Dr. Noel Fallows
Associate Dean of International and Multidisciplinary Programs in Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
I was always fascinated by languages at school. Later on I discovered Medieval French and Spanish literature at the University of Liverpool and was completely hooked. I decided to specialize further in Medieval literature, language and culture for my graduate studies, with a view to pursuing an academic career in this area if possible.
I was awarded the BA (Joint Honours) in French and Hispanic Studies from the University of Liverpool in 1984. I also attended the University of Nice in 1983 and attained a French “Diplôme de Hautes Études de Lettres et Civilisation Françaises”. After graduating with the BA I pursued graduate studies in the United States, earning my MA in Spanish from the University of Georgia in 1986, and my PhD in Spanish from the University of Michigan in 1991.
There is so much to be discovered about the Middle Ages, but it requires a particular skill-set to decipher the manuscripts and documents that lead to new discoveries. My first trip to a European archive was under the guidance of a professor at the University of Michigan. She introduced me to the National Library in Madrid in 1987, and I have been going back ever since. I enjoy the peace and tranquility of archival research, and at this point in my career have had the pleasure and luxury of studying in some of the finest collections in the world. I do want people to read my work, so I pay as much attention to the way in which I present my research findings as I do to the actual discovery process.
Interest in UGA
In my final year at the University of Liverpool I had applied to a university in London for my MA degree, but I had a professor of French at Liverpool who had taught as a Visiting Professor at UGA, and he suggested that I give UGA a try instead of London. I already knew that UGA had a strong reputation for excellence in my particular field of interest, Medieval Spanish. Also, I have to admit, I am a big fan of Ray Charles and Little Richard, and I had been listening to the B-52’s ever since they started in the late 1970s. Since they are all from Georgia, the sheer exoticism of coming here was too compelling for me to resist! It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Everything worked out well for me, as I managed to secure a tenure-track position at Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU) after I graduated from the University of Michigan. SLU was a very collegial university and a great working environment for the transition from graduate studies to the profession. The position I had there was more of a generalist position with a focus on Spanish language instruction. A year later I was fortunate enough to secure a tenure-track position here at UGA as an Assistant Professor in my specialist area of expertise, Medieval Spanish.
As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Romance Languages I had my first taste of administrative duties as a Faculty Senator, and service as Undergraduate Advisor for Spanish. There was an opportunity to serve as Acting Head when I was a tenured Associate Professor, so I pursued that, and was subsequently elected permanent Head by the faculty in the Department. Although I did not come into the profession as an administrator, this is now the direction in which my career has taken me, but I shall always consider myself a faculty member as well, and I am still very much an active researcher.
International experience and work at UGA
The actual substance of my research is separate from my international administrative duties and activities. Having said that, the experience I have in conducting international research has enabled me to navigate new or unfamiliar countries and cities with relative ease, based on the practical skill-set I have acquired over the years. On the other hand, I wear a completely different hat when I travel to visit international partners with a view to creating new initiatives or expanding upon existing ones. In general, I have always thought that administration is akin to the research process in that it is not stagnant. It is important to keep abreast of the latest trends, as it is always possible to learn more about this aspect of the profession. I acknowledge the usefulness of attending conferences and training and development workshops that deal with a wide variety of pertinent administrative issues, and I favor attending either individually or as a group with co-workers.
The position of Associate Dean has enabled me to approach international studies as a broader educational activity than I could when I was in my previous position as Head of the Department of Romance Languages. For example, I have been able to seek out opportunities from an administrative assessment visit to China and a collaborative Public Health-oriented faculty and administration assessment visit to Croatia led by the College of Public Health and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, as well as attending conferences right here on campus. I have participated in these activities because I am fully aware that Franklin College is not the only major player or stake-holder in international programming.
In my current role I have been able to implement a number of initiatives broadly in the college that have allowed for faculty research exchanges, graduate student research exchanges, and undergraduate student exchanges, in addition to what I would call the traditional paradigm of undergraduate studies abroad programs.
There has also been a lot to do right here on the UGA campus. This brings me to the importance of healthy, solid infrastructures. To my mind infrastructure constitutes a bottom line in the sense that if you do not understand the basics, the students will not have visas, programs will not move forward, and nothing will happen. The creation of strong, stable infrastructures often involves policy-making, which in turn is often retroactive based on unforeseen incidents. For better or for worse I have had the opportunity as Head of a large department and Associate Dean in a large college to encounter many unforeseen incidents, from which I have learned. Armed with this type of knowledge and on-the-ground experience, I have endeavored to work proactively with deans, department heads and faculty with a view to making study abroad as transparent an operation as possible. In the facilitator role I have most recently worked closely with the Director of the Cortona Program and the Director of the Lamar Dodd School of Art to create a comprehensive and transparent process for the approval and evaluation of programs in the school. The philosophical thrust behind the creation of this process is the promotion of faculty involvement in the governance of the Department or School and faculty investment in the unit’s international programs. While recognizing that programs vary in size and scope I firmly believe in the need to create a systematic approval process at the Departmental level across the university, especially with regards to the academic component.
As soon as I became associate dean I established the Franklin College Studies Abroad Committee. One of the tasks I set this committee, which I chair, was to create a solid and transparent infrastructure for academic rigor and financial accountability within which our studies abroad programs must now operate, as well as establishing concrete procedures for the creation of new programs that faculty are required to follow. We have also required that the various non-UGA programs that our students attend demonstrate academic rigor and financial accountability to us if they wish to qualify for transfer credit. All of these initiatives have brought much-needed consistency to what is now a very strong suite of programs around the world.
In the case of the University of Georgia it is fair to say that in its 200-plus years of existence UGA has always been educating its students to be interested in and to engage with the world around them. For UGA, interdisciplinarity is not necessarily a new concept or issue, and what we need to think about is how we can galvanize, facilitate and marshal our resources in new and innovative ways in order to continue producing contributing members of the global community.
International Education in the coming years
No matter how good the idea, no matter how broad the vision, we have to face the reality that the context within which implementation is expected to take place is often of necessity one of financial restrictions and limited resources. In order to move forward we must engage in proactive discussion and constructive thinking outside of the box. Having said that, new initiatives need not cost a lot, or indeed, any money. Part of the philosophy that underpins my approach to administration concerns the notion of breaking or conforming with precedent. While there is no point in reinventing the wheel, precedents must sometimes be broken in order for a unit to move with the times. Thus, one thing that we can consider is breaking with historical precedent, if necessary, and reallocating existing resources, knowing that infusions of new resources are limited.
In the long term it would be beneficial if UGA had a dedicated international building where groups of faculty exchange visitors could be accommodated. This would allow for more in-depth collaborative research activities that would be an ideal complement to the shorter-term initiatives that are currently in place. I would also like to expand graduate student exchanges. In the short term I am currently working with study abroad program directors and the Franklin College Studies Abroad Committee on a plan to integrate the undergraduate study abroad experience with the on-campus curriculum, with formal pre-departure and re-entry classes as part of the overall experience. The intersection between curricular management and study abroad is one of the best, most cost-effective recruitment tools that a Department can have in place. The execution of this kind of curricular reform requires proactive, constructive leadership and an ability to compromise, and is ultimately of great benefit to the college in that it ensures that all faculty members are invested in the future of the programs in which they teach, mentor students, and conduct research.