Natalicio and dean of students strengthen UTEP’s ties with Bhutan during visit – The Prospector

Posted: December 27, 2019 at 1:48 pm


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In anexpeditionhalfway across the globe,UTEP PresidentEmeritaDianaNatalicioand Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Dean of Students Catie McCorry-Andalisembarkedon a triptocontinuetheir dedicatedeffortsincultivatingthe unique connection shared between UTEP andthe Kingdom ofBhutan.

The trip started offwith theflightbeingdiverted to London in place of the projected routedue to a typhoon.Natalicioexplained that despite this being the next best solution, the diversion causedunforeseenadditions to the flight resulting in a bit of discomfort throughout the lengthy trek.

El Paso and Bhutan are exactly on opposite sides of the globe so were 12 hours apart. Day is night, night is day. Thats hard to adapt to for just your internal clock,but its also a long distance,Nataliciosaid.We ended up in not very comfortable seating and its a long flighta long time to be wedged into a tiny little space.

However, despiteinconvenient conditions,adeepadmirationforthe journey prevailed.

The flight into Bhutan is beautiful. Youre flying into the Himalayas which is very different than any other airportIn the old daysthe pilotswere not Bhutanese and now almost all of them are and thatsreally terrific,Nataliciosaid.Its considered to bean outstanding airline for safety and all kinds of things when you considerthey fly into those mountains in kind of a circuitous route. Itspretty impressive.

Itissignificant to note that the country of Bhutanseldom receivesvisitorsandis rigorouslyparticular with itstourism, making sure tohavesanctioned tour groupsthat regulate passage.There are limited flights entering Bhutan andnot just anyone is authorizedto be certified inpilotingthe aircraftsthat do entersince they takegreatpride in their autonomy fromtotalreliance on foreign talent.

Bhutans sister country is Nepal.

Nepal has struggled because theyve opened their doors to trekkers and theyve had a tremendous challenge of cleaning up and managing this large group of people,Nataliciosaid.Bhutan is very protective of their beautiful country and made aconsciousdecision for this not to happen. They want tourists to come but they want them to come under certain conditions.

Alot of that is to make sure the country preserves fundamentally who they are as a nation, this is a nation that measures things inGrossNationalHappiness(GNH)andthey are intentional and thoughtfulabout it, McCorry-Andalissaid.

According toGNH USA,anonprofitthat seeks to increase personal happiness and our collective wellbeing by changing how we measure progress and success,GNHis defined asa socioeconomic development model that is a measurement ofthe collective happiness in a nation.

It is apparent thatthere isnot only substantialimportance placedonthe contentment of the nations citizens, butalsothe preservation oftheirway of lifeandardentvalue in familialand cultural ties.

I think in a small country like that,its somehow easier, more personal to be a loving member of your society, it feels like its a family for them,McCorry-Andalissaid.In a great big society like ours, its a little bit more difficult to identify in that way. They are very loyal and committed to the future of their country, its really quitenice to see.

It had been six years since the last trip to Bhutanand there is much to be said about the rich history of thisbond that originated with UTEPs architecture in 1917, with the constructionofOld MainwhenKathleen Worrell,thewife of UTEPs first deanSteve Worrell,saw a Bhutan spread in National GeographicandwasinstantaneouslycaptivatedbythefeaturedHimalayanarchitecture.

The story is that the wife of the first dean had an interest in(National GeographicsBhutan)story and thought that the buildings in that set of photographs resembled buildings that related well to mountains. And she thought this Franklin Mountain kind of looked like those Himalayas,Nataliciosaid.

Turns out that thedecisionended up beingespecially congruoustothedry climate, mountainsand higher elevationsuch as with the inset windows that counterbalance the,often sweltering,intensity of the sun.

It represents a sort of jewel that we wouldve never been forgiven for not discovering. It was so obvious that this is a connection that we needed to make,Nataliciosaid.Ithink its important to emphasize that it is a partnership and I dont think theres another university anywhere that has stepped up.One of the reasons that I think its important thatUTEP did that is because of this fortuitous architectural connection with Bhutan.We were very fortunate that we got this architecture that somebody back then kind of unwittingly just liked the look of it andall of asuddenwe were off and running.

Thearchitecturehasalso benefitted the community andspread awareness aboutthe Kingdom of Bhutan.

Because of our architecture and the work that weve done with our cultural events and activities, you have kids in elementary school around here who know where Bhutan is, McCorry-Andalissaid.

