International Faculty Spotlight
SUNY Brockport is home to 71 international faculty members.
International faculty at SUNY Brockport come from all corners of the world, spanning across 28 different countries and bringing a wide range of diversity to the campus community.
"Hiring international faculty contributes to the depth and breadth of student learning," said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Katy Heyning. "Students who have worked with international faculty graduate better prepared to work and live in an increasingly diverse and global society."
Get to know a few of them:
Haci Duru, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Haci Duru has lived in nine different cities, but has he found a home at Brockport?
Duru graduated from the Turkish National Police Academy as a sergeant when he was 22 years old. He has been deployed all over Turkey, even spending a year in Kosovo working with the United Nations to keep peace.
During his deployment in Gaziantep, Duru was offered an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.
“I was offered the chance to move to the United States and further my education,” Duru said. “They hoped we could bring back ideas to possibly change the way Turkey thought about policing.”
Duru earned both his master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Cincinnati before moving back to Turkey.
His welcome back wasn’t necessarily well received.
“There was a handful of high-ranking officers who were more traditional with their view of our policing system,” Duru said. “They weren’t ready for change.”
Duru was deployed to Diyarbakir, a city struggling with terrorism. There, he led a research development team and found his passion for research. He spent six more years living in Turkey before resigning from the Turkish National Police to move back to the United States.
Duru spent one year researching in Houston, TX, before realizing there was something missing from his research.
“I taught a few courses while researching in Diyarbakir, and I loved it,” Duru said. “I feel as though researching without teaching is incomplete; I need to do a little of both.”
Duru accepted a job with Brockport in 2018, and while he occasionally struggles to overcome the cultural barrier of living in another country, he is thankful for his colleagues in the Department of Criminal Justice.
“Since I have been here (Brockport), I have felt welcomed,” Duru said. “The other professors push me to try different things, but it is always for my own good.”
Ya-Ling Chen, Lecturer of Recreation and Leisure Studies
Combining academics and recreational leisure, Ya-Ling Chen merged her culture with her passions.
Chen was born in Taiwan and attended college in the nation's capital, Taipei. She spent most of her youth focused on academics, preparing for the national entrance exam that determines if you get into college.
“In Taiwan, education is everything,” Chen said. “People are discouraged to participate in sports or extracurricular activities to completely focus on academics.”
Chen earned her bachelor’s degree from National Taiwan Normal University. There, one of her professors introduced her to the field of recreation and leisure, and she fell in love with the concept.
Her final year of college in Taiwan was spent student teaching, and she realized it wasn’t what she had hoped for.
“Everything was structured, and we had no freedom in what we were teaching,” Chen said. “At times, it felt like a prison.”
Chen still knew teaching was her passion, so she moved to the United States and earned her doctorate in recreation and leisure in hopes of eventually finding a teaching job she enjoyed.
After teaching a few classes while in college, she faced a new problem.
“As an international teacher, I felt I needed to spend much longer preparing for a lecture,” Chen said. “I didn’t want to forget words and make it difficult for my students to learn.”
Chen began teaching at Brockport in 2017. She no longer feels the need to excessively prepare for a lecture, because the small classroom environment allows her to get to know each of her students.
She hopes her experiences allow her students to see the world from another lens.
“I think it’s good for students to have the opportunity to experience different people from around the world,” Chen said. “Since they all can’t travel, I try to bring that element to my classroom.”
Zakariya Qawaqneh, Assistant Professor of
Zakariya Qawaqneh followed his passion to teach in the United States.
Qawaqneh was born in Jordan. He spent most of his childhood going to school all day, then going home to help his father with the family farm. With science and technology being the fastest-growing economic sector in Jordan, he looked to a computing science degree for college.
After earning his bachelor's and master’s degrees at colleges in Jordan, he was offered a job in the private sector, but it wasn’t what he expected.
“The industry expects its employees to work long hours and always put their job first,” Qawaqneh said. “I always had a passion for school, so teaching naturally felt like the best option.”
