Message from the Dean: October 2023

Frances Vavrus
Frances Vavrus, Dean and Vice Provost of the International Division at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The transition from summer to fall in Madison brings with it many changes on campus, from autumnal artistry as leaves turn from green to gold to the welcoming of new students, staff, and faculty on campus.

In the International Division, we have new members in many of our units, and three I would like to highlight are in the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS). I’m delighted to introduce three new faculty directors: Marissa Moorman of the African Studies Program, Steven Ridgely of the Center for East Asian Studies, and Sara McKinnon of the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program.

Each of these individuals brings a great depth of knowledge and experience to their roles. Marissa Moorman is a recognized leader in African media studies, Southern Africa history, and Angolan studies. Steven Ridgely is an expert in modern Japanese literature, cultural theory, and Transasian studies. Sara McKinnon’s research brings together intercultural rhetoric, globalization/transnational studies, and feminist theory to explore immigration and refugee law.

I would like to express my great appreciation for the outgoing faculty directors, who, through their work and contributions, have poised these centers for continuing success with these new leaders and through the ongoing work of the centers’ associate and assistant directors.

It was a privilege to get to speak with Sara McKinnon in Colombia last month and learn first-hand about the important work she and Erin Barbato, director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic in the UW Law School, are doing with immigrants in the Darian Gap. I joined two other members of the International Division—Maj Fischer, our director of external relations, and Nikki Davis, chief of staff in the Dean’s Office—as part of the University of Wisconsin delegation to Colombia organized by the Global Health Institute. During the weeklong trip, we had opportunities to meet with institutional partners and visit the Colombia One Health center, which is strengthening local capacity to surveil and manage infectious diseases in the context of climate change. I also spoke at the first Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association (WFAA) Salud Badger event for Colombian alumni, and it was powerful to hear from multiple generations of graduates who spoke about the important impact of our university and its international opportunities on their lives.

The experiences of these UW alumni from Colombia reinforced the importance of studying abroad, and it was heartening to see so many enthusiastic Badgers at the Study Abroad Fair at the end of September. There were more than 1,300 students who sought information about programs around the world and fellowships like FLAS and Fulbright to support their language study and experiences abroad. They, too, will be proud Wisconsin alumni one day.

Even though the seasons may change several times a year, the importance of the work we do in the International Division to bring the world to Wisconsin and Wisconsin to the world endures.