Yesterday at work we had a visitor from James Cook University in Australia. He’s a professor of geology there and head of the Environmental Science school. We send several students to James Cook every year – it’s by far the most popular Australian university with American students. So we played host to this guy, and as the Associate Program Director for the University Study in Australia programs, it was my job to play hostess all day. Again, not something I really look forward to. It turned out that wasn’t too bad, but still not my favorite thing to do.
He arrived at about 10 am, and then the director of our office and I took him for coffee at the Starbucks in the business building and chatted a little bit about our university and our study abroad office. After that, he checked his email in the resource center and I printed out some additional information for him that he’d asked for, as well as some information about scenic drives in the area, as he expressed interest in renting a car for the weekend and seeing the fall colors. I guess they don’t really have that in Australia, at least in the northern part where he lives.
Then we went to lunch at Campus Club with the director of the University Study in Australia programs. That was nice because Campus Club has good food (it’s the university’s membership club) and the office paid for it. Woot!
After that, the hard part started, because during the afternoon it was up to me to escort the professor to several meetings with faculty members in our environmental science area. That meant that it was up to me to make conversation with him and several faculty members I didn’t know, as well as navigate the St Paul Campus, which is where most of the science buildings are located, but I’m really not familiar with because I never had a class over there. It actually was interesting though, because I got to listen in on these scientific conversations about entomology, geology, soil science, etc– things that are interesting but I know nothing about, and also I learned about some things going on in these departments that I didn’t know about. It also seemed like there was some real opportunity for academic collaboration because our departments and theirs have a lot of similarities, but are also very different because of the different environments in Australia and Minnesota!
Then we took the bus back to the West Bank (of the Mississippi Rover!! Our campus has 3 major parts: the St Paul Campus, and the Minneapolis Campus which is made up of the East Bank and the West Bank. So our campus spans 2 cities and 2 sides of the river). On the bus we had an interesting conversation about higher education becoming very commercial. I showed him how to get to his hotel. He thanked me for being his guide and seemed genuinely to mean it.
I think I did okay at playing hostess.