Qawaqneh wanted to pursue his doctorate in the United States, but the cost was simply out of reach. He moved to Saudi Arabia and started teaching to save money while gaining experience.
In three years, he saved up enough to move, but it wasn’t the experience he had hoped for.
“The curriculum in Saudi Arabia was too controlled for me,” Qawaqneh said. “I felt they were using education to control their people, rather than focusing on educating them.”
Qawaqneh earned his doctorate from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, where he focused heavily on researching deep learning, which is similar to artificial intelligence.
At Brockport, Qawaqneh continues to strengthen his teaching, incorporating what he has learned from both Jordan and Saudi Arabia into his lectures. His passion for teaching is fueled by the opportunity to continue researching with his students.
“At Brockport, I feel like the students always want to improve,” Qawaqneh said. “I believe if their research advisor is dedicated to helping them, the students can end up doing even better research than their advisor.”
Lerong He, Chair and Special Projects Director of the Department of Business Administration
Lerong He lived through two drastically different governments in China.
Lerong grew up in the coastal city of Fuzhou, living in socialist China. She remembers needing to use a voucher to purchase food and meat and only studying Marxian economics while in high school.
That all changed shortly after Lerong attended college at Peking University, studying business administration. As her government started to shift toward capitalism and a market economy, her studies did, too.
“We started to study topics like macro and micro economics, which we never discussed before,” Lerong said. “It was even more challenging, because for some classes, our textbooks needed to be in English since there were no Chinese textbooks covering those topics.”
Lerong graduated with her bachelor’s degree and spent a year working for the research institute at Peking University before deciding to study abroad and see more of the world. She moved to the United States to attend the University of Minnesota for her master’s degree. The transition went smoothly since her classes were mainly lecture-based, which was similar to what she experienced in China.
Lerong didn't begin to struggle until she was studying at the University of Pennsylvania for her doctorate.
“During my doctorate, our class sizes were only around 10 students,” Lerong said. “This forced me out of my comfort zone, because the courses focused more on interaction and discussion than ever before.”
Lerong grew to appreciate this new form of learning, as it improved her oral communication skills and led her to become a better communicator and critical thinker. Lerong is now the chair of the Department of Business Administration at Brockport and continues to use her international experience in the classroom.
“I explain to my students why companies may adopt different strategies in various nations,” Lerong said. “I use concrete examples from my personal experience on cultural, regulatory, and economic differences between China and the United States to broaden students’ horizons.”
Cesar R. Torres, Professor of
Kinesiology, Sport Studies and Physical Education
Cesar R. Torres was born in Argentina but doesn’t let borders decide what he calls home.
Torres earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in his home country of Argentina. Wishing to explore more of the world, he attended the International Olympic Academy in Greece. Its rich culture in both philosophy and sport made it a perfect match.
“I was drawn to physical education because of my passion for physical activity and its effects on human living,” Torres said. “My professors led me to asking more philosophical questions related to sport and physical activity.”
Torres moved to attend Penn State University. While he initially practiced as a physical education teacher and coach, he was pulled toward the philosophical questions surrounding sport and earned his doctorate in kinesiology with a focus on philosophy and history of sport.
Torres incorporates his experiences from all of the countries he has studied into his teaching. He stresses the importance of engaging with other cultures and worldviews as a way to help students think critically.
“One of the goals of teaching is to make students uncomfortable, because it helps them reconsider and reassess their views,” Torres said. “College is where we should reconsider everything, and if we don’t help our students do that, we are doing them a disservice.”
While Torres currently lives in the United States, he also calls Argentina and Greece home and visits frequently. One of his proudest achievements was being inducted into the National Academy of Kinesiology as one of only 165 active fellows. National being a key piece to that honor.
“I am passionate about internationality and open dialogue,” Torres said. “My experiences help me feel comfortable to be the one to break boundaries and discuss the important issues surrounding them through my research and beyond.”