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The International Scene – Life as a Librarian on the Utah Asia Campus

Darby Fanning, Associate Librarian and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric Studies, has been focusing her career on International Studies. She currently is spending a year at the Utah Asia Campus (UAC), which is part of the Incheon Global Campus, located in city of Incheon in South Korea.

Q&A With Darby Fanning

When did the library become involved in the UAC?

It was about three or four years ago or so that the library became involved with the U’s Office for Global Engagement. Due to my work as the liaison to the U’s Department of Linguistics’ English for Academic Success (EAS) Program, as well my work with various Korean high school summer programs in Salt Lake, I was asked to partake in conversations surrounding the budding UAC campus. I was included in these conversations as I was (and still am) an active librarian who focuses on international initiatives from a research education perspective using specific content and language approaches in practice. It was the Office for Global Engagement that made the UAC a possibility and carried forward with it the U’s reputation as a top-tier research institution in higher education in Utah and abroad.

How has the library’s involvement grown and changed over time?

The library’s involvement has grown and changed over time with even more positivity, if that could even be possible! The UAC and the U’s Salt Lake leadership have always been supportive of the library’s research presence at the UAC because we are still The University of Utah wherever we are. It is my experience and perception that the Office for Global Engagement, the UAC’s leadership, and the UAC’s faculty and staff have always been committed to building a research environment that supports all of the U’s current and future students, faculty, and staff. These people are deeply invested in preparing 21st Century learners to be life-long learning global citizens.

The investment that the U has in education and research development for students in Salt Lake and in Korea— and the education and research outcomes for both students and faculty— is paramount. These are my perceptions, and it is visible to me that the U is invested in fostering students to become global citizens who are creative and can transfer the skill sets that they acquire at the U. An example of this: encouraging critical thinking within multi-disciplinary and discipline-specific research and thought, communication, and interpersonal skills.

What goals have been placed before you for your one-year appointment at the UAC campus?

The leading goal that I have placed for myself has been to investigate the additional opportunities where the libraries can contribute to the infrastructure of UAC’s research environment. This also includes teaching in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric Studies, which this year began to offer the first-year course “Writing 1060: Methods and Technologies of Library Research.” This course provides a beginning foundation for research skills that are necessary for students to develop successfully as critical thinkers and researchers. These skills are critical within and beyond their first-year studies, as well as into their careers and personal lives.

Additionally, as a librarian who focuses on international librarianship, a meaningful goal that I have is to investigate opportunities for collaboration with the other participating universities in Korea at the Incheon Global Campus (SUNY Korea, George Mason University, and Ghent University), as we are all now global universities and very likely have similar goals in preparing our students for excellence.

What has been your experience working with students on the Utah Asian Campus?

Things are going very well! The campus is building exciting educational programs, adding majors, and establishing innovative research opportunities. The UAC just celebrated the grand opening of the UAC-CAU Research Center for Digital Wellbeing, which is a collaborative venture between the University of Utah Asia Campus, the Sorenson Center for Discovery and Innovation at the U’s Salt Lake campus, and Chung-Ang University in Korea. Since the U is well-known for cutting-edge discovery and invention, I very much look forward to the research that comes out of this global collaboration.

Our students are amazing! They are hungry to learn and are driven to perform at the top to their class, while stretching themselves into a new educational environment. I applaud them for being so brave and pushing themselves to achieve the standards set before them. I believe that we connect well with our students and we teach each other a ton. I often begin the first weeks of teaching with something that I know is true for me. What I tell my students during that time is, “I am a better and better teacher because each one of you helps me develop more and more into the teacher who I will become next week, next month, and next year. So, I thank you for giving me that gift even from the first day.” I believe that all students everywhere are on the precipice of learning everything new while moving forward. It is my experience that most students are at first a bit confused and step gingerly as they venture into their individual, adult lives, with new expectations upon them. Many of the expectations we place upon students must be taught and acquired… and it is our job as faculty to provide the stage for all of that.

Though educational systems are different in philosophy and practice all the world over, it is my firm belief (as I tell students both in Salt Lake and at the UAC) that “You are an individual and I will not judge you against anyone but you yourself. I don’t expect you to already know something or practice it perfectly, even if you do know about that thing. I will help you grow as a person who is independent from anyone else (yet able to incorporate your individual contribution into group and team work), and I consider it my job to help you reach your goals as defined by you. I will push you outside of your comfort zone, but that’s actually where you will grow the most.” So, I guess I think of each student as a unique being and I also seek to understand who they are and the pieces that make them who they are.

In closing, I will reinforce that I am excited for what we can build together while continuing to contribute to the U’s mission and vision of education, for every student.

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