Image above: Most unique trip – South Pole, Antarctica
First trip with students – Ix Chel Farm, Belize
Early in my teaching career, I made a bold decision. I took my life savings – three figures at the time – and purchased a one-way ticket to Peru, with the plan to travel home by land. The adventure fundamentally changed my identity and I learned more in those 8 weeks than my entire formal education. So profound was the experience, I vowed I would try and create opportunities for others to experience authentic travel. When the new school year started, I founded a non-profit. The next summer I led my first group of middle school students on an environmental education trip to Belize and Guatemala. It gave me great joy to see the students develop global competencies from the trip, such as inquisitiveness, social flexibility, and self-confidence. I think exploring the world made me a better teacher, as I could provide students first-hand experiences, rather than learning from a textbook.
First MU course taught abroad – Stockholm, Sweden
A wonderful collaboration between Millersville University and Internationella Engleska Skolan (IES) has expanded over the years. IES is a school system in Sweden that provides students English immersion and an American style education. The partnership started when MU alumna Nicole Doty – an IES teacher – came to campus for a recruiting trip several years ago. Nicole’s visit resulted in an invitation to my department, and our students, to visit her school in Stockholm, to consider what was possible. The school visit was amazing – thanks to my colleagues Dr. Powers for making the trip a reality and Dr. Neuville for introducing me to the school’s administrators. This past January, I returned to IES with Millersville University education majors to complete the capstone course of their Integrated STEM Education Methods (ISEM) minor. Essentially, the ISEM students designed two units of instruction and then had the opportunity to teach the units to 4th and 5th grade students. In a sense, the study abroad trip to Sweden is an opportunity for our students to consider working abroad, as IES comes to our campus every spring recruiting teachers for their schools, which are expanding across Sweden and into Spain and England. This upcoming January, another cohort of Millersville University students will travel to Stockholm to complete their ISEM minor. The next phase of the collaboration is to offer student teaching as an option in IES schools. The project is special to me because it reveals how multiple stakeholders can collaborate to create a program that adds value to our students’ university experience.
Playing Kubb (aka Viking Chess or Skulls & Femurs) as a team building activity
The Internationella Engleska Skolan (IES) Project and associated study abroad programs is similar to growing grapes. Serious gardeners do not plant seeds in the ground and expect amazing yields. Instead, they first work the soil. Then, the seeds are planted, pruned, and prevented from fruiting for a few years; this is so the plant’s energy is devoted to the development of strong roots. Only years later are grapes ready for harvesting. The IES project is flourishing because of the faculty from the Early, Middle, and Exceptional Education Department and support from the Office of International Programs & Services.
The logo for the Imagine the Possible campaign captures the very spirit of the Office of International Programs & Services: Together – Image the Possible. Last spring I was struggling to find a way for students to join me at a conference in Europe. A student walked by and inquired about the conference, which was an international gathering of polar scientists and educators. The student returned the next day with three other students. They wanted to go, but the cost of attending was prohibitively expensive. Together, we connected with the team at the Office of International Programs & Services and they helped us make it possible. The students hit an absolute grand slam with their presentation at the conference. The compliments from attendees were so remarkable I wrote them down: These are college students, not professional teachers? Are all teacher candidates at your university like this [great]? My response to the last question was, “Yes. What you see here at this conference is my entire university. It is a university of excellence and its greatest resources are the people – students, staff, and faculty.” Then, the President of Polar Educators International (PEI) invited the students to present at their conference next year at Cambridge University.
Millersville University students presenting at the POLAR2018 Conference – Davos, Swittzerland
The world is rapidly changing. Millersville University graduates are no longer competing for jobs with graduates from neighboring universities. Our alumni are competing against the world. The Office of International Programs & Services can facilitate students engaging with high impact practices; i.e., global studies, capstone course and projects, internships, etc. I personally am happy to help anyone interested in study abroad or internationalizing their curricula. Give me a call – together we can imagine the possible.