Tuesday, September 3, 2013

LCI hosts director of the British Council in the U.S.


Paul Smith (center) talks with Virginia Tech graduate students Chris Price (left) and Sabith Khan (right).
Paul Smith, the director of the British Council in the United States, met with Virginia Tech students and faculty on Tuesday during a daylong tour of the campus. His visit was hosted by the Language and Culture Institute and the Institute for Policy and Governance.

Smith, who has served with the British Council since 1983, was director of the organization’s operations in Egypt from 2005 to 2010. From 2010 to 2012, he was director in Afghanistan and cultural counselor at the British Embassy in Kabul.

“Paul Smith has more than three decades’ experience with the British Council, with postings everywhere from Afghanistan and Egypt to India New Zealand,” said Don Back, director of the Language and Culture Institute. “I was honored to introduce him to some of our brilliant students and faculty at Virginia Tech and to give them the chance to meet and talk with someone of Paul’s stature.”

The British Council was founded in 1934 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1940. It is the United Kingdom's international organization for educational opportunities and cultural relations. The organization works in more than 100 countries to promote the exchange of knowledge and ideas, and to strengthen links that result in mutual benefits between the United Kingdom and other countries. Its mission is to create opportunities to improve cultural relations between the people of Great Britain and other nations.

LCI Director Don Back (right) walks with Smith (center) and Scott Weimer, director of Virginia Tech Continuing and Professional Education. Photo by Chris Price.
Smith’s visit to Virginia Tech included a tour of the campus and Ware Lab, a radio interview for Community Voices, a graduate student forum at the Institute for Policy and Governance, lunch with University Honors faculty and students, and a visit to an undergraduate political science class taught by Charles Taylor during which Smith spoke on the current state of the U.K. parliament. He also met with Carol Mullen, director of the School of Education, professor Joan Hirt, and professor emeritus Josiah Tlou, representing the Center for Research and Development in International Education.

"This exemplary activist on the world stage is bringing illumination to international education and interdisciplinary work by pursuing new multidisciplinary initiatives that forge deeper relations between the USA and UK and with other countries," Mullen said. "One of his aspirations is to give the arts and humanities a platform for contributing to the real-world problems of the day and through the hard sciences. He is a very eloquent speaker whose breadth of knowledge and depth of experience is a marvel. We are interested in working with him on any initiatives for which Virginia Tech, known for its multidisciplinary integration of the arts and sciences, can be a keen player."



Sabith Khan, a graduate student in planning, governance and globalization, said he enjoyed learning from Smith's rich experiences.

“His experiences in the Arab world and South Asia spoke to me, as these regions are at the heart of much cultural relations taking place and my own research," Khan said. "He seems to be an astute observer of human nature and also a kind person and therefore had many interesting anecdotes to share. Overall, I came away with a much better understanding of the work that British Council does.”

“He had a wonderful visit,” Back said. “He was so impressed with all the students and faculty members he met – so much so that he invited a number of us to attend the British Council’s conference for leaders of international education next spring in Miami. We’ll definitely be keeping in touch.”

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