Dr. Dennis Hart, director of Michigan State University’s Visiting International Professional Program, will become executive director of the International Education Center at the University of St. Thomas beginning mid-June.
Hart will take the place of Dr. Bruce Gleason, a tenured faculty member of the Music Department, who has served as the center’s interim director since September 2012 and has taught at St. Thomas since 1999.
“I am so pleased that Dr. Dennis Hart has accepted the position of executive director of the International Education Center,” said Dr. Susan Huber, executive vice president and provost of St. Thomas. “He brings significant international experience and expertise to the position as well as a variety of innovative ideas on how to begin the task of comprehensive internationalization of the campus. He will be on the job in mid-June and ready to initiate a new concept of campus internationalization, which is a vital component of UST’s mission and future direction.”
Hart said, “I am very happy to be joining UST and working with colleagues to achieve its vision and mission. UST is a leader in preparing students to work and make positive changes in a complex and challenging world.” He added, “I am deeply impressed by UST’s senior leadership’s desire to internationalize comprehensively the campus through enhanced outreach, cultural events, global research, curriculum, and bringing in international students, faculty and professionals. My experiences at the University of Pittsburgh and Michigan State University have shown me that international experiences do not take place only in faraway places. At a truly international university, such experiences should be part of everyday life right on the home campus.”
As a member of the U.S. Navy in the 1970s, Hart was placed in Korean language training for a year before he was sent to serve in South Korea. “It was while I was there, working and living with farmers, that I came to question my own very American beliefs about Koreans, my own society and myself,” he said. “I was humbled to see that even though many Koreans believed and did things very differently than I, they were still happy with their families, lives and way of life. I began to see that the world’s diversity does not mean one society is better than another, and that there are many roads to a fulfilled and just life.”
After fulfilling his commitment to the Navy, he continued his education in Korean culture, earning a B.A. in Korean Studies from the University of Washington, followed by an M.A. in East Asian Studies and a Ph.D. in comparative politics, both also from Washington.
Hart has taught political science – including courses in comparative politics, international relations and American politics – at Western Illinois University and Kent State University, where he served as department coordinator of the Political Science Department, program coordinator of the Asian Studies minor and recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award. From 2008 to 2011 he was associate director and visiting professor of the Asian Studies Center of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh before moving to Michigan State.
As a teacher, Hart said, he has a “deep and long-standing commitment to ensuring that students have diverse opportunities to learn about the world and transform themselves. These learning opportunities should compel students to reflect upon how their personal lives and careers are intimately tied to a diverse global community. It is essential to educate students to be both self-reflective researchers and concerned citizens who are inspired to change their world.”
Hart said he is “very much looking forward to working with everyone at the University of St. Thomas as we move toward a more international campus. And I was also assured by the search committee members that the winters in St. Paul are nearly tropical and you never have snow.”