Study Abroad at MSU: Dr. Thobhani’s ongoing efforts

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Posted Thu, May 1, 2014

DENVER, Auraria, Campus  — The efforts to reinstate Metropolitan State University’s Study Abroad program has been ongoing since 2007.  Financial burdens and the low number of students’ interests in education abroad have posed significant handicaps in the progress of the standing study abroad program.  Dr. Akbarali Thobhani has been the figurehead of International Studies since his employment at the university over 40 years ago.

Dr. Thobhani assisted in the first study abroad programs at Metro in the 1970s.  After many years of developing the International Studies Department, Thobhani retired from the university in 2003. After his departure the university, he struggled to maintain the Study Abroad program.  “Our international education program suffered and it became less of a priority,” he explained.  “They asked me to come back and put it back together.”

Dr. Thobhani returned in 2007 to reinstate the Study Abroad program.  Since his return the university has acquired a young and vibrant staff.

“We have partnerships with several universities around the world which have created opportunities for our faculty to engage in short-term teaching abroad,” he said. “So, internationalization has really picked up pace at Metro in the last few years.” Yet, the program still faces financial hindrances.  “I would really like to see more students participating.  Our primary goal is to increase participation from our students but at the same time it is a challenging one because of financial resources.”

As an international student from Uganda, Dr. Thobhani knows firsthand the financial significance of receiving an education abroad. He is the recipient of six Fulbright grants in order to lead seminars in Egypt, Kenya and Ghana.  He has sought out similar funds to benefit the program at Metro.

In the summer of 2012 the program received a very sizable grant to take 15 Metro students to Ethiopia for two months. “Those grant opportunities are far and in between and very competitive,” he said “Still we seek them out and apply for them.”

Dr. Thobhani’s efforts are ongoing.  One of his current projects in the Dominican Republic is providing support for a particular community.  He is inlisting help from a couple of different professors in other departments to create some creative activities for the project.  Enlisting more variety and opportunities for students abroad is a focus that can spark more interest in the student body.

“It is less that two percent of the college level population that actually studies abroad,” Thobhani said.  This number is surprisingly low for the benefits an education abroad can have.  According to Thobhani, “It is one of the best experiences a young student can have.”

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