In her new role as the associate director of global education in the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs, Sharmila Udyavar looks forward to equipping UNC students for the global professional world. She began her appointment in January.
“It was a very strong, competitive pool of candidates," Heather Ward, associate provost for global affairs, said. "And we were thrilled to find our most talented and experienced global education expert right here in North Carolina at Fayetteville State University."
Udyavar said that she spent years at FSU working with students on partnerships and study abroad experiences. But she realized it was time for a change.
She plans to focus on preparing students for careers in diplomacy in international affairs in her role at UNC.
“I am extremely passionate about the need for every student to get a global experience,” Udyavar said. “I think Carolina has the resources, the commitment, the focus to help me provide that.”
The Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs works to ensure a "Global Guarantee," — a commitment from UNC to make global education available to every student. In her position, Udyavar will support this University promise by overseeing the Collaborative Online International Learning program.
COIL is a virtual exchange between faculty and students across the world that can be implemented throughout different curriculum. Udyavar said that COIL is something that UNC can give to all students, especially those unable to study abroad.
And Udyavar is familiar in the international learning space. She said she used the virtual exchange model when she connected her sociology course at FSU to an English class in China via Zoom. The Chinese students talked to American students about social issues in English, while the American students learned about society in China.
“It often leads to really surprising friendships,” Udyavar said.
Ward said that there are nearly 50 COIL courses at UNC. In total, Ward said there have been about 1,300 UNC students enrolled in COIL courses.
“Students in a COIL course sometimes have to navigate the same challenges that they would in a traditional study abroad," Ward said. "Meaning language differences, cultural differences, historical differences, time differences and different academic expectations in the classrooms."
Students can register for a COIL course using a COIL tag on ConnectCarolina as of the next registration cycle, Ward said, and will be able to receive an experiential education general education credit for some courses.
Udyavar will also help with the Diplomacy Initiative. Headed by the Vice Provost of Global Affairs and Chief Global Officer Barbara Stephenson, its purpose is to connect students interested in pursuing diplomatic global professions with senior-level foreign affairs mentors.
"We are thrilled to welcome Sharmila to our team, and I am especially excited to draw on her expertise to grow student-focused programming under the Diplomacy Initiative,” Stephenson said in an email. “Through her experience both in administration and in the classroom, we will be able to build a cohesive program that helps students develop the skills and knowledge needed to be thoughtful and informed global leaders."
Udyavar said the Diplomacy Initiative is currently hosting people with distinguished diplomatic careers to talk to students about pursuing a career in diplomacy, international relations or national security. There will be an ambassador coming to speak at UNC through the Diplomacy Initiative on Tuesday, she said.
Through her work in the OVGPA, Udyavar wants students to seek global experiences.
“That's where I want our students to be," she said. "I want them to be hungry to experience the world to be able to travel — because there's so much that the world can offer. And you know, it's a very rich life when a student is able to travel and have those experiences. So that's my goal. And that's like my dream.”
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