Three members of the Tusculum College faculty and staff recently returned from Salzburg, Austria, with detailed plans for the future of the international program at the College.
Provost Dr. Kim Estep, Dr. Geir Bergvin, director of the Center for Global Studies and Dr. Joel Van Amberg, assistant professor of history, recently spent eight days at the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria, to participate in an international curriculum development program through a Mellon Fellowship grant program.
“We did a lot of work prior to the trip,” said Bergvin, “And, we found that we were doing the right things right, and in seeing what others are doing with similar programs, realized that we are definitely well ahead of where many other similar institutions are at this time.”
Bergvin has been a leader in the charge to expand international opportunities at the Tusculum College campus since Estep and Interim President Dr. Russell Nichols declared it a major strategic initiative of the College to increase the number of students who participate in international travel experiences and to internationalize the curriculum to better prepare students for the 21st Century.
“One of the key advantages Tusculum College has over the other schools implementing similar programs is the support and commitment from the leadership of the College. Dr. Estep and Dr. Nichols have shown commitment beyond words by incorporating these programs into the strategic plan for the College and by allocating dollars for the programs.”
Van Amberg, who has traveled extensively both personally and through his role at the College, said that this seminar was an intense work session for the three leaders, and that they left the program with a detailed implementation plan to globalize the campus over the next 10 years.
“A lot of the prior work involved assessing what we have already achieved, so that once we got to Salzburg we were able to focus on establishing a series of principles to guide our plan, and concrete steps that we want to implement, including benchmarking and budgeting,” he said.
“According to our most recent data, only six percent of our seniors report engaging in an international experience while enrolled at Tusculum College,” Estep said. “Our goal is to increase this number to 50 percent over the next five years, and this program will allow us to move this process forward and begin to lay the groundwork for future international connections.”
According to Estep, the fact that Tusculum College operates on the block schedule, with students taking one course at a time, makes it a great fit for globalization and internationalization of the curriculum.
“We don’t have to make giant curricular changes,” Estep said. She added that many of the components are already in place, and the College can use these international opportunities to meet existing requirements, such as service-learning and senior capstone requirements. Senior capstones are the culminating coursework in a student’s major.
Bergvin added that there were representatives at the seminar from other Appalachian College Association schools, as well as five from Historically Black Colleges and Universities member schools.
“It was a good opportunity for us to interact with the others and learn what they are doing in the international arena.”
The three will return to Salzburg in December, as their grant participation is a two-year program that will give them time to develop and implement the international components they designed at the first seminar.
Estep said the next step is to begin implementation. The Advisory Council for the Center for Global Studies is looking at a possible faculty retreat that would focus on globalization. In addition, there are two trips approved and funded for this summer for faculty, and the group is currently planning several student trips for the 2009-10 school year.
“We got further down the road that we expected,” said Estep. The group brought back a five-year draft plan, along with other documents from the seminar.
Major goals outlined in the document include that Tusculum College students will gain the skills needed to be successful in a globalized 21st century. These skills include the ability to engage citizens of other countries in civil discourse, explore other languages as appropriate to their program of study and the ability to apply critical thinking skills to complex global problems.
In addition, with implementation of the full program, Tusculum College students will recognize that the power structures and cultural assumptions that impact poverty in Appalachia also exist in other parts of the world and are interconnected.
In order to reach the goal of enhancing students’ global competency, the plan recognizes that the College must first increase the global competency of its faculty members. The program is designed to be interdisciplinary in nature and is aimed at improving student learning outcomes and broadening faculty and staff development opportunities.
All three agreed that the Salzburg summit provided them with the tools they needed to come back to Greeneville and begin moving forward.
“It was a lot of hard work,” said Van Amberg, and not a lot a free time, although the three were pleased with the opportunity to have their meetings at a Schloss (German for palace) that was used as a set during the filming of “A Sound of Music.”
“We are very fortunate that we have leadership at Tusculum College who are visionaries,” said Bergvin. “The support has been strong. The programs have been implemented into the strategic plan and money has been set aside to develop the program.”