Interview: How David Comp Found His Niche In Education Abroad

You know when you meet someone who appears to have about a thousand things going on, but they always seem on top of everything? And you wonder “wow, does this person sleep?” and “wow, I’m a big slacker.” Well, let me introduce you to David Comp.

David Comp, Costa Rica 2012

He is exactly one of those people. Last summer (no, not summer 2012…summer 2011…See? I’m a slacker.) I had the chance to interview David right after the NAFSA conference in Vancouver.

David’s study abroad story started like a lot of us. Completely random. He had a chance opportunity (thanks goodness for getting sick!) to do a student exchange in high school and from there, fell in love with study abroad (and even falling in love with his now wife of 17 years during a study abroad program. Boom!). But his jump from study abroad student to study abroad career wasn’t easy. No. No. Just like many of us, he started his career volunteering (i.e. for NO PAY) in an international student office (Truman State University) and a study abroad office (University of Nebraska Lincoln) while he worked on his master’s degree in Human Services (fun fact: he was actually working with juvenile delinquents and people with developmental disabilities for seven years before he started his career international education).

One (of many) lessons you can learn from David’s career is how he carved out a “niche” for himself within the field. He ended up writing his master’s thesis on a topic that related to education abroad and submitted the massive 500-entry bibliography he’d compiled to the NAFSA Education Abroad Knowledge Community. Under the leadership of Kathleen Sideli (Director, University of Indian), that group was updating the previous bibliographies and David become a key contributor, which gave him some notoriety in the field and helped him etch out a niche/expertise in the scholarly side of education abroad. (And if you haven’t noticed so far, having a research pedigree will earn you considerable respect in our field, straddling the line between student affairs and academic experiences.)

But back to David’s story. Not only is he working a full time gig at the University of Chicago, running his own blog about international higher education, tweeting like a mad man, and raising a family…he’s also working on his Ph to the D! (See what I mean? Does this man ever sleep?) He’s at the dissertation stage and focusing his study on the Boren Scholarship and Fellowship (part of the National Security Education Program) which was launched in 1991. He’s looking at the program’s success in meeting the original goals/motivations outlined when it was established. If you’ve participated in the Boren scholarship program, I’m sure David would love to hear from you! You can contact him here. When we filmed this interview, David was at the institutional research board (IRB) approval stage and working on his survey instrument. Currently, he’s completed his data collection and is in the final stages of writing the magna carta his dissertation. Get ready for a big party in spring 2013 because that’s when he’s planning to defend! Be sure to send him lots of dissertation love over the next 6 months!

And as I ask all my guests on InsideSA, where would David study abroad if he could go back and do college all over again? Of course, he’s not your average student, so he’d apply for a grant that would allow him to circumnavigate the globe solo as an independent study. Sigh…those audacious students are always the most challenging (and fun!) to advise.

Thanks David for spending some time with us!

Be sure to connect with David!
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