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Excellence in International Engagement

By Dave Moore, ECS
February 11, 2009

Cathy A. Frierson
Cathy Frierson, professor of history, UNH Photos/Perry smith

What Cathy Frierson has contributed to the university is best described not in terms of a "career" but rather a vision—one she has realized through her gift for bringing people together and her passion for international education.

As the director of the Center for International Education from 1995–2001, Frierson oversaw a renaissance of student involvement in foreign study and research, creating the International Research Opportunity Program (IROP), an overseas research experience that pairs students with foreign faculty colleagues of UNH professors. "Today, IROP is still a novel program," reports IROP cofounder, Dr. Donna Brown. "Few comparator schools offer this experience."

A Russian historian by training, Frierson spent the waning years of the Soviet Union immersing herself in, and writing about, Russian culture—the attitudes of its intellectuals; the experiences of its common folk.

Frierson has brought her experiences back to UNH in her classes and research, but she has also literally brought back Russians to the U.S. In 2000, she made it possible for faculty members from Russia's Vologda University to study U.S. legal education at Franklin Pierce Law Center. In 2004, two Russian actresses she invited to UNH enthralled the campus community with their art and story telling.

A Nashvillean turned New Englander, Frierson is inspiring a generation of students, from disciplines as diverse as English and engineering, to grow up by going away, in her words, "embracing the challenge of the foreign and returning as wiser citizens of our small world."

"Cheesy as it may sound, Professor Frierson introduced me to a whole new world," says Caitlin Helfrich, a former student who went to work at the U.S. State Department after graduation. "What's more mysterious and enticing than the history and people, the very idea of Russia?"

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