Bluefield, WV. ~ Two Bluefield State College faculty members spent a week in Santo Domingo, focusing upon expanding the role of international exchange on the BSC campus. Their takeaways from the experienced included a deeper appreciation about the benefits of international education opportunities for students and faculty at Minority Serving Institutions (MSI).
Dr. Sean Connolly and Dr. James Walters, members of the BSC School of Arts & Sciences faculty, took part in the third annual Project Passport International Faculty Development Seminar, joining faculty from 10 other MSIs. One major goal of the seminar—to provide faculty with skills needed to develop Study Abroad programs on their campuses. “Statistics show that MSIs have a low participation rate in Study Abroad,” Dr. Connolly observed. “The seminar encouraged collaboration between MSIs to increase access to Study Abroad opportunities by encouraging dialogue about the value of international education at their institutions.”
“Faculty at the seminar participated in sessions exploring methods to develop a successful, faculty-led Study Abroad program on our home campuses,” Dr. Walters added. “We took part in workshops addressing topics like recruitment, funding, and crisis management”
BSC student Brady Shrader, a senior majoring in Sociology, recently applied for a Study Abroad opportunity. A McNair Scholar, he has presented his scholarly research at an Atlanta, GA conference, is preparing to present at conferences in Baltimore, MD and Albuquerque, NM. “Study Abroad gives students a cultural experience that broadens our horizons. Traveling nationally and internationally has been eye-opening for me, letting me know what life is like outside my home state,” he said.
In June, Dr. Walters participated in an ELEVATE Fellowship, a three-day professional development opportunity created specifically to address the needs of early career faculty members at MSIs. “The Project Passport Seminar was unique in that our cohort came exclusively from MSI faculty,” he added. “We learned a lot from our peers at other institutions. We talked about ourselves and our institutions, and we networked.”
During their week in Santo Domingo, the BSC faculty members learned more about the Dominican Republic, the Spanish and African diasporas that brought many to Haiti, and the history of colonialism in the Dominical Republic and the United States.
Dr. Connolly talked about ways the Study Abroad program on a college campus can be integrated into all academic disciplines and into individual faculty members’ curriculum, noting, “We can help other faculty at Bluefield State make contact with Project Passport attendees who teach the same disciplines at their institutions.”
“The world is shrinking,” Dr. Connolly continued. “Americans are at a disadvantage because most are not bilingual. There’s a pressing need to expand cultural and foreign language knowledge. That’s what Study Abroad brings to a student. People look at events and situations differently, and Study Abroad develops a more complete understanding from multiple perspectives in one’s evaluation of world events.”