Grant helps SRU faculty and staff pursue professional development opportunities abroad


Woman with local people

Becky Thomas, Slippery Rock University assistant professor or parks, conservation and recreational therapy, immersed herself into the culture of Cartagena, Colombia, while attending the International Congress for Conservation Biology last summer. Thomas received a President’s International Professional Development Grant, which helps fund SRU faculty and staff engage in professional development activities in an international setting.

March 8, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University provides opportunities for its students to travel abroad and develop intercultural skills, so it makes sense that the University also would encourage its faculty and professional staff to seek international experiences. To encourage them to do so, each year the SRU Office for Global Engagement offers the President's International Professional Development Grant to support faculty and professional staff research or performances, attending conferences or participating in programs in an international setting.

The $1,000 awards are provided by an endowed fund, so the number of grants per year depends on interest rate returns, but the OGE anticipates providing five awards for 2018. The application deadline is March 30. All activity must be completed in the 2018 calendar year.

"It's great for our University to want our employees to be globally competent and develop their intercultural skills, but it's another level of commitment to invest in those opportunities," said Jenny Kawata, SRU's director of global exchanges and partnerships. "Our goal is to encourage faculty and staff to seek opportunities that support our vision and mission to be a global campus and to incorporate what they learned into their classroom teaching."

Previous recipients include Becky Thomas, assistant professor of parks, conservation and recreational therapy, who attended the International Congress for Conservation Biology in Cartagena, Colombia, last summer. She instructed a day-long course titled "Social Science Methods for Conservation," which attracted a broad range of academics and practitioners from natural science disciplines. She also presented a paper about the conclusions from a conservation education program evaluation.

"Because Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, which also exhibits a unique mix of challenges related to conservation and development, it was an incredible learning experience for me," said Thomas, who also honed her Spanish language skills and learned about the culture and history of Cartegena. "I had the opportunity to share my scholarship with an international audience and was also able to learn about current science in the conservation field, which has had a direct impact on my teaching."

Using case studies shared in Colombia about migratory songbird conservation, Thomas will apply that additional knowledge to teaching her Wildlife Management class at SRU.

Other SRU faculty members who were awarded grants last year included Marnie Jo Petray-Covey, assistant professor of modern languages and cultures, who traveled to Japan, and Christopher Scott, assistant professor of music, who traveled to Germany and Italy.

Petray-Covey, who is also the graduate coordinator for SRU's Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program, visited five cities in Japan to recruit Japanese teachers of English for the University's graduate communicative language teaching certificate program.

Scott instructed, rehearsed and performed a cabaret recital of American jazz and musical theater with Landesbühnen Sachsen, a regional theater company in Dresden, Germany. Scott then attended an intensive course at Scuola Leonardo da Vinci in Siena, Italy, where he further developed his Italian language skills through 20 group lessons and five private lessons.

"The financial assistance from the President's International Development Grant was paramount in my ability to travel to Italy and Germany," Scott said. "(The opportunity in Germany) allowed me to learn from industry professionals and provided me with a platform for networking with artistic staff from an international company. (The opportunity in Italy) for further educational development has greatly assisted me, as I use the Italian language nearly every day in my teaching at SRU."

Applications for the 2018 President's International Development Grant are available by clicking here.

To learn more about the President's International Development Grant, contact Kawata at or 724.738.2605.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |