Elon symposium advances conversation about global engagement programs
The recent Global Education Symposium hosted by Elon's Center for Research on Global Engagement and the Doctor of Physical Therapy program brought experts to campus to talk about effective and collaborative global education initiatives.
The Center for Research on Global Engagement at Elon recently partnered with the university's Doctor of Physical Therapy program on a two-day symposium designed to foster discussion about how to provide, assess, and study global engagement opportunities that are mutually beneficial to the students and the local communities where they are embedded.
The Global Education Symposium held April 21-22 offered the opportunity to hear from experts who have identified how global engagement programs can go wrong and what to do on the front end to make sure both students and local communities emerge richer for the experience. Nearly fifty attended the symposium to hear from scholars Darla Deardorff, executive director of the Association of International Education Administrators, and Eric Hartman, the executive director of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.
Maureen Vandermaas Peeler, director of the Center for Research on Global Engagement and professor of psychology, said a program like the symposium can help faculty at Elon as well as elsewhere conduct research to contribute to knowledge about and practices related to global engagement experiences for undergraduate and graduate students.
"Having a symposium like this enables faculty and staff to avail themselves of the insights these experts have to offer," Vandermaas-Peeler said. "The center also has the broader mission of promoting scholarship around global engagement so that we can learn more about effective practices and student outcomes."
Coupled with broader insights into how to effectively produce global engagement programs were sessions specifically tailored to Doctor of Physical Therapy program faculty, both at Elon and from other programs around the country. Deardorff, an internationally recognized expert, who recently published her sixth book, "Demystifying Outcomes Assessment for International Educators," worked with DPT faculty from Elon and 14 other colleges and universities to develop practical steps for using tools to assess the effectiveness of their global engagement efforts, particularly as it relates to student outcomes.
Paula DiBiasio, assistant professor of physical therapy education at Elon and coordinator of DPTE Global Learning Opportunities, said Deardorff assisted each program in developing assessment strategies, with the group collectively sharing their own experiences to leave participants with plans to act upon after the symposium.
Deardorff has conducted extensive research on intercultural competence and international education assessment and along with her role with the Association of International Education Administration, she is a member of the faculty at Duke University and on the the faculty of Harvard University’s Future of Learning Institute and the Summier Institute of Intercultural Communication in Portland, Oregon.
Jessie Moore, director of the Elon Center for Engaged Learning, also worked with participants to look at the next steps for the DPT Global Education Consortium, an effort launched by Elon DPTE about two years ago to help DPT programs around the country share resources and establish key practices related to global engagement.
"In health care education, there are ethical issues within student global engagement programs," said DiBiasio. "At Elon, we are working very hard to recognize those issues and work within the boundaries of what defines a respectful and reciprocating partnership."
Through his work at Haverford College heading its Center for Peace and Global Citizenship and extensive time spent heading the global nonprofit organization Amizade Global Service-Learning, Hartman has seen how global engagement projects and programs can go right, and how they can go wrong. During his presentation on the first day of the symposium, he offered an overview of the challenges that arise from initiating and sustaining global engagement efforts that benefit not just students, but the communities and people they work with abroad.
"I believe it is possible to do well," said Hartman, who has worked in cross-cultural development practice and education in Bolivia, Ecuador, Ghana, Jamaica, Northern Ireland and Tanzania. "I do think that this is incredible and impactful work for communities and students when done well and through partnership. We do see incredibly deep histories of it not going well and not being done well, though."
Hartman pointed to medical mission work that could have students attempting to provide care that's beyond their expertise and can actually disrupt or displace health care resources that are already available in communities. He offered examples of where "orphanage tourism" in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America had driven the increase in the number of orphanages, with children who still have parents being sent to orphanages.
"The idea that doing something is better than doing nothing can be quite dangerous," Hartman said. "Our students through their good intentions are the incidental funders of fake orphanages."
It's crucial to create programs that work in partnership with local communities and truly assess their needs, rather than determining needs and imposing potential solutions externally, Hartman said. The idea is to create what's called "fair trade learning" that is beneficial to all involved, he said.
Globalsl.org, a multi-institutional hub that is hosted by Haverford College, has developed the Global Engagement Survey to gauge the impact that global engagement efforts are having on students and faculty to help determine best practices and how students are being impacted by the experiences they have. Elon has recently become one of many institutions partnering with them in these efforts.
Participation in the symposium, a first large event for the Center for Research on Global Engagement since it was created in 2015, "speaks to the fact that global engagement at Elon is so widespread," Vandermaas-Peeler said. "We want to make sure we are doing things in the highest-quality way possible."