Opening Minds, Changing Lives

Opening Minds, Changing Lives

August, 2010

Technology and the Internet have made the world smaller and more interconnected than ever before. Information, ideas, and opinions are instantaneously shared throughout the world, and the exchange of money, goods, and services is done in mere seconds. With these advances has come a tremendous opportunity for colleges and universities to internationalize their campuses and curricula.

From offering students more international travel-study opportunities to partnering with international institutions of higher education and other organizations, PSU is preparing its students—and itself—to compete in and contribute to the global community.

Following is a closer look at just some of PSU’s international programs and partnerships that are opening minds and changing lives both on campus and around the world.

College of Business Administration Expands its Reach

Over the past decade, PSU has forged partnerships with a variety of international institutions, including the University of Limerick in Ireland, the Shanghai American School in China, St. John’s International University in Italy, and more. One of PSU’s most dynamic partnerships is with Babeş-Bolyai University (BBU), which is among Romania’s largest and most reputable higher education institutions. In 2004, PSU and BBU created a student and faculty exchange agreement. More recently, the institutions collaborated on the online MBA degree with a certificate in international business. The program comprises 10 courses: five taught by PSU faculty, five taught by BBU faculty. The students are from both institutions, as well. The beauty of the program, notes Dean Trent Boggess of PSU’s College of Business Administration (CoBA), is the fact that “faculty and students are interacting, sharing their experiences and insights into how business is being conducted in their country.”

Late last summer Boggess was approached by the American University of Antigua (AUA) on the recommendation of its associate director of admissions for the northeastern U.S., Danielle Hermon ’09G. “Danielle was so satisfied with her experience in the PSU MBA program that when she learned AUA was interested in partnering with an institution that offered an MBA, she urged them to contact us,” explains Boggess. “When AUA learned of the MBA with a certificate in health care administration, they were extremely impressed.”

Within nine weeks of AUA’s initial contact with PSU, the first online course for AUA students was launched. In the spring 2010 semester, 100 medical students from AUA were enrolled in five courses—and there’s a waitlist. Boggess notes that he has received excellent feedback from students about the program. “One student in the Health Care Administration Finance course said, ‘This is exactly what we need to know.’”

Hermon is pleased with the partnership between her employer and her alma mater, and how it will benefit AUA students. “Many successful physicians have a solid understanding of business practices that allows them to excel as leaders in their field,” she says. “AUA provides the medical science and skill, and PSU provides the business knowledge—this makes our graduates some of the most competitive in the field.”

According to Boggess, it’s not just the students who will enjoy a competitive edge. Based on the success of and demand for both the international business and health care administration certificate programs, Boggess views the PSU MBA program as competitive not just within the University’s geographic region, but also throughout the world. “The same qualities that appeal to our regional students—quality and affordability—are just as attractive to foreign students,” he says.

“In business and in education, going international is a fact of life,” says Boggess, who, like PSU, is embracing internationalization with zeal. “I’m looking forward to the day when we offer an online MBA class and have students from all over the world, all with different perspectives. I can imagine that such an environment would be very rich.”

Learning English at PSU

While ELS and PSU students may not take class together, there are many opportunities for them to socialize. One opportunity is through the Conversational Partners program, in which ELS students and their PSU peers meet weekly to interact and engage in conversation about their interests, favorite activities, and more.

Thanks to a new partnership with ELS Language Centers, PSU is increasing the number of international students who come to campus. ELS is an internationally recognized organization that teaches English to international students from around the world. Since last fall, PSU—home to the only ELS program north of Boston—has welcomed students from countries including China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Rwanda who want to learn English.

ELS Director Gonzalo Isidro-Bruno explains how ELS works. “Students interested in learning English in the U.S. connect with international student advisors in their home countries. Because ELS has 50 centers across the country, it’s one of the predominant options. Students can choose the section of the country they are most interested in, and whether they want to study in a big city or a small town.”

Essentially, the ELS program is a school within a school, with its own instructors and schedule. “We welcome students every four weeks throughout the year; even when PSU is closed, we hold classes,” notes Isidro-Bruno.

