This month, World Learning is proud to feature the University of Montevallo. Dr. Eric Ford Travis, PhD, serves as the Assistant Professor of Management in the Michael E. Stephens College of Business and Coordinator of NSE, International Affairs and International Education. He shared some insights into the international student experience on campus.
How long have you been working at University of Montevallo?
I started here during the 2018-2019 academic year.
What does your orientation for international students involve?
Our international students can participate in the university’s formal student orientation, which is designed to help them settle in and get ready for classes. Students tour campus, get to know important on-campus resources, receive their student ID, and check into their dormitories. The University of Montevallo also has a Welcome Week for all students. It is the best way for international students to merge with campus and make fast friends. This year, I picked up our Global UGRAD students, checked them into their dormitories, and they immediately wanted to jump into one of the Welcome Week events – which involved various outdoor games and activities. We have a group of domestic and international students that developed a bond with our first UGRAD cohort and have eagerly awaited each new cohort’s arrival. Several were literally waiting on the athletic fields for our new exchange students this semester. I know they were tired, having just arrived after days of travel, but from the minute they arrive on campus they become Falcons. There is a long list of events and activities planned for Welcome Week 2023: https://www.montevallo.edu/campus-life/orientation/welcome-weekend/
Can you briefly describe a handful of campus clubs, events, and/or programs that are designed with international students in mind?
We have an international student organization and Hispanic student organization, in addition to over 90 student organizations that are part of student life (https://www.montevallo.edu/campus-life/student-life/). Jason Perry is our wonderful Director of Student Diversity, including the M.A.D.E. program (Minorities Achieving Dreams of Excellence), and he also helps run a lot of our intercultural student activities. Of importance to international students is our recently revived Montevallo Friendship Partners, which matches international students with local families to encourage more social insertion and cross-cultural awareness for everyone involved: https://www.montevallo.edu/about-um/administration/registrars-office/international-student-information/friendship-partners/
What sets the University of Montevallo apart of other U.S. Universities?
First and foremost, we are Alabama’s public liberal arts university, so we are very proud of our holistic approach to higher education, and our students graduate with well-rounded and enlightened perspectives that go beyond their declared majors. I have found the University of Montevallo to be a very vibrant, welcoming, and supportive campus that offers a private-school experience. Our class sizes are usually small, with an overall 14:1 student to faculty ratio, allowing for quality interaction between professors and students. It is very easy to get to know classmates and professors, to shift bonds from classes to social interaction and to feel like you belong. Indeed, UM is the most welcoming and supportive place I have worked, where anyone and everyone will go out of their way to try and help anyone who needs something, especially students. We also have College Night, our unique nationally-known homecoming tradition: https://www.montevallo.edu/about-um/traditions/college-night/.
What is your favorite place on campus and why?
I love the overall campus because it has a true park-like setting. It was actually designed in the 1800s by the Olmsted brothers’ firm, the same architects that designed Central Park in NYC and the Biltmore Estate. There are many historic buildings, most with a Greek or Georgian Revival style. We have a small lake, a new mountain bike course, and about six miles from campus the university owns and manages the Ebenezer Swamp Ecological Preserve. About 15 minutes from campus is the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, with its endemic and iconic water lilies.
Please share a positive takeaway or memorable story from your work with Global UGRADs.
The first group of Global UGRADs that arrived here, after the delay caused by COVID, will always be special for me. They were the most phenomenal bunch of individuals! All were so academically gifted and had winning personalities. We had a wonderful semester, especially at the dance ending our 2022 Latin American Education Week, where DJ Lobito played until 2 AM and El Camioncito taco truck was cooking the food. The Global UGRAD students were dancing with our students and teaching them dances from their home countries. Most of our soccer team and many other international students and athletes stopped by. It was a memorable night! I also took them to Cracker Barrel, which is a fun southern restaurant experience.
Anything else you would like to share either about the University of Montevallo, working with Global UGRADs, or advice for future students?
UM is a hidden gem and is getting better every year and we are so happy to partner with World Learning and the Global UGRAD program. They have a life-changing experience while here and contribute so much to campus and to the classroom. All of the professors who have taught Global UGRAD students only offer praise and thanks for how much they contribute to broadening discussion and perspectives. To finish, I definitely advise any and all students to engage in exchange and while on exchange make the most of your time both socially and academically; it is just as important to share what you know as it is to learn from where you are visiting.