Foreign Travel grant allows professors to experience work abroad

Tiana Nichelson

It’s May of 2016, springtime in Kusadasi, Turkey, the sun is shining, the water is warm and educational leaders from a variety of backgrounds are joining together for the STEM education conference.

Mack Shelley, a chair of the political science department who teaches graduate level courses on public policy, was invited as a key note speaker to the conference. 

Shelley said the conference is a great place to network for himself while gaining depth on knowledge he can share in the classroom. He also stresses how the grant allows for an interchange of expertise around the world. 

“It’s a good opportunity to kind of spread the word to researchers all across the planet about the work thats being done here, its a good way for us to get new ideas too,” Shelley said.

In order to get there, thanks to an Iowa State travel grant, a significant portion of his flight was paid for. 

The Foreign Travel Grant is applied for and awarded through the Faculty Senate recognition and development committee. Any faculty member is eligible. It is presented in three cycles, and provides winners with up to 75 percent of the cost of their airfare.

Recipients of the grant may use it to aid them in participating in a number of approved activities. These activities include research, delivering speeches, organizing committees, consulting, teaching and contributing to or presenting papers.  

The budget for the grant is funded by the Faculty Senate recognition and development committee. The President’s office, and the Senior Vice President and Provost’s office provide additional funding to try and match previous years budgets.

Last year the operating budget reached $65,269. This year the budget decreased by $15,000, but has not yet seen contribution from either the President’s office or the Senior Vice President and Provost’s office. 

Charles Schwab, chair of the recognition and development committee, shared that the budget is unequally allocated between each cycle.  

“The simplicity of it is that we’re helping them get there, and that’s consistent no matter what,” Schwab said. 

The irregular distribution is due to cycle one typically having less applicants. The allocation of a smaller portion of the budget still allows for each recipient to be awarded a sufficient amount of funds. 

Mack Shelley traveled during cycle three of the 2015-2016 academic year. The Foreign Travel grant covered 75 percent of his airfare, while the Professional Development grant covered the other 25 percent.

His hotel was paid for by the International Society for Research in Education and Science, and everything else was funded by Shelley himself.   

During his trip he got to visit the ancient city of Ephesus.

“Its kind of interesting to see these things, you know, like the cobble stones people walked on a couple millennia ago,” said Shelley.

He shared his experiences seeing the ruins of the city, including the beautiful physical structure of a giant library which is still erect.     

A political science professor, Amy Smith, has been a recipient of the grant twice. She traveled to Juiz de Fora, Brazil in 2014 and 2017.

The grant covered 75 percent of her airfare both times she received it. She has also received a grant from the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a Fulbright fellowship to help her fund her travels.

While in Brazil, she conducted research for a project on religion and politics, talking to members of a clergy about mobilization.

Smith is grateful for the grant and the way it allows faculty to travel and learn.   

“The research that I’ve been able to do has really enriched my own understanding of the complex issues involved in separation of church and state,” said Smith. “It helps me present both sides of the debate in a classroom.”