Dr. Gerber Has the World at His Fingertips

Dr. Jurg Gerber in China 2007
Dr. Jurg Gerber stands in front of Zhejiang Police College in China.

In addition to being a criminal justice professor, Dr. Jurg Gerber is wearing many hats for Sam Houston State University, including those from Korea, Japan, India, China, Mexico, Switzerland and Eastern and Central Europe, to name just a few.

Gerber, a professor at The College of Criminal Justice since 1990, has been serving as the Interim Director of International Programs at SHSU since the summer. In that role, he assists international students from 50 different countries; oversee the Study Abroad Program for short and long-term educational opportunities out of the country; coordinates visits for guests from other nations; and administers the English Language Institute to help students learn the language before attending classes.

"I like the international part," said Gerber. "I enjoy working with the international students. I was an international student once upon a time….I mostly came to learn English, but then I got money to go to school."

Having studied French, Italian and his native German, Gerber came to the United States in 1978 to learn English, and went to college at Washington State University. He now travels extensively and visited five countries in the last two years, including China, India, Switzerland, Korea and Vietnam. He serves as a permanent visiting professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Gerber is no stranger to International Programs. He ran the office from 2001 to 2005 and helped expand the programs and opportunities abroad both for the university and the College of Criminal Justice. For example, the university offers dual degree programs in criminal justice and political science and soon hopes to offer one in economics for students of Kyonggi University in Korea, and he is working on a similar effort with Zhejiang Police College in China.

The university-wide program serve as a clearinghouse for international students, assisting them with the challenges of everyday campus life, such as getting transportation from the airport, finding housing, addressing health issue or paying taxes. Sometimes it means filling a craving for ethnic foods from their home country

Gerber tells the story of taking two international students, one large Lebanese man and a slight Syrian native, to a Mediterranean Restaurant in Houston. While he and the Lebanese student ordered their meal, the slender Syrian student ordered six complete dinners, taking a small bite from each.

"I don’t like the food (at SHSU),” the Syrian student explained. “This is my meal for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

There are about 330 international students from 50 countries on campus on visas, but many more immigrants are attending classes here.

The Study Abroad Program handles students who attend foreign colleges through an exchange program for up to a year as well as faculty-led trips of up to six weeks over the summer.

About a half-dozen students participate annually in the exchange program by attending colleges in other countries for one or two semesters. Students can select from 25 universities in 19 countries that have agreements with SHSU.

Every summer, about 600 SHSU students participate in a three to six week study programs, earning college credit along with their visits to top tourist destination. The college offers faculty-led programs in nine countries, including Italy, China, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, France, Costa Rica and Japan.

International Programs also house the English Language Institute for students who need assistance with English skills before they can take classes. The institute serve both college and non-college students.

The program also serves as a conduit for all international visitors to the university, whether they are dignitaries, speakers, faculty, prospective students or parents.

Gerber sees his role as a troubleshooting and educating many Texas-born student and staff about the world around them.

"It is one of the most interesting programs, and it makes the place more international," Gerber said. "Many of our students have never been out of the state of Texas. When confronted with a student from the Chinese police academy, suddenly it becomes more real. It is not just in a book anymore."

When he is not guiding international students here and abroad, Gerber is teaching at the College of Criminal Justice. A former Associate Dean for the College’s Academic Administration, the Graduate Program and Undergraduate Program, Gerber’s specialty areas include criminology, white collar crime, drug policy, and comparative criminology. He has co-edited three books on drug policy and white collar crime, and has also published on comparative criminology, and criminal justice education.

Gerber's vast international travels and professional experiences include international visiting professorships in Switzerland as well as a Fulbright grant in Kaliningrad, Russia. He has delivered a number of invited lectures in Poland, Germany, Korea and Japan and served as an instructor for the International Law Enforcement Academy at Roswell, New Mexico.

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