Staff Spotlight: David Davidson

Dean of SACI


What position do you hold at SACI? What has been your career path so far?

I’m SACI’s Dean. I worked for many years at colleges and universities in New York City, first at New York University, then The New School, and finally the New York Academy of Art, where I was Vice President for Academic Affairs. My wife (who is Swiss) and I moved to Europe in 2000, where I worked initially in Germany at the University of Maryland’s residential campus near Stuttgart. For the last thirteen years, I’ve been Dean at SACI, where I’ve happily been able to combine my commitment to fine arts education with my desire to encounter each day people from many different countries and cultures.

Did YOU study abroad?

Although I began college at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Studies, I did not study abroad or, indeed, begin working outside the U.S. until many years later. I did travel a great deal, both domestically and internationally. I completed my undergraduate studies in California and then moved back across the country to finish my graduate studies in New York. The more I traveled, the more I came to appreciate how critical direct experience of other cultures was to the learning experience. By the time I was fortunate enough to be able to move abroad, I believe I was as enthusiastic—and anxious—as most first-time study-abroad students about what I would be experiencing so far away from home.

What separates SACI from other study abroad program providers?

The big news is that SACI’s just launched the first MFA in Studio Art program by a US-accredited school in which all course work will be completed abroad. Students will spend two years at SACI in Florence. They’ll work in studios in the heart of Florence’s historic center, regularly meet with emerging and established artists, critics, gallery owners, and other members of the art community, and travel to the Venice Biennale, Rome, Milan, Turin, Venice, Berlin, London, Paris, and other sites where great artworks can be found and contemporary art is being made and displayed. We have a full class of students who’ll begin MFA study at SACI in Fall 2013, and we’re very excited about how their presence will affect the community of SACI undergraduates, Post-Bacs, instructors, and administrators.

What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?

I think that in the next decade more and more students will go abroad to study for lengthier periods of time. Ten years ago, relatively few individuals traveled to China or Vietnam or Ghana or Ecuador to study. Now numerous students enroll in programs in Asia, Africa, South and Central America as well as in Australia and Europe. The more students and educators expand the study-abroad universe, the more exciting the future will be for everybody in the international educational community. I’d not be surprised if, increasingly, students pursued study-abroad opportunities on two or three different continents before completing their undergraduate education. That would be wonderful for all, I think.

Which country do you think is an underrated study abroad destination? Conversely, do you think there is a country which is overrated?

To my thinking, the answers to these questions will vary very much depending on the individual student’s goals and outlook. For example, some students find challenging and rewarding studying in a country in which a language other than their own is spoken. Others are more interested in learning about the antecedents of their own culture, perhaps by studying where their native language is spoken but in a way that reflects a different approach to the world from their own. Study abroad is not just about discovery but rediscovery. What seems exciting today may appear dull tomorrow. But, equally, what perhaps seems less exciting or exotic now may surprise us by how thrilling and unexpected it can be once we allow ourselves to experience it fully. For me, that’s what study abroad is about. What you bring to your destination counts just as much as what your destination has to offer.