Preparing for an Interconnected World

Curry School students encounter cross-cultural experiences both on Grounds and abroad

I didn’t realize when I started out to build a research career that international collaborations and friendships would be such a wonderful unexpected bonus,” says Nancy Kassam-Adams (M.Ed. ’92, Ph.D. ’95 Clin & School Psych).

She has also learned much from being involved in an international scientific society and taking on leadership roles. “I just returned from two international trips that remind me how lucky I am to interact with and learn from colleagues in other countries and cultures.”

Nancy Kassam-Adams

Kassam-Adams is director of the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a research associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Her years as a student predated by two decades the U.Va. Cornerstone Plan and its strategy to “strengthen its global presence and systematically foster international knowledge and cross-cultural understanding among all its students,” but she has learned by experience its wisdom.

“It’s really important for students today to have international experiences, because it helps prepare them to look beyond the US for inspiration, for different ways of thinking and working, and for mutually enriching collaborative relationships,” she says.

In a number of ways the Curry School has been increasing its alignment with the broader U.Va. objective. “We are excited about expanding the opportunities and venues for preparing students to be successful and connected to others across the globe,” says Catherine Bradshaw, associate dean for research and faculty development.

Teacher Preparation

While all of our teacher education students are encouraged to have international experiences on their own during semester breaks, we also offer an opportunity for supervised student teaching in the urban schools of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Our students who opt for this program are introduced to both a different culture and a different education system and then spend some time with a Curry professor making connections back to their Curry learning.

Vanessa Garlock (M.T. ’13 Elem Ed) who went to Belfast in 2013 found that the greatest impact of the experience was on her educational philosophy.

“It helped me realize the capabilities of students,” she says. “The day over there wasn’t as structured, and students could switch from subject to subject without a schedule that was set in stone.”

Katherine Lowder

Katherine Lowder (M.T. ’12 Social Studies Ed) went to Belfast in 2012 and believes that having international teaching experience was an important component in getting hired as a middle school teacher in Henrico County.

“I was asked many questions during interviews about what it was like to teach in a different country, and I believe it helped me to stand out as a teaching candidate,” she says.

She also discovered the importance of incorporating multiple perspectives in the social studies classroom.

“Political and social tensions still exist in Belfast, and it was necessary to take into consideration the views of both sides when talking with teachers and students.”

Undergraduate Research

Since 2010 undergraduate students in our speech pathology and audiology program have had the option of conducting research in the context of a summer international cultural experience. They spend three weeks each in Ghent, Belgium, and Nijmegen, the Netherlands, then present their research findings at a professional conference.

Marisa Shickel

“Applying to graduate school for speech language pathology can be extremely competitive, and I felt that having research experience would make my resume and application essay more memorable,” says Marisa Shickel (B.S.Ed. ’14 Speech Path & Aud), who participated in the program in 2013. “It must have worked, because I applied to eight schools and was accepted at seven and waitlisted at one.”

She says she came away from her travel a more confident person, as well, thanks to the experiences of navigating unfamiliar places and interacting with people of different cultures.

Graduate Research

Many opportunities exist for doctoral students who wish to conduct research abroad.

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Chenyu Wang

Chenyu Wang, for example, is an educational anthropologist in our social foundations of education program who is working in China’s Henan Province this summer. She is studying the ways in which US-educated Chinese students engage in and reflect on volunteering experiences in their home country, China, with funding from the U.Va. Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation and the U.Va. Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures.

Wang has also been an instructor for U.Va.’s Cultural Orientation, Reflection and Engagement (CORE) program, which provides seminars and short courses on cross-cultural engagement. She has participated in and mentored for study abroad programs in Hong Kong and China, as well.

Fares Karam

Fares Karam, a doctoral student in English education, returned to his native Lebanon in summer 2014 to study the impact of language on the education of Syrian refugees at three different sites there. The Lebanese school system teaches content areas like mathematics and science in French or English, while Syrian schools generally teach these subjects in Arabic.

“Syrian refugees can’t learn math or science in Lebanese schools if they don’t know English,” Karam says. “For refugees, that complicates an already challenging situation for them.”

