The place for international education at Columbus State University has a new leader, a new home and a new name.
Eric Spears, previously the assistant vice president for international education at Georgia College and State University, is now the executive director of CSU’s Center for Global Engagement.
Spears replaces Neal McCrillis, who for two decades led what used to be called CSU’s Center for International Education. McCrilis left CSU in February to become vice provost for international affairs at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
At the beginning of this semester, CSU changed the name of the Center for International Education to the Center for Global Engagement to reflect “a more comprehensive approach to learning and experiencing the different aspects of globalization,” Spears told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email. “Global engagement simply broadens international education’s emphasis on specific countries, cultures and languages with the inclusion of global issues, trends and processes. For example, CSU is focused on a three-year theme of migration as part of its global engagement with faculty and students.”
Then, in early September, CSU moved the center from its own building, the International House, into the Schuster Student Success Center.
“The new office in the Schuster Center is a more central location with more foot traffic that will be convenient for students to come in and learn about study abroad,” Spears said.
Meanwhile, the International House “will be transformed into a visitor center for prospective students and parents, as well as other guests,” he said.
Tina Butcher, CSU’s interim provost, said in a news release that Spears “brings outstanding experience and expertise that will build upon CSU’s award-winning Center for Global Engagement. I’m confident that he’ll be a champion for the center’s mission to provide students with valuable international education learning experiences.”
Spears, a Fulbright Scholar and a geography professor, has more than 20 years of experience in international education, including as director of the international scholars program at Mercer University, according to the news release. He is the co-research director of the Political Economy of Education and Human Development Project at the Federal University of Sao Carlos, Brazil, and a member of the Asian Studies Development Program alumni board at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
“I try to learn new things and take cultural risks in the same way that our students have to do,” said Spears, who has studied abroad in China, England, Brazil and South Korea.
Under the leadership of McCrillis, CSU’s study abroad program grew from 10 students in 1998 to an average of approximately 200 in the past two years, comprising about 25 faculty-led programs in 15 countries, plus another 30 exchange programs with other institutions around the world.
No wonder CSU received a Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization in 2014, along with much larger schools: North Carolina State University, Ohio State University and Rutgers University.
“CSU is known nationally as a leader for global engagement,” said Spears. “To take that program and continue it is an honor.”
Among his initial challenges will be launching a fundraising campaign to increase study abroad scholarships for CSU students, the news release says. Spear’s position and the Center for Global Engagement are made possible through the Mildred Miller Fort Foundation, and the Spencer House in Oxford, England, providing CSU students, faculty and staff a place to live while studying at Oxford University, is a gift from the family of J. Kyle Spencer.