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Before families and friends bid their farewells and sent warm wishes to their first-year students on Champlain's Aiken Lawn on a fine summer day this August, President David F. Finney gave his last opening speech at Orientation to the Class of 2017.
He boldly stated, "As part of our LEAD [Life Experience & Action Dimension] program, which is committed to helping you learn more about this global village we all inhabit, when you return for your sophomore year next fall, if you have a 3.0 GPA [or higher], I will pay for you to acquire a passport. Study abroad is the best and quickest way for most undergraduates to recognize the complexity of the world-to come to appreciate the validity and power of other narratives. We want you to go abroad-we've even set up sites for you to make it easy. One year from now: a 3.0 and a brand new passport, on me. For those of you who already have passports: great-we're happy you do!"
This is the first of many opportunities that Champlain students will hear about over the course of their academic experience; it just goes to show the overarching philosophy of having international experiences as a student at the College.
Liam Callaghan '15, a Computer Networking and Information Security major, recently participated in a stage performance in Dublin, Ireland. "As a part of the choir I joined while studying abroad, the Lassus Scholars, I was in a play called 'The Events' about a boy who attends a meeting of a multicultural choir and performs a shooting. There were five performances of the play, and each night a different choir from around Dublin was chosen to act as Claire's choir, the lead actress' chorus. My choir was chosen to perform opening night," Callaghan shared with pride. "At one point during a rehearsal we were asked to volunteer for a piece of the show where we were to deliver a monologue. We didn't have to have it memorized, which was a perk, and I volunteered. During this professional show, I got to deliver a monologue. It was pretty amazing. I wouldn't have been able to be part of this international choir or this performance in Dublin if it wasn't for Champlain Abroad."
"Stories like Liam's personify the Champlain Abroad experience. We strive to bring the 'human touch' to all study abroad experiences," said Noah Goldblatt, study abroad director in the Office of International Education at Champlain College. "Whether it be acting as a teaching assistant for a college course in New Zealand or presenting, in French, at an international video game competition in Montreal, Champlain students fully leverage their international experience for both personal and professional growth. We could write a novel of individual stories like Liam's, and it's this rich culture of immersion that makes us excited to come to work every day."
Over the past five years, there has been approximately a 300 percent increase in abroad experiences -which at Champlain can be defined in various ways.
An international experience can range from an entire semester spent studying abroad to a weeklong faculty-led cultural immersion trip. There are various international service-learning trips and even opportunities to have an international internship before graduation. "In the 2008-09 academic year we had 82 students in international programs; in 2012-13, we had 232," reported Goldblatt.
President Finney has placed international travel in a priority position. In Champlain's 2020 Vision, it is the institution's goal to "be the finest small, professionally and globally focused college in the United States; the College will prepare all students to be globally engaged citizens and leaders."
By the numbers, the original 2020 objective was to have 50 percent of students participate in international programs by the time they graduate. "We have already reached that goal for the past couple of years," said Goldblatt. "Five years ago, we had only 23 percent of students study abroad. The program has come a long way."
Champlain is tackling the 2020 Vision one step at a time. The overarching philosophy of having a global experience at Champlain starts at home, though-right on Burlington's campus.
The most applicable focus of the 2020 Vision is fostering a diverse and inclusive community. Recognizing that diversity is both a reflection of the world and a source of rich education, Champlain is striving to be diverse in ways that reflect the world in which we live and work. The strategic Diversity and Inclusion goals include increasing the diversity of the student body and of faculty and staff, while fostering educational opportunities for each of them to develop intercultural competence.
The 2020 Vision states, "Champlain will be an institution that harnesses the productive power of difference. A strong climate of mutual respect among all members of the Champlain community will be cultivated, with particular emphasis on cultural differences associated with age, ethnicity, gender, physical ability, race and sexual orientation. Employees and students will live and work in an environment where it is safe to take risks and challenge others."
So far, the College has developed multiple programs to address the goals. Through deliberate and thoughtful recruitment strategies, there has been an increase in campus diversity, a term that incorporates students of color, women, eligible Pell Grant recipients, and international students. "This year there are first-year international students from China, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, El Salvador, Macedonia, Switzerland, and more at our Burlington campus," said Kathy Lynn, assistant director of International Student Services. "That's in addition to students we have had from Haiti, the Republic of Liberia, South Africa, Bhutan, Palestine, and the list goes on and on."
Some Champlain initiatives include international programming. The Cultural Community Alliance (CCA) is a student-run group sponsored by the Office of International Education. Its mission is to provide opportunities for all members of the Champlain College community to explore different cultures and perspectives.
The CCA's campus-wide events and social activities include a fall International Education Week, and a speaker series that has included the Swedish, Irish, and Moroccan ambassadors to the United States.
