Rodenberg to Strengthen International Programs
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
Creating a stronger international presence at East Carolina University will not only help to foster better ties with people and institutions worldwide, Terry Rodenberg said, it will also help its students to become comfortable and successful players in a rapidly changing world.
In his first three months as ECU’s new director of international programs, Rodenberg has already made efforts to broaden cultural and linguistic opportunities for East Carolina students. In September, he joined a UNC delegation to China to tour campuses in Beijing and Shanghai.
“We investigated ways UNC could develop academic programs in China and to bring Chinese language teachers here to North Carolina,” he said. “We talked about the possibility of summer language or cultural programs.”
In 2004, ECU put into place a five-year plan designed to increase international programs, including international exchange students, student study abroad programs and faculty research and teaching opportunities. For those who have traveled abroad, the benefits and shift of perspective it provides is evident, Rodenberg said. But parents and incoming students need to know that the money and time invested in a study abroad program will be valuable to the student’s overall academic career.
Creating a presence for international programs during admissions, providing one-on-one academic counseling and generating support among alumni living overseas create ways for students to consider studying abroad a viable option and a natural extension of their college experience.
“A common question I hear is, ‘What can I learn abroad that I can’t learn here?’” he said. “Students today are growing up in a world that we, as adults, don’t know. They can get online and have an instantaneous link with a person in, say, Siberia. It’s instantaneous. It’s free. We have to prepare these students for the world they’re living in.”
Rodenberg spent 32 years at Central Missouri State University, first as a sociologist and then as executive director of international programs. His transition from one role to the other came about after he answered an advertisement in the local newspaper that sought participants for a Rotary International group study exchange to Sweden.
“My first exchange happened by me answering an advertisement in the paper,” Rodenberg said. While in Sweden, Rodenberg met a Swedish sociologist and the two eventually planned a yearlong teaching exchange.
“We traded houses, cars, cats, jobs, everything,” he said. “Central Missouri State had not done anything like that before.”
Rodenberg had returned from Sweden just as Missouri had begun to prioritize international exchange programs and soon he became involved in many facets of Central Missouri’s international study programs. In 1995, Rodenberg founded the Maastricht Center for Transatlantic Studies in the Netherlands. The study abroad facility run by Central Missouri brings together students and faculty from universities around the world. The program just received the Andrew Heiskill Award for Innovation in International Education under the category of Outstanding Faculty Programs by International Education.
Rodenberg said it provided students and faculty with viable, short-term exchange trips and hopes ECU’s recent addition to the 30-member consortium will yield similar opportunities.
Rodenberg said he is proud of his past efforts and hopes to bring that energy to campus as he embarks upon his mission of expanding the university’s international presence.
“This has been a remarkable opportunity,” he said. “The fun is in trying to build things. It’s not running the program once it’s up; it’s building it to where it needs to be. I want that for ECU.”
In addition to his travels to China, Rodenberg has managed a few domestic road trips, moving to Greenville with Trudy, his wife, and a carload of pets in tow. He has found that the study abroad experience creates opportunities for growth and change, in both academic realms and within in his own family.
“My son was an exchange student in the Netherlands. And he called me up and said, “‘Dad, All my ideas about politics are all mixed up,’ he said. And I said, ‘Yes. That’s exactly what it’s all about.’”