In 1998, Ann E. Austin spent a year in South Africa as a Fulbright Fellow studying and collaborating with colleagues toward the goals of improving higher education at what is now Nelson Mandela University.
Almost 20 years later, she says that experience formed the basis for not only her own international work, but for developing some of the international experiences offered to higher education graduate students at Michigan State University.
This month, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Comparative and International Education Society’s Higher Education Special Interest Group.
“I was quite surprised and very honored,” said Austin. “I think I am an example of the kind of international work we do in our college, where, as former Assistant Dean Jack Schwille has explained, we integrate international work into our various areas of specialty.”
Austin is a professor of Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE) and associate dean of research in the MSU College of Education. Recently she was on leave to serve as a program director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation.
Along with her partnerships in South Africa, Austin has worked with colleagues at the national and institutional levels on higher education issues in at least 10 other nations, such as India, Vietnam and China. She served on a team commissioned by the Asian Development Bank to conduct a study called “Higher Education in Dynamic Asia,” and she is the co-editor of a book entitled Higher Education in the Developing World: Changing Contexts and Institutional Responses (2002, with D.W. Chapman).
Austin’s research concerns faculty careers and professional development, organizational change, teaching and learning in higher education, the academic workplace, doctoral education, and reform in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. She co-directs a national research initiative focused on improving how new faculty, particularly in STEM, develop as excellent teachers and leads a grant to study strategies that support success for women scholars in STEM fields.
Sharing knowledge with both colleagues and graduate students from around the world has remained a constant in her career. The HALE Field Experience in South Africa, which she developed with HALE colleagues based on her Fulbright year, has resulted in about 50 MSU graduate students and several faculty members becoming engaged in South Africa.
“The international work I have done on behalf of MSU has been very rewarding and meaningful to me,” said Austin, also a core faculty member in the African Studies Center at MSU. “I’ve really loved the opportunity to learn about and contribute to higher education in other countries, and I’ve had the opportunity to develop wonderful relationships with colleagues in a number of countries.”