Student Life has also fostered a community of learning by hiring Jennifer Jang as associate director of student diversity programs at Champlain.
This fall, she has organized a Chinese Moon Festival and an Eid Al-Adha Celebration that featured authentic food, drink, traditional activities, and performances.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), directed by Ame Lambert, continues to work with all campus stakeholders to create an inclusive, interculturally competent campus. ODI's ongoing programming includes Intercultural U-Champlain's unique intercultural training certification program designed to prepare members of Champlain's faculty and staff to serve as peer trainers, advocates, and facilitators of intercultural and diversity programming. About 125 Champlain employees have received their Intercultural U certificates, and Lambert will kick off the sixth cohort in the spring.
The College is also honored to host its first Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence, Rula Quawas. She is a Gender Research in Arab Countries into ICTs for Empowerment (GRACE) project research team leader and Professor of English at the University of Jordan. During her year at Champlain she is teaching junior-level courses pertaining to Arab feminisms and culture.
Through senior Josh Tubbs' end-of-semester video blog in the fall of 2012, one can learn about the various ways that Champlain's study abroad program extends far beyond the classroom.
Tubbs was at Champlain's Dublin campus, which is promoted to students as being the gateway to Europe. "For a kid who had never left the United States before, I'm so grateful for the opportunities I had while abroad to do so many sorts of things, like experiencing the crowds of Oktoberfest in Munich, going on the London Eye, taking a quick picture with a Spongebob in Madrid, tasting the deliciousness of Belgian chocolate in Brussels, getting lost along the river roads in Venice, climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on top of all the other things I did with Champlain Dublin in Ireland."
Tubbs admitted that he was worried before going. "Before I got to Dublin, I never really thought that it would feel like home, like Burlington and New Hampshire felt like, but golly, was that proven all kinds of wrong!"
Through the three main mottos of Champlain College abroad — Explore, Immerse, and Engage —Tubbs was exposed to more than he could have imagined.
President Finney, who visited Champlain Dublin in October for the campus' fifth anniversary, believes, "You've got to change, you've got to adapt, and you need to be good at understanding people from different parts of the world" in order to be a successful global citizen.
Students visiting Western Ireland during their semester abroad at Champlain Dublin in the spring of 2013.
Along with Dublin, where nearly 400 students have attended since 2008, Champlain Abroad has a campus in Montreal, Quebec, as well as various global partners.
"Our Montreal and Dublin academic centers continue to grow, offering increased opportunities for internships and service learning experiences for our students as part of our unique guided immersion study abroad program," reported Jim Cross, associate provost for international education and senior international officer at Champlain College.
"We have also added a new global partners program with study abroad sites in Shanghai, China; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Ifrane, Morocco; and Auckland, New Zealand," he said.
Some students choose to take advantage of exchange programs present in France, the Netherlands, or Morocco, or in addition to those programs, students can seek out other third-party programs that offer a wide range of countries, types of programs, and academic content. Other study abroad options include various faculty-led cultural immersion trips, and international internships and service trips, which vary each semester. Faculty and staff have taken students to China, Jordan, Nicaragua, Italy, Tanzania, Uganda, and elsewhere for cultural immersion and service. View a video of a faculty-led trip to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan by senior Brandon Jones HERE.
In 2010, the Champlain College Emergent Media Center (EMC), with the aid of the Population Media Center and the United Nations Population Fund, traveled to various countries to see how they responded to gender-based violence. In their travels, the group of students and staff noticed things that influenced the creation of BREAKAWAY, an episodic electronic soccer game that utilizes entertainment-education strategies to combat violence against women and girls, bullying, and gender inequality.
"I went to South Africa with a group of students who were working on a project to end violence against women through a video game," said Nichole Magoon '10, Champlain's digital community manager. "It changed the way I felt about myself and the way I view the world."
Since the game was released during the FIFA World Cup in 2010, it has been played in over 180 countries. A small international team of undergraduate students, led by Mahmoud Jabari '15, of Palestine, organized and conducted BREAKAWAY sessions at three youth summer camps in the city of Hebron in the West Bank of Palestine in June 2012. This November, another group of students, led by Mariana Herrera '15, were poised to bring the game to El Salvador. Read more about the BREAKAWAY group in El Salvador HERE.
Since this globalization of the EMC, and the growth of its Master of Fine Arts program, Director Ann DeMarle has worked to create a new Master in Emergent Media degree program in Shanghai, China.
"I have been fortunate to travel for Champlain, first to Germany to observe state-of-the-art graphic design and printing industries, then to Macedonia to witness how underdeveloped countries out-compete U.S. firms in web-delivered products and 3D art and animation production. This all fed into curriculum designed to enable Champlain students to become globally competitive," said DeMarle.
