Did you know that UT Health San Antonio sends more than 500 faculty, staff and students abroad for academic and business trips every year? Managing the logistics of international travel for hundreds of personnel can prove to be a difficult task. But there’s one staff member who you can count on to help ensure a safe, successful journey.
Meet Chris Fuglestad, M.F.S., education abroad coordinator in the Office of International Services at UT Health San Antonio. Fuglestad develops and oversees education abroad activities, including international agreement development and management, international travel to high-risk areas, requests for the International Oversight Committee (IOC) and information on resources for university representatives traveling abroad.
“I work with the schools to help students travel to countries like the United Kingdom, India, Colombia, and Uganda,” Fuglestad said. He also works with faculty on travel logistics and makes sure that every journey adheres to institutional policies.
“I also collect traveler’s emergency contact information, and provide detailed pre-departure orientations,” he said. Serving on the university’s newly formed International Crisis Response Team (ICRT), Fuglestad is one of the primary contacts in the event of an emergency abroad.
Fuglestad is a Wisconsin native who has visited more than 30 countries, He speaks French fluently and is conversational in Norwegian and in Wolof (an indigenous language of West Africa). He received a Bachelor of Arts in French and International Studies from the University of Oregon, and then went on to earn a master’s degree in French and international education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Professional French Master’s Program. During his master’s internship at Université Laval in Québec City, he found his calling for helping undergraduate students with study abroad programs.
Fuglestad said an increase in global health education initiatives has raised the need for international travel at health-related institutions across the country. The position of education abroad coordinator was created at UT Health San Antonio in 2018 to meet the demand for international travel. Fuglestad is the first to serve in the post and he is glad to be part of the university’s efforts to promote diversity and international education among its student body.
“Travel is very important for everybody. And it’s especially important for those in the medical field,” Fuglestad said.
While living and studying in Senegal for a year, he learned a valuable lesson in cultural humility. “Cultural humility can provide insights on how to understand people better despite language and cultural barriers,” Fuglestad said. He believes that learning cultural humility helps medical professionals treat patients from a diverse background with newfound sensibility and compassion.
Along with his vast travel expertise, Fuglestad credits his experience as a theater actor to overcome challenges in his position at UT Health San Antonio.
“I performed in professional and community theater productions of Oklahoma, The Phantom of the Opera, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” said Fuglestad. “When a mistake happens on the stage, you must improvise and adapt as the show must go on.”
His ability to adapt and improvise helped Fuglestad overcome roadblocks and emergencies that students and faculty face at a moment’s notice.
He also recognizes teamwork as another crucial factor for success. “As an actor, you have a tendency to focus on your character as an individual. But every successful play, film, and theater must come from teamwork,” said Fuglestad. Recently, he helped the Office of International Services implement comprehensive travel emergency protocols. Fuglestad believes that he could not have been a part of such an achievement without the support of co-workers, managers and the faculty.
A famous African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Thanks to the efforts of people like Chris Fuglestad, UT Health San Antonio is building a brighter future around the world.