The connection, however,eminentlytranscends shared architecture.

The timelineprogressesto the1970swhenJigmeDorji,UTEPs first Bhutanese student, enrolled andlaterreceived his degree in engineering. Today,he is a very successful businessman and entrepreneurin his homeland.

Subsequent to this first enrollment, more Bhutanese students began to trickle in.At its inception, funding for a program was not feasible in the sense of scholarships,sothere was a requisiteforstudentsfamiliestoensure thatthere wereenoughfundstosatisfysponsorshipdemands.

However, with Bhutanmobilizing its transition from a monarchy to a fully functioning democracy, the government began institutinginvestments into higher education. They would now be needing tooccupypositions never before consideredpreliminary to the shift froma monocracyto a democracy, such as the establishment of a tax system and people proficientenough to operate it, a concept not often considered when the kings beneficence attended tosuch matters.

This democratic shift,which wasmethodical inprioritizingthe inclusion of the necessary disciplines forthe kingdomssociological growth,thenacceleratedthe momentumevenfurtherwith the implementation of scholarshipsandidentifyingqualifyingcandidates.

I would say roughly about 13 years ago is when it reallybegan totake hold and that was because we established several formal partnerships with some agencies in Bhutan, the Royal Civil Service Commission is one, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, McCorry-Andalissaid.Theyhave some very specific needs of educating their community and they were sponsoring students to come to UTEP specifically. Our first large cohort that we got was nine students at the time, all graduate students and today,it has just completely expanded with more coming our way.

There are currently 44Bhutanesestudentsenrolledat the universityandmore than100alumni.

The students are unique in their experience in that most of them often do not get the opportunity to go back home throughout the entirety of their academic stay, not to mention having to acclimate to an unfamiliar culture.

I was a study abroad student inBrazil for a year,Nataliciosaid.There was nobody else with my scholarship inRio de Janeiro,so I had to plunge directlyinand I was terrified,but it was the best thing to ever happen to me.

A trip to Bhutan from El Paso lasts roughly two and a half to three days to and from, not to mention thecost.Studentscoming fromthereare among some of the studyabroadattendees that are the furthest away from home. Technology can only suffice so much to compensate for the yearningtobe neartheir familiesand these trips to Bhutan are designed tobridge that gap.

Students are not able to go homefor four years.Theyre here and a few of them travel,but many of them are here and they make that commitment.It was wonderful to see some of our alumni there,but we(also)have to assure parents if theyre going to trust their children to us for four years,Nataliciosaid.

TheBhutanesestudentscan also be distinguishedby how avidly committed to their educationthey arebecause of their entrenched moral imperative to contributing to theimprovementof theircountry.

UTEP is held in very high regard and I think its the type of education that they are receiving here. They have access to education first and foremost,but then theyre not only getting phenomenal professors,its that engagement, McCorry-Andalissaid.Whether its research in a lab or student teaching, those are invaluable to them particularly when they go back to a country that is really new to what theyre trying to make happen, its so important for their success and theyre just so grateful to UTEP for giving them that opportunityOur big challenge now is to take more of our students to Bhutan.

There are hopes for a faculty-led, shorttermstudy abroad program to launch in 2021 which McCorry-Andalissays is exciting since theyhave alreadycontacteda couple of interested professors and will involve a partnership with Royal Thimphu College.

The purpose of this trip was to make certain that that same gratitude wasalsoreciprocatedon behalf ofthe university toitsesteemedpartners.Natalicioand McCorry-Andalisexpress theirenduringrespect and appreciationby fostering the unprecedented relationship thathasbeen cultivatedand rooted in authenticitybetween UTEP and Bhutan in hopes ofkeepingthe connection continuous and consistent for many years to come.

Through the years ithas grown, but it doesnt grow without nurturing. Therehas tobe a set of relationships on both ends, UTEP and Bhutan, that are committed to deal with the many dimensions of a program like this because these programs arent just straight forward.Idont know any other university that has a relationship with Bhutan the way we do,so weve had to build it,Nataliciosaid.(This trip) isto thank themand to nurture the relationship going forward so that were able to continue to be able to work with our partners in Bhutan on behalf of the Bhutanese students that are coming to UTEP with big dreams.

Sasha Minjarez may be reached at [emailprotected]

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Natalicio and dean of students strengthen UTEP's ties with Bhutan during visit - The Prospector

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