Graduate study abroad: Toward transformation in Ireland

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Toni Gay, Ed.D. student at the W&M School of Education, stood at the 13th-century stone ruins of Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland and found herself mentally swept across centuries. She turned on the video camera used to capture components of her digital storytelling project and pointed it toward birds circling among the steep cliffs that propped the site above the sea.

“Standing there, looking out, I began envisioning myself being the lady of the castle many generations ago,” Gay said. “I was thinking of winter and how it would be dismal and dark. I was waiting for those who had left by ship to return, wondering whether they would come back or not.”

She, in a word, was immersed — in the place, in the history. Her ability to capture the experience in the moment would serve, as she later reviewed and reflected upon the content, to deepen her understanding and connection to Ireland, Gay said.

Gay was one of six graduate students participating in a global studies class led by Pamela Eddy, professor of higher education. The professor took them to eight cities this summer, where they met with higher-education professionals and policy makers to gain insights regarding implications of Irish involvement with the European Union and to investigate student learning within an international context.

Eddy, who was leading students abroad for the fourth time, explained that each trip has unique elements and opportunities for transformational learning. “The important thing is that we’re training the educational leaders of the future,” she said. “They have to think about this as a global world, and we need to prepare them to function in it.”

In her own case, she returned from her first trip overseas and changed the way she taught, revamping her syllabi to include international writings, shaping her lectures to emphasize the dissonance that occurs when the way things such as organizational structures or student development are traditionally taught in the United States run up against different practices and understandings overseas.

“In those moments when a student says, ‘This doesn’t make sense to me,’ then struggles to find reasons and context, that’s when the real learning and transformation occur,” Eddy said.

Gay’s digital storytelling project comprised personal blogs, photographs, videos and links to scholarly articles posted on multiple platforms that fed her primary WordPress web site. While it represents, in itself, a credible, personalized portrayal of the struggles and tensions shaping the cultural development of the island’s inhabitants, it’s real purpose, according to Gay, was to model a new approach to research that she hopes to offer to her own students.

“This type of project is a good way to stir the creative juices for some folks, for those accustomed to making connections through visual media,” Gay said. “I think it’s a powerful tool for our up and coming digital natives.”


How One University Went From Proposing to Cut 13 Mostly Liberal-Arts Programs to Eliminating Only 6

The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point plans to cut six mostly humanities majors, less than half of the cuts proposed in March, as part of its strategy to offer more career-focused programs, the university announced on Monday.

The cuts would result in the layoff of at least three tenured professors, as well as up to seven more faculty members, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The six eliminated majors are in art, French, geography, geoscience, German, and history, according to a university news release.

In March the university announced that it would cut up to 13 mostly liberal-arts majors while adding 16 vocational programs. The university cited declining enrollment and a $4.5-million deficit as reasons for the cuts.

Monday’s announcement could be a pleasant surprise for the seven departments whose majors were saved from the chopping block.

About half of the original majors to be cut were spared in part because of student and alumni resistance, news-media attention, and criticism from national organizations, said Jennifer Collins, chair of the faculty council and an associate professor of political science.

The preservation of the seven majors, including Spanish, is a partial win, Collins said. However, the overall changes are still upsetting and will hinder the university’s ability to offer a comprehensive education, she said.

The university also found some savings in its budget, said Greg Summers, the provost. The administration spoke with governance committees and advisory boards to refine the proposed cuts after the original announcement was made.

The 13 departments had opportunities to meet with the chancellor and the dean, said Tobias Barske, a German professor and chair of the department of world languages and literature.

Some of those departments were more successful in their meetings than others, he said. The German department, with about 15 student majors, was among the unsuccessful. “I wasn’t surprised that German was on the list,” he said.

Although the university’s proposal suggests that students will be able to continue taking German classes, Barske said he expects all German courses and study-abroad opportunities to be eliminated eventually. In three years, he said, French classes will not be offered either.

Students in the six eliminated majors will be able to complete their degrees, according to the news release.

But Barske questioned the feasibility of that. He said he had already been asked by students if they should leave Stevens Point for a better education elsewhere.

As for the history department, it has seen a 48-percent drop in the number of majors over the past five years, from 146 to 76 students, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The department remains on the list of cuts to help meet budget reductions, said Lee L. Willis, a history professor and department chair.

The history department has 14 full-time faculty members, including 11 who are tenured. The department will most likely be reduced to 10 faculty members, and at least one tenured professor will be let go, he said.

The changes are ultimately a response to the evolving demands of career-oriented students, Summers said.

“Our students are laser-focused on the cost of higher education and the return they’re going to get on their investment,” he said. “They’re looking for careers with multiple pathways and the skills they know they need to succeed in those careers.”

