Bringing the World to Shenandoah.
Sending Shenandoah to the World.
Shenandoah University encourages students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends to engage in the larger community, while making a difference locally and globally. Through a variety of initiatives, they gain a greater awareness of the “other” and an appreciation for the cultural differences that enrich relationships and make our world a better place in which to live.
Shenandoah University prepares students to become educated and principled practitioners who make a difference, not only in their own communities but in the larger, global society. Several innovative programs provide opportunities for individuals to learn, travel and serve others. Students expand their knowledge within a global context and, in turn, learn more about themselves.
“The world in which we live is diverse and it’s connected,” said Director of International Programs Bethany Galipeau-Konate. “The economic forces of globalization continue to reorder the way people interact with one another and the ways in which they learn. It’s important we educate young men and women who understand the world in which we are living.”
According to President Tracy Fitzsimmons, there are a number of reasons Shenandoah is committed to providing students with opportunities to experience a global perspective. “First, we’re affiliated with the United Methodist Church, which has a strong international outreach and a broad vision of the world,” said Dr. Fitzsimmons. “Also, we’re located in a spectacularly beautiful valley that is rich in culture, history and natural beauty. It would be too easy not to venture beyond this valley, but we’re compelled to remember that there is a big world out there, and we need to be concerned about it and engage in it. That’s the important part of a Shenandoah education, certainly for our students, but also for all of us who live and work here. For many in our community, Shenandoah can serve as a portal to the world.”
Fostering Global Curiosity
A global perspective begins with a desire to connect meaningfully with other people and to know more about their cultures. “Everyone grows up with a certain set of rules and the way they perceive reality, in terms of social and cultural norms,” said Galipeau-Konate. “We usually don’t question those rules, especially if we don’t move outside our social-cultural circles. When you interact with people outside of those circles, sometimes it’s harmonious. Sometimes there’s a clash. That’s a wonderful moment for learning.”
Planting Seeds for Global Thinking
Shenandoah provides a full “menu” of opportunities for students to gain a global perspective. Initiatives range in scope from the Going Global: First Year Seminar to the 10-day, spring break Global Citizenship Project, to faculty-led Global Experiential Learning trips to mission/service trips and independent study-abroad immersion programs [see sidebar on page 14].
Certainly not all American students will travel internationally in their lifetimes. So, exposure to international students and visiting faculty on campus, in classes and in social settings, enhances cultural awareness on campus. Also, each fall semester, freshmen participate in the university’s Going Global: First-Year Seminar, which engages them in discussions about a variety of global topics from the moment they arrive on campus.
“The goal of FYS is to lift borders, yet maintain, deepen and expand a feeling of belonging to a global community,” said First-Year Seminar Director Amy Sarch Schopick. “Students begin to realize they can make a difference, and the difference begins with them.”
Taking the First Step to Going Abroad
According to Galipeau-Konate, travel abroad involves encountering the world with all five senses. “It’s not just reading about or experiencing it on television or over the Internet,” she said. “It’s touching and hearing, tasting the food and smelling the air.”
Spanish major Kevin Schaeffer ’12 traveled to Rwanda in August, Cuba in January and Indonesia in March. After only a year of global experiences, he’s decided to apply to the Peace Corps.
“I went on a 10-day mission trip to Rwanda in August with a nonprofit called ‘Hope Shines,’” he said. “That was my first trip out of the country, in part, thanks to Shenandoah. In Rwanda, so many people were affected by genocide in the early 1990s. A lot of children lived at the orphanage, because their parents had been killed, and they didn’t have any other living relatives. Some of their stories were incredible. At the same time, they were so joyful to be there and to have someone taking care of them.”
In the fall of his senior year, Schaeffer took a full semester, three-credit class on Cuba, where he learned about its culture, history and politics, followed by a week-long trip to Cuba in January.
“While in Cuba, we met a group of students. They were learning English, so we went out with them for two nights. One night, we all spoke English, so they could practice. The next night, we only spoke Spanish, so we could practice. We built a relationship despite our language differences.”
Kelly Wilson, ’12 a physical therapy student, traveled to Ethiopia over spring break with the Global Citizenship Project. She saw a need for rehabilitation and an opportunity where she could make a difference. Several weeks later, she returned to Ethiopia for a two-week clinical rotation/internship at the Black Lion Hospital with the Richard Jackson clinics.
“During the GCP trip, I was deeply touched by our trip to an orphanage, where more than 80 percent of the children had HIV and other serious illnesses,” said Wilson. “I promised myself I could do something to help the country out in some way. So, I organized a trip back for one of my clinical rotations.
“I learned it is actually possible to study abroad while in graduate school, and that there are still generous people in the United States who believe we need to be more incorporated and influential in the world,” said Wilson. “I learned so much about the culture, and my eyes were truly opened to experiences of pain, grief, want and hunger, but also pride, stubbornness, loyalty and the satisfaction of working for a cause much larger than myself. Life in Ethiopia isn’t as fast paced as it is in America. Not everyone stresses about their future, job, education or personal fulfillment. Everything happens for a reason in its own time.”
Faculty Travel the Globe
In addition to accompanying students on study abroad and mission/service trips, many Shenandoah faculty go abroad to speak at conferences, teach summer courses and masterclasses, serve as visiting scholars, write books, perform at concerts and conduct scholarly research. They collaborate with partner universities, developing productive working relationships with international faculty and recruit students.
This spring and summer, Shenandoah faculty traveled to Beijing, China; Cairo, Egypt; Taipei, Taiwan; Gothenburg, Sweden; Leon, Nicaragua; Vancouver, B.C., and more. They also taught workshops in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and El Salvador.