Last summer I introduced the concept of “experiential learning”, as becoming a popular topic in higher education over the recent years. As written on my blog post Experiential Learning: Students and Community Benefit , “experiential learning” is the expression of “learning from doing”. Inevitably, this method of instruction results in enhanced student learning and seamless transition into the workforce. Experiential learning can take on a number of forms, one of which is the collaborative study abroad experience. Currently, WKU is ranked 19th in the nation among master’s institutions for the total number of study abroad students , and notably, the College of Health and Human Services’ students comprised 14.5% of the total university education abroad enrollment for the 2014-2015 academic year. WKU’s national ranking serves to show WKU’s commitment and prioritization of education abroad, and the results of developing strategic, international partnerships.
WKU’s vision and motto is to be A Leading American University with International Reach. Since arriving back to WKU, I have been so impressed with how WKU has placed a priority on the globalization of education and how they are actively cultivating international partners so that our students become productive, engaged, and socially responsible citizen-leaders of a global society. We know that preparing our students for success in the international marketplace requires our focus on fostering global awareness and international collaboration during our students’ formative years. Here in the CHHS, we want to increase our global network for our students, so as to provide our students with experiences that will create more cultural awareness, allow them to be change agents, and prepare them for greater success after graduation.
The Office of Study Abroad and Global Learning serves the WKU community by engaging students, faculty, and staff in diverse, educational, and cultural experiences through faculty-led, exchange, consortia, and other study abroad opportunities. Additionally, WKU has students in more than 40 countries around the world through partnerships with the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad and the Kentucky Institute for International Studies.
This summer has given way to a wonderful opportunity for both the CHHS and WKU, as I will be traveling abroad to engage the headship of a new international partnership with the University of Haifa. The University of Haifa (UH), located in Mount Carmel, Israel, is the leading University in Israel in the fields of the Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Welfare and Health Sciences, Natural Sciences, Education and Management. I will be visiting UH, July 17-23rd, meeting with their administrators, staff and students to create a new Global Health Summer Program between UH and WKU. Students will acquire new skills in leadership and new knowledge of global public health. This program will ultimately develop life-long relationships with colleagues from around the world and will help develop a future generation of individuals who will lead health systems around the world. I am very excited for this new partnership with UH, as it will expand our network of international partners and provide our students with a unique socio-cultural lens to study aspects of healthcare systems in an atmosphere of tolerance and multiculturalism.
When I worked previously at the University of Georgia (UGA), the department where I served as Department Head had a similar program that was created between UGA and UH. I wanted to do my best to replicate that program in creating a relationship between WKU and UH, with a focus on a summer program in global health at UH. My goal for this program is that our students will have direct participation in global health research, and be able to collaborate their research in vital international projects.
Our CHHS International Liaison Officer, Dr. Ron Ramsing, who is involved in teaching study abroad courses on ecotourism, service learning and outdoor recreation through programs in Belize, Costa Rica and Ecuador, has personally gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of each host country he visits. Each trip has a lasting impact on both the students and faculty alike, “This global understanding and perspective informs my teaching and service as well as the research projects I explore. I am more sensitive and aware of the geopolitics that invariably impact our domestic and international students at WKU.”
Dr. Ramsing goes on to state the benefits of student participation in study abroad opportunities, “While the immediate benefit for students who study abroad is self-evident, the long-term gains are significant too. The international experiences impact the types of classes students take upon their return, their interaction with domestic and international students, and occasionally the focus and/or redirection of their studies – students return inspired. These international experiences also help our students live and interact successfully in an ever expanding multicultural environment of the US. I regularly hear from alumni who indicate their international experiences give them an advantage over others when pursuing promotions in the workplace – employers seek students who have honed global competence. Students who have studied abroad create goodwill, are ambassadors of WKU, and typically look at the world through a slight different lens – the global experience leaves an indelible mark on who they are as a person.”
As I embark upon this journey next week, I look forward to the seeing the active collaboration between the UH and WKU that will lead to further experiential learning opportunities for our students. I encourage you to follow me on this journey, Twitter handle: @NealeChumbler as I showcase the work and partnerships that we are building abroad!
For more information on our study abroad opportunities at WKU, please visit: http://www.wku.edu/studyabroad/