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Dean Robert Kling on pushing boundaries
For, Dr. Robert Kling, his time aboard the MV World Odyssey is not his first experience working and exploring abroad.
Kling, an Associate Professor of Economics at Colorado State University, served as a visiting faculty member at universities in France, Hungary, Italy, Vietnam, led multiple alternative spring break student trips to Panama, and—most memorably—previously sailed with Semester at Sea.
“My first voyage was fall of ‘98,” said Kling, who is currently serving as Academic Dean on the Spring 2017 voyage. “I had a good amount of international experience before that as a visiting professor in several places, but I really credit Semester at Sea with developing my passion for international education as far as being more student oriented. That shifted my perspective a little bit.”
Now voyaging again after almost 20 years, Kling has already noticed some sharp differences between life on board the MV World Odyssey in 2017 and his previous voyage. Most notably, that current students are more connected to the outside world than they used to be.
“Voyagers can share more with everyone in the world while it is going on,” Kling said. “We used to write our messages and as soon as we were in port, [we’d] race to the nearest wifi cafe and send out an email to our network. We weren’t connected to the world for most of the time.”
Staying connected to the outside world, and with friends and family back home, is not necessarily a bad thing, Kling emphasized. But to him, it is important that students put themselves in unfamiliar situations—not only in port, but at sea as well.
“Our first port is actually our shipboard community,” Kling said. “It’s brand new to all of us, and it’s where we live and learn, and has its own culture. We will get the most out of it if we push our boundaries a little bit and don’t just retreat to safe places in a small group of comfortable friends, but really try to extract as much experience and growth out of the shipboard community as we might our port visits.”
For an extensive traveler like Kling, pushing personal boundaries may be nothing new. But for younger voyagers on board alongside Kling, it may not be as simple for staff and faculty to pull them outside their comfort zones. As both a faculty member at CSU and Academic Dean with Semester at Sea, Kling acknowledges that challenge and believes that the special academic relationship between Semester at Sea and Colorado State gives students, faculty, and staff members a unique support system on which to rely.
“Bringing on board from CSU is this incredible level of collaboration from academic side folks and the student-life folks,” Kling said. “We’ve invented this new term “Staculty,” to signal that it’s not two separate spheres, but that we’re all one team.
“(I’m) looking forward to bringing past experience to helping students draw as much value out of that as possible.”