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Conference Prepares Faculty to Lead Study Away Programs

Conference Prepares Faculty to Lead Study Away Programs June 22, 2016

Overcast skies and a steady rainfall during much of the walking tour in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood didn’t dampen the spirits of about a dozen ACM faculty and staff.

What are a few raindrops when you’re preparing to lead field trips and on-site classes in Tanzania or Costa Rica?

The excursion to see and learn about Pilsen and its famous murals capped a packed schedule of professional development sessions at the annual ACM Program Directors and Visiting Faculty Conference on June 7-10.

The conference is a key part of the training that ACM provides for the on-site staff and visiting faculty from the campuses who lead ACM off-campus programs around the world. The agenda was wide-ranging and touched on cross-cultural learning and pedagogy, student health and safety, assessment of student learning, and resources for program staff.

Three sessions, led by staff from ACM campuses dealt with student life issues:

  • Risk Management, Student Behavior, Code of Conduct, Creating Community
    Presenter: Kathy Tuma, Associate Director of International and Off-Campus Studies, St. Olaf College
  • Managing Student Health and Wellness on Off-Campus Programs
    Presenter: Steve O’Neill, Director of Counseling Center, St. Olaf College
  • Having Difficult Conversations: Diversity and the Off-Campus Experience
    Presenters: Josh Moore, Associate Director of International Education, Beloit College, and Paul Dionne, Inclusive Success Coordinator, Beloit College

Weihong Du and Jon JensenWeihong Du (Knox) and Jon Jensen (Luther)

“Those sessions were very valuable, giving us a solid set of best practices to take to the program sites and walking us through some scenarios that were challenging and, at times, quite intense,” said Joan Gillespie, ACM Vice President and Director of Off-Campus Study Programs. “We’re fortunate to have colleagues at the ACM colleges to draw on, first because of their high level of professional expertise and, second, because these connections help us align with on-campus practices and expectations.”

In a discussion of cross-cultural learning, Florence program staff member Rosita Cirri and visiting faculty Michael Schneider (Knox College) and Stephen Volz (Kenyon College) talked about techniques to help students engage in the complexity of understanding another culture. Topics included getting beyond stereotypes, suspending judgement, observing and interpreting behavior in another culture, and applying critical thinking skills to intercultural experiences.

The trip to Pilsen illustrated aspects of experiential learning pedagogy and a “neighborhood walk” assessment tool that’s used on ACM off-campus programs.

From left: Nancy Barry (Luther), Dorothy Burge (Chicago Program), Dyron Dabney (Japan Study) and Rebecca Entel (Cornell)

The mural tour, led by expert guide Luis Tubens, was a combination art talk, introduction to the neighborhood and its residents, and history lesson. Tubens has often given a more extensive tour to students on the ACM Chicago Program, who live in this eclectic, predominantly Mexican-American community that’s a short El train ride from downtown.

Chicago Program Director Dorothy Burge described how the program’s approach to experiential education builds on neighborhood exploration, weaving that experience into the curriculum and encouraging students to actively engage in the city and in their learning.

Gillespie used the tour to introduce the neighborhood walk, one of ACM’s Learning from Study Away (LSA) assessment exercises in which students reflect on their observations of their surroundings at the beginning and end of their off-campus program. The two sets of reflections are compared to help program faculty and ACM staff gain insights into the intercultural awareness and skills that students develop during their off-campus study experiences.

Participants in the mural tour pictured above:

(from left, front row) Javier Espeleta (Costa Rica Program), Luis Tubens, Rosita Cirri (Florence Program), and Jon Jensen (Luther College)

(back row) Emily Gaul (ACM), Stephen Volz (Kenyon College), Dorothy Burge (Chicago Program), Michael Schneider (Knox College), Sarah Kraaz (Ripon College), Ujjwala Barve (India Program), Nancy Barry (Luther College), Joan Gillespie (ACM), Weihong Du (Knox College), and Rebecca Tucker (Colorado College)


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