The College of William and Mary was recognized in 2013 as the public university with the most undergraduate students participating in study abroad programs with 45.7% of students going abroad. Indeed, several School of Education faculty members have led these undergraduate trips. The university commitment to internationalization is evident with the inclusion in the recent strategic plan of a new institutional goal to ““foster stronger global perspectives and connections.” Starting in 2012, graduate students in the School of Education (SOE) now also have the opportunity to study abroad.
The first Global Studies trip was to Ireland, with students visiting universities in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This chance for comparative study provided students an opportunity to see differences in the systems of higher education in the two areas of Ireland and to understand more fully the cultural implications still felt due to the troubles Ireland continues to experience with internal conflict. Of note, the group’s visit to Northern Ireland coincided with the first visit by Queen Elizabeth for a meeting with Martin McGuiness, former IRA leader. The students had the good fortune to meet with Seamus Kelters, BBC Correspondent and co-author of Lost Lives: The Stories of Men, Women, and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Kelters’s lecture came upon the heels of a day of his reporting on the historic visit by the Queen to Northern Ireland. One of the group’s visits was to the Corrymeela peace and reconciliation center whose mission is to support the healing process so many years of conflict engendered. Students also had an opportunity to meet with leaders at Ireland’s Higher Education Authority (the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Education) and learn more about the National Strategy for the country to increase research productivity and access to higher education.
In 2013, students traveled to China, visiting Xian (the past), Beijing (the present), and Shanghai (the future). During the visit, students and faculty were able to connect with Aimin Li, a faculty member at the Institute of Higher Education at Central University of Finance and Economics who was a visiting scholar in the higher education program at the SOE in 2011. The students were part of the WM-China Initiative for Film and New Media and were able to report out on the research they conducted regarding comparisons of teaching and learning in China. The students interviewed current students in China and met with faculty members to learn more about the educational system. China has the most students studying in U.S. institutions, thus it is critical to know more about the pre-collegiate learning experiences and the job prospects in China to better serve the international students studying in the U.S. The course included a visit to Beijing Normal University, a partner with the William and Mary Confucius Center.
In 2014, students and faculty traveled to Italy. This trip included a visit to the Centre of Higher Education Internationalization in Milan. The policy center focuses on efforts worldwide to internationalize the curriculum and to support intercultural competency for students. A panel of students from the University of Cattolica del Sacro Cuore who participated in the European Union’s Erasmus Program related their experiences as study abroad students. The students told of the ways in which they developed more intercultural competency, how the exchange program helped in their own development, and what they planned to do for their future careers as a result of their experiences. Following this set of meetings in Milan, the William and Mary group spent a week at the University of Padova, the second oldest university in Italy and the most recognized research university in the country. Students attended lectures and, perhaps most importantly, worked collaboratively with Italian students to create a series of case studies for faculty to use in future graduate education courses. The three sets of case studies were written in both English and Italian for increased access. The visit in Padua concluded with the students and faculty participating in a conference at the university. Dean Spencer Niles joined the group and presented on The Role of Action-Oriented, Hope Centered Counseling. Dr. Pamela Eddy also presented on Leadership in an Environment of Change. Finally, the students presented posters on their individual research.
A key outcome of this trip was the initiation of a Memorandum of Understanding between the School of Education and the University of Padova. According to Eddy, “The visit to Padua epitomizes the role of internationalization at William and Mary. Not only were students able to apply the learning they have acquired in their graduate programs, they were able to conduct research in the field and network with promising scholars from another country—experiences that will allow both sets of students to see the world differently. It is one thing to talk about the impact of globalization on education and quite another to live it.” Planning is underway for the 2014 Global Studies course in South Africa.