Education Leadership Conference

Minnesota State University psychology professor Dan Sachau, PhD, took service learning beyond the local soup kitchen this summer: He led a group of his industrial/organizational master's students to South Africa to refurbish a business school for young, underpriviliged women and men. Sachau and his students spent their days chipping paint and cleaning the grounds and their evenings discussing South African politics and culture. They also went on a safari.

Back in Minnesota, Sachau polled them about the experience. Most students said they intended to return to South Africa and would continue to follow its politics.

Cultivating such curiosity for international service and collaboration in the world beyond MSU's walls is exactly why Sachau takes his students abroad.

"These trips can shape an interest and confidence in travel," said Sachau, who spoke at APA's 2008 Education Leadership Conference. "They can build friendships and they change students' basic assumption that everyone sees the world they way we do."

On the road

Not all of Sachau's study abroad programs are service-oriented. He also turns MSU's five-week I/O psychology summer school classes into destination courses in such cities as Brussels and London by forging relationships with American University in Brussels and Kings College London, which rent out dorm space and classrooms to professors. He also taps other U.S. universities that have international partnerships. For example, he recently held a summer course in a castle outside of Edinburgh that he borrowed through the University of Wisconsin.

He's also led two- to three-week student sightseeing trips with colleagues to Portugal, Spain, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam that he peppers with I/O teachable moments.

The Internet has a wealth of information on planning an educational trip, said Sachau.

"The easiest thing to do is check with the international travel offices of universities and find itineraries that others have already used," particularly history and political science professors, said Sachau. "You can just fit psychology visits in. Our trips focus on I/O psychology so it's easy to find companies, consultants and factories."

For these shorter jaunts, he recommends assigning students reading in advance since days are jam-packed. He also suggests using a travel agency that specializes in planning trips for professors and asking them to recommend tours, hotels and guides.

Study abroad, lead change at home

Studying in a foreign country can not only open students' eyes to different cultures, it can change how they view life in their own nations, said Beverly Tatum, PhD, who delivered the conference's keynote address.

Tatum, president of Spelman College in Atlanta, said that experiencing life away from the segregated South of the 1950s helped spark the civil rights activism of Spelman students Marian Wright Edelman and Roslyn Pope. As juniors, both women spent semesters studying in Paris. The personal freedom and equality they experienced compelled them to lose their fear and demand change at home, she said.

After they returned, both women participated in the student-led civil rights protests in Atlanta.

Noting that only 1 percent of U.S. college students study abroad, and that among that group just 4 percent are African-American, Tatum said the goal at Spelman is for every student to have an international experience. In fact, each incoming student is handed a passport application.

This year, an estimated 10 percent of Spelman's junior class is heading abroad, some for shorter trips, some for a semester.

"We need to open doors for our students, so they can open doors for us," she said.

Toward global learning

Another leader in global outreach programs is the University of Missouri Center for Multicultural Research, Training and Consultation, which offers several psychology-related programs with National Taiwan Normal University.

In one, students take a 16-week preparation class on Taiwanese culture, history, geography and language followed by a two-week immersion course in Taiwan, noted the center's co-director Puncky Paul Heppner, PhD, who also spoke at the conference. The center also offers a three-year dual degree master's program for international students. Students study in Taipei in their first and third years and spend the middle year at Missouri. Heppner also directs a summer study program for advanced counseling doctoral students with NTNU that he's aiming to expand to other international universities. These students work under supervision at a Taipei counseling center for two months.

Professors can also tap technology to weave global learning into their classes, said speaker Richard Velayo, PhD, of Pace University in New York City. Through blogs and social bookmarking and networking sites, teachers can foster online mentoring between international faculty and students, conduct online surveys to give research a global reach and host guest lectures via webcam.

Heppner, a former Fulbright scholar, encouraged fellow faculty to be creative and resourceful in internationalizing their instruction. "I think we have a great deal we can gain and learn from going down this road. I think we also have a great deal to lose if we don't," he said.



Monitor staff writer Christopher Munsey also contributed to this report.

Resources

  • "International Psychology: What It Is and What Students Want to Know," a 45-minute documentary created by APA's Div. 52 (International) that highlights the activities of psychologists and students from 25 countries.

  • "Promoting Psychology Abroad: Fulbrighters as Ambassadors": Streaming video interviews and podcasts with psychologists and students who have participated in the Fulbright program. The video was created by APA's Office of International Affairs.

  • Fulbright Scholar Program: www.cies.org.

  • Stevens, M.J., Gielen, U.P. "Toward a Global Psychology: Theory, Research, Intervention, and Pedagogy." (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007).

  • Seminars, International Inc., a travel consulting firm that specializes in educational trips: www.semint.com.