Students may choose between two programs: the intensive program, for students who plan on studying at an American university, is 30 hours a week for twelve four-week sessions. PSU recognizes the completion of ELS Intensive Level coursework as meeting its English language proficiency requirement, and will issue a letter of conditional admission to students who meet all other PSU admission requirements and plan to fulfill the language proficiency requirement through ELS study. The semi-intensive program is 20 hours a week for twelve four-week sessions and is geared toward students who simply want to learn English in America.

While the ELS students are together in class, there are many opportunities for socializing with their PSU peers and members of their new community. “[The students] are here to be part of the community; they are crossing the world just to be here,” Isidro-Bruno says. “Some of our students stay in the dorms, others live off-campus with host families, and they all participate in student activities. We oversee their arrival, but soon we let go, so they can find their way and be part of the University.”

Another way in which PSU students and ELS students interact is through the Conversational Partners program, in which ELS students and their PSU peers engage in conversation about their interests, favorite activities, and more. According to Isidoro-Bruno, it’s a wonderful opportunity for the international students to practice their burgeoning English language skills, for PSU students to help their international peers, and for all of the students to get to know each other better.

Improving Education in Peru

While many of PSU’s international academic programs focus on higher education, others are exploring preschool and early childhood education.

In October 2008, Professor of Education Gerard Buteau ’86 and Stevens-Bristow Professor of Education Marianne True attended a gathering of school directors, educators, and education officials in Lima, Peru to discuss Lima’s serious socioeconomic divide in preschool education. The conference was the first of its kind in Lima, and was aimed at trying to find ways to provide children in poor public schools the same educational opportunities as those who attend high-priced private schools.

“Equity is missing there—it’s an imbalance,” says Buteau. “We wanted to provide ideas that would help bring a balance to the system.”

Along with Mary McNeil, a colleague from Chapman University, and with Lima native and one-time PSU adjunct instructor Maria Bove from St. Michael’s College as a translator, Buteau and True presented concepts on leadership in education, inclusive learning in early childhood education, and developing relationships between preschools and area universities.

“I met with directors of the local schools; so many people approached us hoping to make connections,” says True. “The challenges are: How can we convince the leaders to come together to meet the needs of young children? What can we do to collectively and collaboratively effect change there?”

Buteau, who was on sabbatical from PSU and working at Bakersville Elementary School in Manchester at the time of the conference, studied that district’s preschool offerings. “By telling people in Peru what we have in place here, we hoped it would inspire them,” he says.

True points out the strong relationship PSU’s education department has with area schools and preschools, and the benefits those partnerships can provide both the schools and education students. “The public schools there don’t really have relationships with colleges—they hadn’t considered it before,” she says. “People became really interested in exploring those connections.”

Buteau and True both hope to find funding to continue the work and build on the connections they made in Lima; they have a plan that would bring in PSU alumni to help with the early childhood education efforts there.

For now, True says, “People have shared with us that we had given them really good ideas on how to move forward. This conference was the start of educators finding a collective voice, which will hopefully grow louder and create change.”

The international experience, both professors say, also helped them gain new perspectives, informing and improving their teaching here at home. “Any time you can take a jump outside your own back yard, it’s amazing to find the commonalities and differences in this work we call education,” says True.

“We want to cast a wider net,” says Buteau. “You do things in the state, then within the United States, and then you think, what’s next?

“And when you get that experience, you bring that back, you teach differently. We really do live in a global community now, and experiences like this allow our students to vicariously explore what that community is like.”

TIGER in Cairo

TIGER members Colleen Rowland ’05, Richard Moses, Courtney Rhorer ’05, Amy Weston, and Chris Gonzlez ’99 pose in front of the pyramids.

TIGER (Theatre Integrating Guidance, Education, and Responsibility), an innovative collaboration between the PSU integrated arts and the counselor education graduate programs, has performed for more than 225,000 schoolchildren throughout the region, ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade.

But last March, TIGER had the opportunity to share its positive social messages with more than 1,000 schoolchildren and adults halfway around the world in Cairo, Egypt. “We were initially invited to Cairo as part of the ASSITEJ (The International Association of Theater for Children and Young People) Egypt International Children’s Theatre Festival,” explains Trish Lindberg, TIGER artistic director and professor of education and integrated arts. “After we arrived, we were able to book additional performances at the Integrated Thebes International School and the El Sawy Culture Wheel [a cultural center] in Cairo.”

Despite the language barrier, Lindberg says, “the audience loved the performances. They were especially taken with the physical comedy, musical numbers, and dancing. It really showed the universality of these art forms.”