He has also received a grant from the U.Va. Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation to fund research aimed at surveying the urban linguistic landscape of Beirut. His next project will be to study Arab refugee students living locally in Charlottesville through the work of the International Rescue Committee. He plans to document their academic and social challenges and successes and determine what teaching strategies can best address their needs.

Christine Monaghan

Education in refugee camps was also the subject of Christine Monaghan’s (Ph.D. ’15 Social Fdns) dissertation research, which she conducted in Kenya’s Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps. During her undergraduate years in the College, she became interested in the challenges of writing the history of refugees since they live outside their nations of origins.

“The education of refugees is also a complex puzzle because there is no clear understanding amongst the United Nations agencies who deliver education in camps about what constitutes relevant or appropriate education for refugees,” she adds.

Monaghan has parlayed her research into consulting work with UNICEF on peacebuilding education programs for youth in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp and in Ethiopia. She is also a lecturer in International Education at New York University.

Carolina Melo

Carolina Melo, the former director of graduate and postgraduate degrees at the Universidad de los Andes, Chile, in Santiago, is conducting her doctoral research through the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning. She is working with Jennifer Locasale-Crouch, CASTL research assistant professor, on a project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank to improve teacher-child interactions. In summer 2014 she traveled to Ecuador, Brazil, and Chile gathering descriptive data and is now developing an intervention for a randomized control trial to be conducted in Ecuador.

“The work being developed at CASTL is of great relevance for the Latin-American context,” Melo says. “I got very interested in [CASTL founding director and Curry School dean] Bob Pianta’s work around teacher-child interactions when I realized how critical these are for children’s experiences and for improving any educational system and, in particular, in less developed countries.”

Higher Education

The Curry School’s higher education administration program is contributing to our global objective in a different way. A number of these graduates have been prepared to work in roles at U.Va. and elsewhere to facilitate global experiences for other students.

Brian Ulman

“The world of higher education has become global,” says Brian Ullman (Ph.D. ’14 Higher Ed), who worked with student leadership programs in both China and Australia while a doctoral student. “We have no choice anymore. Every global research institution must have a global presence.”

Ullman now administers programs for visiting international students on behalf of U.Va.’s Center for American English Language and Culture. He works under the leadership of Dudley Doane (Ph.D. ’03 Higher Ed), who is director of International, Summer and Special Academic Programs. Doane oversees the International Studies Office, which manages study abroad at U.Va., the International Students and Scholars Program and the Sundberg International Center.

Kate Beach

Kate Beach (M.Ed. ’13 Higher Ed) worked in various positions at the Institute for Shipboard Education before joining the Darden Center for Global Initiatives as assistant director for global engagement in June 2014. She has visited approximately 30 countries around the world.

“I strongly believe that it is important for all students to have international experiences, because exposure to differences causes one to question and reassess his or her own perspectives,” Beach says.

“By learning about others, seeing new and different ways of doing things and navigating unfamiliar spaces, students build analytical skills, gain confidence and develop compassion and a stronger sense of self.”

Going Global on Grounds

Beach says she is an advocate for students spending time abroad, but she also works to facilitate opportunities for students to have international experiences on their own campus and in their own town.

“As the world becomes increasingly globalized, a modern education necessitates international exposure and learning in order to prepare students to be successful contributors and citizens,” she says.

While opportunities exist across the university for exposure to international students and scholars, the Curry School is working to become more intentional about those kinds of opportunities within our own community.

“U.Va. and Charlottesville are rich and diverse places to begin with, and Curry is doing an excellent job in encouraging future educators and researchers to exchange ideas on issues about schooling and education worldwide,” says Chenyu Wang.

The social foundations program, for examples, offers courses about ways of knowing, learning, and schooling in different cultures, points of history, and philosophical perspectives.

“In these classes students also share opinions on issues about education and schooling based on their own experiences,” she says. “In reading about and discussing other ways of being, students understand the particularities of our current place, time and thinking. This is ‘global experience’ in itself.”

The Curry School is currently developing a strategic plan related to the global impact and the reach of our research and academic programs, says Bradshaw.

“We are eager to leverage both our current students and faculty, as well as our alumni, in this effort.”