their research and interact with international scholars and practitioners.  This article details some of the benefits associated with participating first hand in the globalization process as shared by Ben Bates (JEM), Mark Harmon (JEM), Bharat Mehra (SIS), Michael Palenchar (AdvPR), and Erin Whiteside (JEM). 

“It is an enormous benefit to present my research to an international audience as the feedback and discussion comes from a much broader perspective,” says JEM Assistant Professor Erin Whiteside.  “The opportunity to talk with scholars who specialize in a common area of interest and who come from non-U.S. educational backgrounds lead to the raising of issues and questions U.S.-based researchers have not considered.” Whiteside also says that presenting her work at international conferences has helped “me develop research partnerships and funding opportunities with international scholars and allowed me to connect with top journal editors in my field.”  

JEM Professor Ben Bates notes that “international experiences provide me with access to international scholars, government officials (from related oversight agencies), and media practitioners.  Without attendance at international conferences, I would not have been able to establish and cultivate these invaluable professional relationships.”

SIS Associate Professor Bharat Mehra says “attending the 2012 International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Conference in Helsinki, Finland, allowed me to share our innovative IMLS funded ITRL research with colleagues from around the world.  This brought international attention to the research being conducted at UTK and to IMLS, the grant provider.” 

Students also benefit from faculty travel to international conferences. JEM Professors Ben Bates and Mark Harmon presented their research at a conference in Istanbul last October. During the conference, Harmon met a representative from Ofcom (a UK agency similar to our FCC).  He later contacted the individual he met to set up a field trip to Ofcom for his London study abroad students during summer 2013. Another example of how students benefit comes from Whiteside.  She indicates that “It is always helpful to hear research results and ideas from individuals from other countries whose backgrounds, in terms of education, research paradigms and theoretical approach, are different from mine.  I am then able to bring these broadened perspectives back to the classroom to give  my students a more dimensional educational experience.”

Additional advantages of attending and presenting at international conferences are exemplified by Dr. Michael Palenchar, associate professor in the School of Advertising and Public Relations. In addition to presenting a paper and chairing a research paper session at this summer’s ICA conference in London,  he also attended the Barcelona PR Meeting #3: International PR 2013 Conference.   As a result of discussions that took place at these conferences Palenchar has been formally invited by the University of Waikato, New Zealand, to present his research to the faculty, meet with academic and private practitioners/institutions about his research, and lead discussions with Waikato University undergraduate/graduate students sometime in 2014.

“The monetary costs associated with international travel can be challenging, but the benefits gained by our faculty and students far exceed the investment required,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “Sharing our research, exchanging ideas and building relationships with leading international scholars and practitioners is a critical part of CCI’s efforts to build CCI’s reputation and help UTK become a Top 25 public research university.”