David LarsenBy Sally Harris
Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 27 - April 6, 1995
Virginia Tech has awarded one of its first two University Public Service Excellence Awards to David G. Larsen, instructor of chemical instrumentation in the Department of Chemistry, "for his accomplishments and selfless dedication in developing programs in technical continuing education, both domestically and abroad, and his helping other faculty members to pursue similar outreach activities."
Larsen, who teaches popular courses in electronics for scientists, began his outreach activities in 1971 by teaching the first of several hundred continuing-education short courses and presentations in automated instrumentation. He received one of the five 1978 faculty service awards from the National Extension Association.
Co-author of a popular series of continuing-education books and teacher of automated instrumentation courses to many industrial, educational, and professional groups, Larsen is noted particularly for his international continuing-education programs, begun in the 1970s with 16 workshops in Switzerland and Italy and often accomplished with his own personal funds. In 1990, according to chemistry department head Richard Gandour, "he broke a geo-political barrier to teach continuing-education programs in Russia and Ukraine."
Larsen has continued for the past four years to travel in the former Soviet Union and teach workshops that give Virginia Tech continuing-education units, "possibly the first issued by an American university in the USSR," Gandour said.
Exchange programs with former Soviet schools have resulted in 15 exchange visits to or from countries in the former Soviet Union, visits back and forth by 48 people, and creation of a professional video, "Virginia Tech in the Former Soviet Union." Also, Larsen has negotiated memorandums of understanding between Virginia Tech and seven universities in Russia, Ukraine, and Lithuania, resulting in faculty visits to Virginia Tech from four of the institutuions.
Larsen has also done outreach work in Bangladesh and Guyana.
Praise for Larsen's work comes from across campus: "Mr. Larsen has consistently throughout the years epitomized model service in outreach by a faculty member," said Linda Leffel of continuing education. "David is probably this university's premier advocate for the transfer of information technology to developing nations," said Earving Blythe, vice president for information systems. "I...can think of no one who has been so selfless and successful as David Larsen in working on such projects," said James Littlefield, professor of marketing.
"I think it's important that universities do some outreach globally," Larsen said, "because we're now not an isolated nation because of such things as the Information Super Highway. Events that happen around the world affect us and we can influence those events by sharing our educational ideas and ideas in research around the world. It's important because events in virtually every country come back to affect our university and country."