"The EMC's United Nations-sponsored BREAKAWAY game upped the ante by allowing students to experience firsthand technology and media in South Africa, St. Lucia, and Italy and then envision how to design for positive impact. This fall we have been fortunate to open up two new opportunities: the launch of the MS in Emergent Media in Shanghai, where Chinese nationals will work alongside our Vermont-based MFA students; and the launch of BREAKAWAY youth camps in El Salvador, where Champlain undergraduates and MFA students trained facilitators and will assess BREAKAWAY's impact in changing attitudes toward violence against women."
Other ways in which digital and emergent media have played a role in global learning at Champlain is with the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) within the Core Division, directed by Professor Adam Rosenblatt. It connects Champlain's home campus, programs abroad, and a growing network of global partners in higher education institutions, and fosters a free exchange of ideas about global issues, arts and culture, religion and folklore, and many other facets of contemporary life.
"Champlain's Core Division has been ahead of the curve in many areas of higher education," said Rosenblatt, "including interdisciplinary dedication to 'big question'-based learning, and incorporating global perspectives into the classroom. I am incredibly indebted in my work to the commitment my colleagues have to global learning, and especially to Professor Garry Scudder's pioneering efforts in this area."
The IGE seeks to foster a joyful sense of curiosity about other cultures, geographies, and histories, and an awareness of how these seemingly distant places and viewpoints are often, in fact, already in relationships of contact and influence with students' own homes and lives.
"Students at Champlain thus come to expect, from their first year onward, that 'class discussion' will be among not only groups of their peers on campus, but also peers speaking from very different places and backgrounds," continued Rosenblatt.
IGE also runs the College's new Global Studies minor, which can be pursued by undergraduate students in any major, and is growing at a rapid pace.
"A major component of Champlain College's curriculum has always been for our students to apply their classroom knowledge to real-life work experience within their major fields," said Business and Management Professor Tom Myers. "I have managed hundreds of students performing internships and special projects all over the world since 2001.
"This year I had the pleasure of sending 14 students from the Robert P. Stiller School of Business to China for various internships after the school received a grant from the Freeman Foundation," he continued. "The internships included positions in trade logistics, finance, education, marketing, and manufacturing. I had the opportunity to visit the students toward the end of their 10-week internship placements this past summer, and met with their direct supervisors, who had nothing but good things to say."
Without variation, Myers reported, the Chinese supervisors offered the same three comments about the students: the interns have a very strong work ethic, they are ready and willing to try new experiences, and they are very positive with a wonderful sense of humor. Additionally, the supervisors told Myers that they would love to have more student interns from Champlain at any time in the future.
A handful of the experiences students had while in Shanghai turned into job offers.
John Sawchak '13 is spending a year and a half working for iconx and Wild Rampage, LLC, a company promoting skateboarding in China through retail sales of the leading boardsport brands, training riders of all ages, integrating skateboarding into after-school programs, and sponsoring events.
"Although I miss my era in Burlington, it is amazing to be spending a year and a half gaining invaluable experience in Shanghai," said Sawchak. "I am learning how to run a small business in one of the fastest-growing cities in the world-and having fun while doing it. I am ecstatic to be putting my education to use in a relevant field." Read a feature in the Global Times about iconx HERE.
Patrick Dodge '14 also interned with iconx and Wild Rampage this summer, and has been offered a position to return to Shanghai post-graduation to help manage the construction and operation of the largest indoor skate park in China, and perhaps, the world.
"We have also had students recently intern in Dubai, Japan, South Korea, and Russia, among other locations," said Professor Scott Baker, who teaches advanced internship courses in the Stiller School of Business. Various students from all programs have held internships while studying at the Montreal and Dublin campuses, including marketing internships with the very successful Hireland initiative to kick-start the economy in Ireland by creating jobs.
The Montreal campus, known for being within one of the world's leading multimedia cities as well as a dynamic business and design center, provides students with great opportunities for relevant internships in the fields of game art, animation, and programming, marketing, graphic design, and international business. The Champlain Montreal staff works with students to find them a worthwhile placement, where they gain a unique international perspective on the evolving workplace. Since 2008 there have been over 50 students who have held internships in Montreal, many of which have secured full-time employment post-graduation.
This global focus at Champlain College leads to a more comprehensive network of global partners and alumni around the world. This international network assists students and alumni in landing jobs, traveling, furthering their education, and more. The international education opportunities at Champlain provide students with a comparative advantage in the global job marketplace and support the 2020 Vision of being the premier small, private college in the United States with the added benefits of a professional and global focus.