Also universal are the themes TIGER touches upon in its performances—social issues like bullying, self-esteem, personal safety, and friendship—which are based on the writings of children.

Galvanized by the warm reception in Cairo and a recent gift from Alex Ray and his Common Man Family of Restaurants, TIGER is looking for more ways to expand its reach both domestically and internationally. In addition to expanding its New England touring schedule and adding a new program on sustainability to its roster, Lindberg says, “[We’re] exploring the possibility of creating a TV pilot with New Hampshire Public Television. If it were picked up nationally, it could become a series, with each show exploring a social issue children face.”  Lindberg is also seeking more international performance opportunities for TIGER. “I recently taught in China at the Shanghai American School and I am hoping that Tiger could perform for the over 2,000 elementary age students there,” she says. TIGER has also submitted a proposal to perform at the ASSITEJ World Congress in Copenhagen next May, and is looking into touring international schools.

“Expanding TIGER will give more children the opportunity to think about social issues in new and positive ways,” says Lindberg. “We are excited to find new ways to reach out.”

Language and Song in Italy

It’s not unusual for PSU students taking a foreign language to participate in a language immersion trip. It’s also not unusual for PSU’s Chamber Singers, an auditioned vocal chamber ensemble of students who are majoring, primarily, in voice performance/pedagogy, music education, theatre, and music theatre, to perform abroad. What is unusual is combining these two groups and embarking on a language immersion trip that includes a performance component. But that’s what happened last Winterim, when students learning Italian in the Fundamentals of Language and Cultural Studies course toured Italy with the PSU Chamber Singers.

The idea for this innovative pairing came from Chair of the Department of Languages and Linguistics Barbara Lopez-Mayhew’s desire to offer a course in a foreign language not typically offered at PSU, and the Chamber Singers’ desire to learn Italian—one of many languages in which they sing—and tour Italy. Lopez-Mayhew collaborated with Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Dan Perkins and Professor of Music Kathleen Arecchi to develop the Italian Immersion 2010.

“We offered two sections of Italian in the fall, taught by a native Italian and French speaker named Remy Grosso, who came to PSU from France,” explains Lopez-Mayhew. “Those students who needed to fulfill their language requirement could continue to take Italian instruction during the three-week immersion course in Italy.”

On January 3, 2010, 32 students, accompanied by Professors Lopez-Mayhew, Arecchi, and Perkins, as well as Global Education Office Program Assistant Lisa Ladd, set off for Italy. The group’s packed itinerary included popular big cities including Rome, Florence, and Venice, as well as the ancient hilltop village of Amelia. Days were packed with walking tours, language class, sightseeing trips, and performances. In Amelia, the students had the opportunity to stay with local families. For Benedict Cesare, a sophomore music and theatre major, speaking Italian to native speakers in Italy was a welcome challenge. “Trying to [engage in] full conversations with the locals was difficult at first, but I think I stood my ground linguistically,” he says.

“It was wonderful to see the students’ progress from the first day of class back in September to being able to immerse themselves in Italian culture, make sense of what people were saying, and effectively communicate,” Lopez-Mayhew says. “The trip made the language come alive for the students.”

For Lopez-Mayhew, the presence of the Chamber Singers—who gave 11 performances during the trip—added a special dimension to the trip. “They would spontaneously break into song, wherever we went,” she says, recalling one particularly moving moment: “A few of them were in the chapel of the cathedral they were going to sing in that evening and they started humming, to test the acoustics, and then they just broke out into song. The people outside the chapel heard and stopped what they were doing to listen. People were moved to tears, because it sounded absolutely beautiful.”

Once the group returned to PSU, they were eager to share their experiences with others. The Chamber Singers presented “Italian Adventure,” an evening performance in which they sang and shared pictures and memories of their trip, from enjoying the delicious and decadent food to meeting the warm and friendly people to seeing historic Italian icons and the country’s natural beauty. Eight of the students who studied Italian during the trip gave presentations on their experience in Italy as it relates to their majors to their peers, faculty, and staff.

Based on the resounding success of the Italian Immersion trip, Lopez-Mayhew is eager to develop more immersion courses in the future; Russian, Romanian, and Japanese are at the top her wish list.

Photo courtesy of Bradford Dumont.


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