International Academic Partnership Projects

A Multilateral University Consortium to Strengthen Tourism Education, Research, and Industry Outreach: University of Florida, USA; Dokuz Eylul University, Turkey; Armenian State University of Economics, Armenia (2010-2013)

Tasci, A. (PI), Pennington-Gray, L. (CO-PI), Thapa, B. (CO-PI), & Sagas, M. (CO-PI).  Funded by U.S. Department of State (U.S. Embassy-Turkey) – University Partnership Program. Ankara, Turkey.

Tourism as an influential ambassador to champion cultural understanding, goodwill and peace among different cultures and nations has been espoused by the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization. The prospect to promote cultural understanding, mutual respect and peace via travel and tourism is a monumental opportunity to strengthen dialogue between Turkey and Armenia whose relations have been strained by a number of historical and political issues. Travel and tourism, education and research partnerships between Turkey and Armenia can facilitate the normalization of relations between the two nations. This project proposes collaboration between academic institutions and the private sector in both countries that will train, educate and bring together resources which relate to sustainable regional tourism development for both countries.

The purpose of this project is to formulate a multilateral university consortium to strength tourism education, research and industry outreach. The partnership is led by the University of Florida U.S. along with Dokuz Eylul University, Turkey, and Armenian State University of Economics, Armenia.  The following activities are proposed to accomplish the objectives: (1) Curriculum Development-(a) review and update existing curriculum in all three countries, (b) develop new curriculum where needed, (2) Research – (a) understand best practices of putting academic research into practice, (b) understand the needs of the industry for academic research in all three countries, (3) Industry Outreach – (a) host a multilateral tourism research symposium, (b) create a multilateral tourism project; (4) Capacity Building – (a) student mobility exchange, (b) develop and deliver an online tourism English course.  This overall project is led by Dr. Asli Tasci with Dr. Gurhan Aktas as the country director for Turkey and Dr. Artak Manukyan for Armenia.

Capacity Building Partnership to Improve Tourism Education, Research, and Industry Outreach: University of Florida, USA and the State University of Nizhni Novgorod, Russian Federation (2010-2013)

Stepchenkova, S. (PI), Thapa, B. (CO-PI), & Pennington -Gray, L. (CO-PI).  Funded by U.S. Department of Education-Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE): U.S.-Russia Program, Washington, D.C.

Given the current influx of visitors as well as development of destinations and attractions in Russia, there has been limited number of institutions that have focused on tourism related curriculum. Overall, capacity building and institutional development in tourism education is a fundamental component for the vitality and sustainability of the industry in Russia. Therefore, the objective of this project is to create a synergistic partnership between the University of Florida (UF) and the State University of Nizhni Novgorod (UNN) to strengthen tourism education, training, research and industry outreach. More specifically, the project will engage in tourism degree curriculum development, faculty and student exchange mobility program, language skills development, experiential education and service learning projects. In addition, to engage in collaborative research initiatives and participate in industry outreach via the proposed new Center for Tourism Management at UNN.

It is important to highlight that the partnership is mutually beneficial for UF and UNN. New curriculum development and online delivery will be implemented at both institutions. Service learning projects and field trip for students from both countries will strengthen their understanding of issues pertinent to tourism, hospitality, and destination management and also experience practical applications. Moreover, students will improve their language skills and cultural understanding of the host country. During the faculty mobility program, UF and UNN team will engage to develop, share and partner in teaching methodologies, instructional materials, research initiatives as well as industry outreach activities. Also, it is expected that this partnership will continue beyond the completion of this project. This project is led by Dr. Svetlana Stepchenkova.

Transforming Community Based Natural Resources Management Education in Southern Africa (2009-2013)

Thapa, B. (PI), Child, B. (CO-PI), Barnes, G. (CO-PI), & Russo, S. (CO-PI) (2009-2013). Funded by U.S. Agency for International Development/Higher Education for Development, Washington, D.C.

Southern Africa is the crucible of Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) which has been successful at conserving biodiversity and improving livelihoods by valorizing natural resources, and devolving and democratizing their governance at the local level. Key to these programs is the development of new economic and political institutions for governing wild resources, including strengthened property rights, new markets and rural democratization. The objective of this project is to strengthen and expand existing alliances between the public, private, non-government and education sectors to sustain and support CBNRM programs in southern Africa by improving education and training programs. Its purpose is to capture the lessons in devolved, incentive-led, democratic biodiversity conservation, and institutionalize competencies ranging from natural resource management to economics and rural democratization in institutions of higher education.

The primary activities will involve: 1) Develop and manage a community-of-practice in CBNRM; 2) Collect, collate, and design CBNRM curricula and materials; Transforming Community Based Natural Resources Management Education in Southern Africa 3) Develop foundational training materials (books and manuals) through write shops; and 4) Involve faculty members from target institutions in a series of write shops and training to build their capacity. Practitioners, policymakers, and scholars will work with Namibian University of Science and Technology, University of Botswana, Southern African Wildlife College, and Sokoine University of Agriculture and others to institutionalize CBNRM training in the form of 1) practitioner/vocational certificates, 2) short courses and modules for private sector and NGOs, 3) undergraduate minors, and 4) in-depth graduate courses and research. Project outputs will be a series of books, manuals and teaching materials written collectively by scholars and practitioners covering subjects  such as natural resource governance, economics, marketing and business development, social learning and adaptive management, participatory resource management. This interdisciplinary project is led by Dr. Brijesh Thapa (EFTI) with Brian Child (Center for African Studies/Geography), Grenville Barnes (School of Forest Resources and Conservation), and Sandra Russo (International Center).

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University of Florida and Tshwane University of Technology: Partnership to Strengthen Teaching, Research, Service and Faculty Development in Tourism Management (2009-2012)

Thapa, B. (PI), Russo, S. (CO-PI), & Pennington-Gray, L/ (CO-PI) (2009-2012). University of Technology (South Africa): Funded by U.S. Agency for International Development/Higher Education for Development, Washington, D.C.

Tourism is a very important industry for the economy of South Africa. Although the country leads the market in Africa, the potential to expand this sector to generate more income, employment and tax revenues are enormous, considering the current level of tourism development. However, tourism growth is dependent on a number of factors, notably, developing a trained and skilled labor force. Capacity building and institutional development through training is a key component for the vitality and sustainability of the tourism industry in South Africa. In order to address this major need, the purpose of this project was to formulate a partnership between the University of Florida (UF) and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa to strengthen its teaching, research, service and faculty development initiatives in tourism management.

In Year 1, teaching and curriculum needs were be accommodated at the bachelor degree level with respect to the following objectives: a) Review and update existing curriculum; b) Develop new curriculum in aviation management, casino management, and event management; c) Develop vocational and executive training certificate programs in tourism. In Year 2, a Center for Tourism Research was established based on a strategic visioning meeting with faculty and industry stakeholders. The mission of the Center is largely to serve tourism destinations and industries through research, training and outreach within the community, province and other regions in southern Africa. In Year 3, emphasis was placed on faculty development with regards to enhancing capacity as well as collaborative initiatives in tourism research. Also, opportunities for professional development programs to current TUT faculty through a short exchange program with UF was offered.  The curriculum component of the project was in partnership with two other U.S. institutions. Dr. Rhett Yates from Jacksonville University led the Aviation Management degree curriculum; Dr. Kathryn Hashimoto from East Carolina University led the Casino Management degree curriculum, and Dr. George Fenich from East Carolina University led the Event Management curriculum. This project was led by Dr. Brijesh Thapa.

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