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Neil McGurty named director of Lehigh’s Study Abroad office

With a wife from Latvia and two adopted children-a daughter from Azerbaijan and a son from Latvia- Neil McGurty's international experience extends far beyond the typical vacation to Europe.

"When I attended college in the 1980s, I had no idea that I would go abroad, marry a non-American, and adopt children internationally," he says.

After graduating college, McGurty joined the Peace Corps and was deployed to Lavtia, where he met his wife, Iveta Silova, a newly hired assistant professor in the College of Education. Later, he worked at U.S. embassies in Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. As the Public Affairs Officer in Baku, Azerbaijan, McGurty managed over 30 educational, professional and cultural exchange programs.

This experience gives McGurty a unique insight in the study abroad system, says Dick Brandt, director of the Global Lehigh and of the Iacocca Institute.

"He's been on the other side of the tracks," Brandt says. "We're here sending students abroad, and he was working with the Fulbright Scholarship to send students here."

As a former Foreign Service officer, McGurty can provide valuable advice and direction to students considering a career in the Department of State, says Magdalena Grudzinski-Hall, director of the Global Citizenship program.

Almost one-fourth of Lehigh students have studied in a foreign country, taking advantage of Lehigh's faculty-led trips, short-term visits provided by a third party, semester-long experiences and year exchange programs. Some of these are in the Global Citizenship program, which requires those enrolled to study abroad in a non-English speaking country for a minimum of six weeks. These students and others seeking an international experience will work closely with McGurty as they determine what country to visit.

"A lot of students who don't speak a foreign language realize the challenge of studying in a non-English speaking country and that they need to find a program that's a good fit," says Grudzinski-Hall. "I have at least one student who's in the Study Abroad Office every day."

"The world is coming to us"

All across Lehigh, more students are seeking overseas experiences. This year, 416 students have requested to study abroad, a 12.4 percent increase from last year's 370 students.

"There's no question that our program will grow," Brandt says, "the students are growing it on their own-they're pushing us."

McGurty plans to foster this passion for living and studying internationally.

"Study abroad is important for understanding oneself in a global context," McGurty says. "More and more the world is coming to us in our small towns and large American cities, and students at a university like this will have to live in a world that considers - even requires - a global perspective."

"If we don't provide our students with international opportunities, we're not doing our jobs in preparing them for careers and life," he says.

McGurty was selected from 34 applicants by a search committee that formed after Erica Smith Caloiero left for the University of Virginia. The committee included: Allison Gulati, associate dean of students; Judy McDonald, associate professor of economics; Carl Moses, the deputy provost; Laura Severin, senior assistant director of admissions; Constance Cook, professor of modern languages and literature; Joan Smith, coordinator for the Iacocca Institute, Magdalena Grudzinski-Hall and Dick Brandt.

For more information, visit Lehigh's Study Abroad Web site.

--Becky Straw

Posted on Tuesday, November 06, 2007

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