The university plans to maintain its liberal-arts foundation with the creation of two new programs, the Institute for the Wisconsin Idea and the Center for Critical Thinking, according to the news release. The institute will introduce a new liberal-arts curriculum that complements “career oriented” majors, such as areas of study within a proposed School of Computing and Information Science, in addition to a focus on critical thinking, according to the release.

The proposal will undergo several rounds of review before the spring of 2019, and the first changes will be in place by July 2020, according to the news release.


Seeing the world differently: a Drexel study abroad column

A junior’s summer abroad at the London College of Fashion pushed her to reconsider her post-graduate options despite a daunting battle with culture shock.

As soon as Abigail Mosse commenced the two-month program in fashion design, she realized London — the destination she always dreamed of — wasn’t what she had always imagined, although she soon learned her way.

“It took a little bit to gain my footing. In the beginning I felt really out of place — I didn’t know the rules and it was just really weird,” she said. “As time went on, I grew to learn that I am more adaptable than I thought.”

From the beginning, Mosse welcomed changes. She even decided on the footwear design track the school offered, since it isn’t  an option at Drexel University. The three classes she took totaled 12 credits and gave her the opportunity to create her very own shoe.

Photograph courtesy of Abigail Mosse

However, she was soon overwhelmed by the difference in British and American culture.

“I didn’t realize how much of a culture shock it would be,” she said, noting how even small things like simple lingo and grocery shopping differ greatly from what she is used to in the States.

She admitted she often relied on other Drexel students in the program, and in the beginning, even had thoughts of going back home.

“I felt like I had to cling onto my friends and I was just terrified of being lost in this city that I didn’t know how to get around in,” she said. “But as time went on, I got a lot more comfortable.”

Once she mastered the city’s public transportation system, she said it really began to grow on her. She even started exploring places on her own.

“It was a big lesson in how to be independent,” she said.

In addition to visiting London’s top sites like Hyde Park, Tate Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Harry Potter Experience and The National Gallery, she ventured outside of London into Brighton. This quaint beach town turned out to be one of the highlights of her experience abroad.

She also had the chance to go to Paris — an excursion that was included in the initial program fee — and decided to take a mini trip with her friends to Amsterdam as well.

Before her London experience, Mosse, originally from a small town near Salem, Massachusetts, had never been out of the country. But the more she stepped out of her comfort zone, the more poised she became.

“It definitely made me more confident,” she said. “I feel much more assertive now.”

After a few weeks, she even started to prefer many elements of British culture, like British chocolate and London’s tube system, although she said she did miss certain parts of American culture like larger portion sizes and iced water — something she never even thought about before. Looking back at the experience, she said that both countries have benefits and drawbacks.

“There’s some things I prefer over there and there’s some things I prefer here in the States,” she said.

One of her favorite aspects of British culture was the focus on sustainability throughout the fashion industry. She said this would be helpful as she pursues a career in fashion, and noted how her exposure to students from other American universities has also changed her personal design process. She adopted many of the product design students’ practices, like doing more preliminary sketching and taking more comprehensive notes.

While Mosse is still deciding the exact job she would like within the realm of fashion, for now, she is seriously considering moving to London after graduation.

“It’s a city I can live in for an extended period of time,” she said. “It’s some place I could sustain myself and be comfortable living in.”

While she is surprised how this bumpy journey ended, she recommends that other students attempt to stretch themselves like she did, and to take advantage of the study abroad office while they can.

“It’s so hard to travel after you graduate but they set it all up for you and it’s so much easier to get that experience before you graduate.”

She hopes that every student can have a similar experience and offered one last piece of advice:

“Just do it and let it change you. Don’t be resistant to it; be open to it,” she said. “At some points it’s going to be really hard. At some points it was hard for me, but I’m so grateful for the changes it has generated in me.”


Exciting Spring Break Study Abroad Offerings for 2019

Exciting Spring Break Study Abroad Offerings for 2019

Webster University is offering six fantastic short-term Spring Break study abroad opportunities in various locations from Vienna, to Thailand, to Ecuador and more for Spring Break 2019.

These courses are taught during the Spring semester with the study abroad component taking place over Spring Break. Three of the six courses are taught online so they will work well for students at any Webster University campus.

Options for both undergraduates and graduate students are available in a variety of academic disciplines including: Art History, Advertising, Biology, International Business, International Technology Management/Cybersecurity, and the Global Citizenship Program.

These exciting short-term programs are created and instructed by Webster faculty, and organized by Global Program Development. The class offerings are listed below. Click on the class links for dates and more info.

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Students have traveled all over the world to explore cultures as part of the curriculum. Apply now and dive into a brand new experience Spring Break 2019.