February 22, 2006 — David Gies, Commonwealth Professor of Spanish at the University of Virginia, has been named the University’s first academic dean for a Semester at Sea voyage and will direct the 2007 summer program.
U.Va. will become Semester at Sea’s academic sponsor beginning with the summer 2006 voyage.
Gene Block, vice president and provost of the University, announced Gies’s appointment on Tuesday.
“I am elated that David Gies has accepted our invitation to take this critically important leadership role in our new partnership with Semester at Sea,” Block said. “David is one of our leading scholars, and I am confident that he will develop a challenging and stimulating curriculum that will reflect the direction we intend this program to take.”
Semester at Sea is a global comparative study-abroad experience that features three voyages each year aboard its floating campus, the MV Explorer. While the spring and fall voyages travel around the world in 100 days, the summer sessions last 68 days and are regionally focused.
Gies said that he is particularly excited about the prospect of developing a curriculum that will be different from any that the Semester at Sea program has offered in the past.
“I think that U.Va. has the opportunity to take Semester at Sea, which is already a respected program, to another level,” Gies said. “While the typical voyages are eclectic, this will be totally focused. We will sail up and down the west coast of Latin America, visiting only Spanish-speaking ports. In addition to the courses that will be offered, the students will be required to take a non-credit Spanish course, which will also be a new element for the program but will provide students with greater ability to interact during the field experiences.”
The author or editor of some 12 books, Gies is one of the world's leading Spanish literature scholars. He was the 2000 recipient of U.Va.’s highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award, which recognizes a member of the University community who exemplifies the ideals of the University’s founder through character, work and devotion. He received the University’s Outstanding Teaching Award in 1992. He is a former chairman of the Faculty Senate.
During the next several months, Gies will hire about 15 faculty members for the voyage, including several from the University.
“We will approach this as an organic academic adventure,” he said. “We can bring in Latin Americanists, political scientists, geologists, biologists, ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, all of whom are knowledgeable about Latin America, and together we can provide students with an absolutely stunning academic experience.”
Les McCabe, president of the Institute for Shipboard Education which operates Semester at Sea, said that he was delighted about Gies’s appointment.
“When the Institute for Shipboard Education approached the University of Virginia to be the academic sponsor of the Semester at Sea program, it was done with the knowledge that UVa would challenge us to take Semester at Sea to the next level of academic excellence,” McCabe said. “Dr. Gies’ appointment serves as an important step in that direction. Through his contacts in the field we know that he will make excellent faculty appointments to this voyage, and insure that the academic curriculum is a high-caliber learning experience for the student participants.
The announcement of U.Va.’s academic sponsorship was made in December. The University of Pittsburgh had been the academic home for Semester at Sea since 1980. Participants will begin receiving University of Virginia credit beginning with the summer 2006 voyage. To inaugurate the University’s new role as academic sponsor, Semester at Sea is offering scholarships covering 50 percent of the program fees for the 2006 summer session to the first 100 U.Va. students accepted to the program.