University News

WIU Agriculture Adviser Selected for Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad Program

June 29, 2004

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MACOMB, IL - When Western Illinois University agriculture adviser Michelle Barclay accepted an Affirmative Action internship in Sponsored Projects at WIU, she had no idea it would lead her halfway around the world.

Because of Sponsored Projects Director Beth Seaton's encouragement, Barclay applied, and was accepted, for a 2004 Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad Program. She departs July 1 for Argentina and Peru, where she'll spend an intensive six weeks immersed in the culture of the two countries. Sixteen teachers and educators from the high school to college level across the U.S. have been selected for this particular program; Barclay is the only individual from Illinois taking part in the Argentina-Peru experience.

“It's just hard to believe that I'm a part of this program,” Barclay said. “But one of my goals of my internship was to gain further experience in the international sector so I could bring more back to our students, so I'm on my way to accomplishing that.”

Seaton added that Barclay is one of a select few from Western over the years who have received a Fulbright grant.

“The Fulbright programs are highly competitive. Michelle's selection for this program is a fantastic accomplishment for her and Western,” Seaton said. “I really encouraged her to apply because I felt this was a perfect opportunity for her to build upon her administrative skills and gain even more international experience.”

The Fulbright-Hays trip won't be Barclay's first foray overseas in the name of education. When she was an undergraduate student at Western she participated in a European field study program through the agriculture department and that piqued her interest. When she was hired as the department's adviser in 1988 she helped reinstate the international trips that had fallen by the wayside. She has taken students to Costa Rica and Brazil over the years, and she has participated in an Illinois Ag Leadership Program to Peru, Chile and Brazil. Other agriculture faculty also lead trips to Russia, Brazil and various international locales to give students an extended global view of the world in which they'll live and work after college.

“It's one thing for our students to read about these places, and it's quite another for them to learn about the culture, the economy, the industry of these countries firsthand,” Barclay said. “One of my goals of participating in this trip is to establish a short-term study abroad experience to Argentina for Western students. The international experience is essential to providing our students with a well-rounded quality education.”

Upon Barclay's return to the states in early August, she will have 90 days to turn in a project plan to the Fulbright organization. In addition to organizing a study abroad program to Argentina for students, she will also lead a course on Argentina for the participants.

“Argentina has a strong agricultural industry so this will be an excellent place to learn and to set up an exchange program,” she added. “Because of the growing agriculture and business industries overseas, particularly in the South and Latin American countries, this trip fits with the College of Business and Technology's focus and our department's objectives.”

To prepare for her journey, Barclay has been immersing herself in books and required Fulbright readings about Argentina and Peru, the cultures and the people, as well as participating in e-mail discussions with fellow Fulbrighters. By being chosen for this program, Barclay joins an elite group of 250,000 Fulbright alumni in nearly 140 countries.

Barclay will embark for the University of Texas at Austin July 1 where she will spend three days in intensive pre-departure orientation sessions. The group departs for Peru on July 4 and will travel throughout the country exploring such Peruvian heritage as Machu Picchu and the Amazon until July 21. The participants leave for Buenos Aires, Argentina July 21 where they tour such sites as ancient ruins, historical buildings and schools. Barclay will return to the U.S. Aug. 8.

“I am looking forward to every aspect of this experience,” she said. “We have a fabulous itinerary and there is going to be so much to absorb. I cannot wait to share this opportunity with our students.”

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing