Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, January 25, 2013

Faculty, staff guide students' global experiences

The faux leather seats in the old church van were sticky from the heat and sweat after a day of driving to Mulukuku, Nicaragua, on bumpy, muddy roads.

But once the students arrived, there was thick chicken stew and fresh lemonade. "Everyone was welcoming. The town was alive all night with music and roosters and dogs," Carrie Tamarelli says.

  Carrie Tamarelli, who traveled to Nicaragua with the student group M-HEAL, is among students citing significant contributions by faculty and staff to their global experiences. (Photo courtesy Carrie Tamarelli)

The materials science and engineering senior from Beverly Hills, Mich., credits Jennifer Wegner, assistant director of College of Engineering Student Affairs, with helping to successfully plan her trip with the multidisciplinary student group M-HEAL.

"She works with all student organizations that are traveling abroad to ensure we are properly registered with U-M and the State Department, and have health and safety plans before departure. Every student organization has stories of how Jen has helped," Tamarelli says.

Her story is among dozens from global students who publicly recognized faculty and staff members who help make their global experiences a success. The setting was a recent Council for Global Engagement reception at North Quad, co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost. It honored 53 faculty and staff nominated by 83 students from 45 different schools, colleges and departments.

"From education abroad programs for academic credit to professional internships around the globe, U-M students are actively engaging with the wider world. Our faculty and staff play a critical role in fostering global engagement and making international opportunities a reality," says Kathleen Bauer, assistant vice provost.

This support is crucial to U-M staking its place as a leader in securing global experiences for students, to prepare them to flourish in a global economy. "Equally important are U-M international students who enrich the cultural and intellectual diversity of our community while gaining international experience on campus," Bauer says.

Among faculty advisers singled out by students was Joseph Trumpey, associate professor of art, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, and associate professor of natural resources, School of Natural Resources and Environment. He is director of the International Engagement Program at A&D, which requires undergraduates to fulfill a three-week international experience.

"We are in the business of building leaders. I strongly believe that by fostering early, meaningful intercultural experiences for our students they will forge important new perspectives and insights," Trumpey says. Global experiences also spark better grades and pursuit of graduate degrees, he adds.

Kinsey Brock, an SNRE master's degree student from Bedford, was an A&D undergraduate when Trumpey guided her to his Eco-Explorers: Madagascar course. Students discovered native flora, fauna, history and more through hikes, sketch booking, lectures and observing.

"I have Joe to thank. He provided a fork in the road of life for me. It was necessary for me to be there and hold a chameleon in my hand, pick up a radiated tortoise to count its scutes, and search for leaf-tailed geckos in the forest," Brock says.

Janet Lawrence, associate professor of education, School of Education, says that before a student travels, it's important to clarify schedules, housing, ground transportation, visas, immunization information and course credit requirements.

"A very important task is helping them find and gain financial support. Often this involves writing applications for research funding, and helping with report writing, etc., when they return," Lawrence says.

Cindy Gould, international admissions and recruiting coordinator in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, focuses on making a satisfactory global experience for international students studying at U-M.

Jinhao Ping, a freshman from China studying engineering at U-M, wrote, "I used to feel homesick but now I feel like I'm home because I know I can always find Cindy for help when I have any problems on the U-M campus."

Gould says the experience is valuable, but not just for the international student. "Not every Michigan student will have a chance to travel abroad. Connections and friendships worldwide might be what makes the difference for them in their futures," she says.