Global perspectives in the classroom

By: Lynette Martinez

Whatcom’s international students of fall 2013 at the international student orientation. Photo courtesy of Kelly Kester.
Whatcom’s international students of fall 2013 at the international student orientation. Photo courtesy of Kelly Kester.

Efforts are being put forth at Whatcom Community College encouraging faculty and staff to incorporate international aspects to their current class curriculums and propose ideas to create new international courses.

“The future is internationalization. The more faculty, staff, and students know about different cultures the more successful they will be in the work place,” said Whatcom’s Associate Director of International Programs Ulli Schraml.

Schraml said that the internationalization efforts aim to expose faculty, staff, and students to new cultures, experiences, and connections.

This is achieved in part by inviting international students to Whatcom through recruitment efforts and sending Whatcom teachers and students abroad, Schraml said.

He added that Whatcom’s associate director of international programs, marketing and recruiting, Sandra Kimura, recently went on a recruiting trip in the Philippines and Thailand.

Whatcom is a member of the Northwest International Education Association (NIEA), made up of a group of 15 colleges from the Pacific Northwest, said Schraml.

The goals of NIEA are to “promote the exchange of international faculty, staff, and students, to support members in developing an international curriculum, to provide a network for the sharing of ideas and resources, and to provide faculty development and student learning opportunities in the field of international studies,” as stated on their website.

Schraml said the NIEA sponsors a conference every summer called the “Community College Master Teacher Institute” (CCMTI). Last summer Whatcom instructor Wendy Borgesen, who teaches English and environmental science, attended the conference. After submitting an application to the conference Borgesen was one of three Whatcom teachers selected to attend, he added.

The intention of the CCMTI conference, which is hosted by the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, is to help faculty examine issues of global importance so they can expose students to these issues, as stated on the NIEA website.

Borgesen said she became interested in the conference last summer because the topics discussed were related to climate change and other environmental issues which she says are “big passions” of hers.

She added that climate change is a global problem and that she wished she could teach the class Survey of Environmental Science over the length of three quarters rather than one because the topic is so large.

“Survey of Environmental Science” is a class that covers a range of global issues, said Borgesen. She added that taking the time to explore one concern of environmental issues in-depth is also important. “I created an honors course that is now being offered fall quarter called Global Access to Water,” said Borgesen.

Other internationalization efforts are also being put forth. Faculty from institutions that are members of the NIEA can apply for grant money through the Mini-Grant Program, said Schraml, adding that the money is used to create new courses with an international focus or to add an international component to a current class curriculum.

Whatcom’s drama teacher Gerry Large applied for and won a mini-grant from the NIEA to incorporate an international component to his current drama class.

“The application process I went through consisted of proposing a two-week component of Chinese Theatre and Drama,” he said.

Large teaches Drama 101 which he said is a “global course, so an international perspective is important. We live on an interconnected planet, so any exposure to cultures other than our own is important.”

There is a “cross-culture advantage” that faculty, staff, and students, whether domestic or abroad, gain through internationalization, said Schraml.

“Getting international students on campus and using them as resources by allowing them to teach us of their culture is as important as sending Whatcom faculty, staff, and students abroad to gain new cultural experiences,” Schraml said.


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