Conducting field research abroad is no longer the sole province
of students involved in what are considered the hard sciences at
The University of Southern Mississippi.
Thanks to a
unique research abroad program that debuted in June, the ingenuity
and expertise of Southern Miss graduate students in the College
of Business and Economic Development is now being applied in an
And the French
Research Abroad program, which saw Southern Miss students conduct
a pair of hands-on data collection projects in the Loire Valley
region of France June 14-30, does more than just benefit Southern
Miss researchers educationally and their European test subjects
economically. It also allows for an exchange of international goodwill
between cultures whose relations have been somewhat strained of
late, according to Dr. David Butler, who directs the College's International
Development Ph.D. Program.
there was definitely a two-way interaction, a benefit for everyone
involved," Butler said. "Given the international climate
recently, I think this was definitely a positive gesture from both
Business and Economic Development student researchers interacted
with French business owners and European travelers while conducting
two separate research projects.
The first project
examined the economic impact of the Abbey Program, by which Southern
Miss has established a studies abroad experience based out of a
1,000-year-old Benedictine abbey in the town of Pontlevoy.
with business owners throughout Pontlevoy, and the nearby town of
Montrichard, to determine how the "European Semester in France"
program, which has been in place for two years, has affected their
we've run two successful semester abroad programs there, with students
going over and staying at this abbey that was previously closed,
and spending their money, we wanted to find out what kind of economic
impact that has had on the area," Butler said.
project the Southern Miss researchers conducted involved exit surveys
carried out at tourist chateaux in the Loire Valley towns of Chambord,
Chevery and Chaumont.
were carried out in French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian
and German-asked visitors to the chateaux to rate various aspects
of their stay. The data, which is still being compiled, will be
shared with the chateaux managers for use in the future management
of their establishments.
process provided invaluable experience to the students who participated,
read about how to get a participant to fill out a survey,"
Butler said, "but standing outside a gate when someone is leaving
a chateau, with thousands of people coming through speaking multiple
languages-that is something different. This cemented real-life practice
an Economic Development master's student who participated in the
research abroad trip, said that the survey's eventual findings should
help the French chateau managers by offering a uniquely American
point of view.
have a different perspective on business patterns," Becker
said. "They deal with observations and 'guesstimates,' not
hard-pressed numbers that we as Americans come to cherish.
the information that we have collected, no matter what it is, will
be helpful. It is just good business sense-no matter what country
or culture you live in-to know your customer and what they like.
The managers of the chateaux will better be able to serve their
customers and therefore find both direct and indirect improvements
to their day-to-day operation."
a Ph.D. candidate in International Development, agreed. "Our
up close and personal experience with French tourism, viewed from
our American perspective, might just turn up some ideas that help
the chateaux managers revolutionize their business."
participating in the first French research abroad trip were Ph.D.
candidates in International Development Billy Morehead and Paula
Mathis, and Dusty Farned, a Harvard student who discovered the program
while exploring graduate degree opportunities at Southern Miss.
that the data collected by the two research projects will be made
available to the French, and to the academic community through journal
publications authored by himself and the students.
And there will
more research abroad to come, both in France and perhaps another
country as Butler plans for future learning opportunities.
I will repeat this program next year," Butler said. "The
idea is not only to grow the French Research Abroad program, but
within a year or two launch another type of research abroad program,
taking another set of students to a different country, a different
region to do field research."
programs at Southern Miss are open to all graduate students from
every discipline, from any university, Butler said.
the French Research Abroad program in coordination with the Southern
Miss Center for International and Continuing Education (CICE).
Suzy Steen said of the new program, "The French Research Abroad
program is a terrific example of excellence and innovation in study
faculty and student research, provides economic development expertise
and assistance to the local region, and helps prepare our students
for success in today's global economy by giving them the chance
to acquire international experience while engaging in applied research
and earning academic credit. Dr. Butler has created a wonderful
learning experience for our students."
For more information
on the French Research Abroad program, contact Dr. David Butler
at (601) 266-4735.