Sinclair to become new BOSP director

June 3, 2010, 1:04 a.m.

Robert Sinclair, a professor in materials science and engineering, will become the director of the Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) this September.

Sinclair, who has taught at Stanford since 1977, is enthusiastic about taking up the position and considers the overseas program to be “magnificent for both students and faculty.”

Sinclair is particularly invested in making overseas studies more accessible to science and engineering students. He acknowledged that major requirements make it difficult for those students to go abroad and said he wants to introduce more science and technology courses to the humanities-heavy overseas curricula.

“Science and engineering majors are unlikely to change their major requirements, so we need to find innovative methods,” Sinclair said. “Internet-based classes could be incorporated — this is the 21st century, after all.”

Another way to reach out is to increase the number of science and engineering faculty going abroad, he said. Sinclair himself has taught in Kyoto and Oxford and wants to encourage his colleagues to participate. Any Stanford faculty member may teach abroad at BOSP centers but, like students, must apply for the position.

Sinclair is also interested in inviting foreign faculty to teach classes in Stanford’s overseas programs; he noted that many BOSP centers are located near major academic institutions.

Another of Sinclair’s major goals is to encourage Stanford students to interact more with their local peers.

“Stanford kids tend to hang out with other Stanford kids,” he said, referring to a phenomenon he observed while teaching in Kyoto and Oxford.

Sinclair hopes to develop more initiatives within each overseas program that would encourage students to interact with their foreign contemporaries, though he also believes that Stanford students can and should be more proactive about creating these relationships.

Citing Oxford as an example, he said, “One can invite students from other colleges to come to us, instead of waiting for the busy Oxford students to invite us to events.

Finally, Sinclair wishes to see the overseas program continue to expand and diversify. But with budget cuts already suspending summer overseas seminars, it is unlikely that new locations will be opened in the near future. Nonetheless, Sinclair looks forward to diversifying the program when it becomes possible.

“I do feel it’s important that we plant the seeds for increasing the diversity of the overseas studies program into major globally important countries and cultures in which we don’t have a presence, such as India and the Muslim countries,” he said. “Obviously, this would not be at the expense of any other program.”

Sinclair succeeds Norman Naimark ’66 M.A. ’68 Ph.D. ’72, a history professor, who just completed his five-year term as BOSP director. Sinclair will continue to teach undergraduate courses, including Introduction to Materials Science and Japanese Companies and Japanese Society. He will return to Oxford this fall.

The Bing Overseas Studies Program currently has 11 centers in Australia, Beijing, Berlin, Cape Town, Florence, Kyoto, Madrid, Moscow, Oxford, Paris and Santiago. The program sends approximately 50 percent of each graduating class abroad.

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