Global Education: Pursuing Learning Beyond the Classroom

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By Barbara E. Stoll '93 M.A. '94

When fine arts major Aimee Parmalee traveled to China in 2011 as part of the University’s Summer Art in China program, the trip offered an eye-opening experience about a completely different culture.

It was incredibly moving for me to be able to experience a culture that has grown continuously for over three thousand years,” she says. ‘The amazing traditions, art, and music that have been handed down create a unique oneness that is China. My trip gave me new perspective
of the world.”

In today’s fast-paced, interconnected world, learning about another culture—especially first-hand—will be critical for students who will need to compete in an expanding and complex global economy, as well as be actively involved in an increasingly multicultural society.

“The University believes it is essential for any educated person, pursuing any discipline, to realize that there is a whole world beyond the United States, not just internationally, but globally,” says Edward Weil, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Through two important recent initiatives—adoption of the William Paterson University Strategic Plan 2012-22, which supports the development of focused international study and research programs, and the establishment of a three-credit course in global awareness as part of the University Core Curriculum—the institution has placed new emphasis on the need for students to better understand global issues and participate more effectively in the world.

William Paterson students can take advantage of a number of unique international study options specific to the University. One, the Summer Art in China program, established in 2001, provides an intensive, three-week cultural immersion in the art and history of China. Conducted every three years in May by Zhiyuan Cong, professor of art and executive director of the University’s Center for Chinese Art, the trip connects students with renownedChinese artists so they can learn ancient and modern techniques first-hand from the experts.

“This program exposes students to the top art institutions and artists in China,” Cong says. “It is a success because we bring the students to China to study with experts to gain valuable hands-on experience.” In conjunction with the tour, the students produce a book that will be a record of the trip. Some students write, others photograph, and still others work on the book’s graphics and layout. “Everyone has to work. It’s challenging and exciting, but it’s work,” he reports. “This is their achievement.”

“Professor Cong sets up programs in museums and universities so that students can not only address the curriculum in the field they are pursuing, but also meet other students, professors, curators, and directors from these fields,” Weil says. “He takes them to places tourists don’t often go and provides a true learning experience.”

Students with an interest in international business, particularly China, can participate in “Let the World Know Us,”an annual study abroad program offered through the Global Financial Services Institute of the University’s Cotsakos College of Business. After completing a business elective course during the spring semester, the students travel to China for two weeks in May where they visit top Chinese universities and businesses, and travel to cities around the country.

“Through this program, we have sent hundreds of American students to visit foreign companies and universities and increased our students’ exposure to other cultures and emerging markets,” says Haiyang Chen, professor of finance and director of the Global Financial Services Institute. “This program enhances William Paterson’s visibility abroad and increases friendships and understanding with our host country.”

Chen also has been instrumental in developing additional programs built on a thirty-year sister agreement between the University and Zhejiang University of Technology in China. The programs include an exchange program for Chinese students who can transfer to William Paterson and graduate with degrees from both universities, as well as a faculty exchange program and a visiting scholars program.

“My hope is to continue programs that benefit the students, the University, and the community,” he says. “Students should be knowledgeable about global differences and be global citizens.”

One of the University’s signature programs for the past thirteen years has been a summer study program in Cambridge, England, directed by Michael Principe, professor of political science and a visiting fellow in St. Edmund’s College, part of Cambridge University. To date, nearly 150 students have participated in the program.

The students sign up for two classes: comparative rights and another class which changes each year, and earn six credits. They spend one week preparing for the trip and three weeks in England.

“Our students get to meet with students from seventy-five different countries,” Principe says. “They come back home with an entirely different view of global affairs. Their views shift dramatically, and they seem more mature—they comprehend more because they develop critical thinking skills that help them to understand the world around them.”

The trip solidified a major life choice for Chris Bauer, a double major who will graduate in May 2013 with degrees in legal studies and political science. “I was going to work as a paralegal for a couple of years after graduation, but my time in Cambridge made me realize what I could do,” he says. “With Dr. Principe’s encouragement I’m applying to law schools and have been accepted to several. Cambridge has a great law library, and I was fortunate to be able to use that resource.”

A slightly different arrangement exists between William Paterson and Windesheim University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands, a Dutch vocational school. A memorandum of understanding between the two calls for an exchange of faculty and students. Several faculty members from William Paterson’s College of Education have led students on tours of Windesheim and have become immersed in research with Dutch colleagues.

Students register for classes here, travel with faculty, and take classes there. The Windesheim students come here for classes.

“This is an incredible opportunity for education students,” says Dorothy Feola, associate dean of the College of Education. “They earn six credits, and have an opportunity to travel. The world is changing, and students need to be globally aware. The Dutch classrooms are diverse, so our students begin to be more receptive to other cultures. It can be very eye-opening for them.” This year, Jeanne D’Haem, assistant professor of special education and counseling, and Peter Griswold, associate professor of special education and counseling, are taking a group to Windesheim for the fifth time. Both professors are actively involved in a research study with their Dutch counterparts, dealing with special education issues.

“I have made friends at Windesheim, and not just professionally,” says D’Haem. “I work with my Dutch colleagues much more interactively, and these experiences have informed my teaching, particularly the way I work with students. This interactivity is built-in, and the students comment on material presented.”

Travel gives students confidence, D’Haem adds, and they become curious about international affairs. Griswold adds that exposing our students to travel develops curiosity and enthusiasm about different countries.

“I’m a lot more independent and self sufficient as a result of the trip,” says Elizabeth Masci, a secondary education major who went to Windesheim in 2012. “The professors made me feel comfortable, and I realize that it was a great learning experience. I encourage others to go.  This is the one time of your life when you can drop everything and just go.”

The University plans to expand opportunities like these for students. During the past year, Professor Haruko Taya Cook, an instructor in Japanese, took students to Japan, and another group participated in an archaeological dig in the Orkney Islands of Scotland with Ruth Mayer, adjunct professor of anthropology. Most recently, during the University winter session, art professors Thomas Uhlein and Claudia Goldstein led a group of students to Italy on a study tour devoted to art history.

“Very few students travel on their own,” Weil reports. “They often don’t have the time or money to do that. For many, these trips abroad are the first time they can travel outside the U.S. We want to keep providing these opportunities for students, and hope to do more in the future.” WP

04/25/13