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Appalachian’s service-learning program expands global opportunities for students

southindiaclassroom_t.jpgBOONE—Students at Appalachian State University are gaining overseas research and service-learning opportunities through a joint program begun last spring by the Appalachian and the Community Together program and the Office of International Education and Development.

The International Community Development Initiative (act.appstate.edu/icdi) increases opportunities for Appalachian students to globalize both their education and community outreach by participating in international service-learning, community-based research, and service-based internships in southern India and South Africa with additional countries to be added later.

Erin Meyers_t2.jpg
Erin Meyers rides on the back of a motorbike on the way to a farm near Madurai, India, where she is helping establish a composting center. Meyers, a sustainable development major at Appalachian State University, is participating in a service-learning project through the International Community Development Initiative developed at the university. (Photo courtesy of Erin Meyers)

South India Classroom.jpgThe Family Life Institute school in southern India will be the location for a service-learning project for students in Appalachian State University’s instructional technology program. Dr. Paul Wallace, a faculty member in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies, visited the school this spring. (Photo courtesy of Paul Wallace)

“The ICDI program has added depth and breadth to the reach of our international service-learning program – offering students the opportunity to engage with communities in developing nations for two to four months at a time. These new opportunities offer our students a great way to globalize their education, as well as provide them a meaningful capstone experience,” said Shari Galiardi, director of service-learning at Appalachian.

Five students have completed or currently are participating in international service-based internships or service-learning courses in India or South Africa.

Rachel Siegel, a master of social work student with a concentration in expressive arts therapy, completed an internship with the Centre for Experiencing Socio-Cultural Interactions in Madurai, India.  “Interning in India provided me with professional and personal experience that will continue to influence and enhance the rest of my life,” Siegel said. “There are no words to describe the enormity of the trip but life altering.”

Last summer, Brandie Williams, a psychology (pre-med) student, interned at Mangaung-University of the Free State Partnership Program Development and Health Care in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  While there, she worked in a public health clinic that specializes in treatment of HIV and tuberculosis. She also helped establish an administrative volunteer program that utilized local youth to help organize patient charts, referral forms and perform other duties.

“Years from now when I am well into my medical education, I will be able to engage in and perform the procedures that I had the privilege of doing in Bloemfontein,” Williams said.

Jack Bedrosian, a political science student, is currently enrolled in a service-learning course titled “Service-Learning in the Humanities” at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Erin Myers and Sarah Cox, both sustainable development students, are interning at the Centre for Rural Health and Environmental Protection near Madurai, India. “It has been wonderful here at CIRHEP. I am learning so much more than expected – both about myself and the problems people here experience,” Cox said. “I am working on a case study on the self-help groups that receive micro-credit and that also are in the finishing process of setting up a recycling center for the nongovernment organization (NGO) and nearby village.”

This summer four students will complete internships in southern India.  Carly Fleming, a communication student with a concentration in non-profit public relations, and Joo Lee, a chemistry (pre-med) student, will complete internships with Madras Christian Council of Social Service in Chennai, India.  Alexandra Farrington, an international business student, and Laura MacMinn, a management student, will intern with non-governmental organizations in Trichy, India.

The students participating in service-learning experiences in India were provided a stipend of $4,000 each by Appalachian’s Office of International Education and Development through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Business and International Education Program.

Service-learning faculty members are encouraged to participate in the initiative by engaging in collaborative teaching, research and scholarship related to their service-learning and community-based research courses.

This spring, Dr. Paul Wallace from the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies traveled to southern India to identify projects that his master’s level instructional technology students could complete as a part of a new service-learning course. “I feel strongly that today’s school and industry leaders require an understanding of the world’s cultural traditions and have opportunities to communicate across cultures,” Wallace said. “One of the ways that I have addressed this is through incorporating international service-learning projects in my courses. The rationale is to address core 21st century competencies related to cross-cultural communication skills and global awareness.”

This semester, students in Wallace’s advanced Web design course are working with the Russ Foundation in Madurai, India, to redesign the agency’s Web site. “This partnership allows students to practice skills developed in class, and provides a connection between theory and practice that illustrates to students the differences in Web design across different cultures, and the need to understand culture in the design process,” Wallace said. “In the future, I hope to expand the service-learning component in this and other instructional technology courses, whereby Appalachian students will serve as technology mentors and consultants to teachers and community members in southern India.”

To increase opportunities for Appalachian faculty to participate in similar activities, Galiardi and Dr. Mabel Erasmus, head of the Division of Service-Learning at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, have planned a “Global Perspectives Forum on Service-Learning, Community-Based Research, and Civic Engagement.”  This forum will bring university representatives and community members together to discuss ways to enhance community engagement work, with a focus on global learning outcomes.

“This two and half-day forum will bring Appalachian faculty and students together with South African staff, students and community partners to collaborate and learn how to best utilize civic engagement, service-learning, and community-based research at their institutions.  The purpose will be to position such endeavors within global perspectives in order to inform future collaborative initiatives between our institutions,” Galiardi said.

In addition to Galiardi, Dr. Norman Clark from the Department of Communication and Dr. Suzi Mills from the Hayes School of Music have traveled to South Africa this month to facilitate sessions during the forum.

For details about the forum, visit www.act.appstate.edu/global-perspectives-forum.

A similar forum will take place in southern India during the 2010-11 academic year.  Details for this forum will be announced later.

The travel to South Africa and India are funded by the Office of International Education and Development grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

For more information about Appalachian’s International Community Development Initiative, contact Galiardi at galiardisl@appstate.edu.

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