July 13, 2016

TAB Partnership News - USA: Educational and cultural exchange developing between UCalgary, Mississippi teacher education programs

Educational and cultural exchange developing between UCalgary, Mississippi teacher education programs
Oxford Mississippi
Oxford, Mississippi

When a student ponders taking part in a study abroad program, he or she most likely conjures up mental images of the far off, exotic land they may be considering. But for an exchange to be academically and culturally rewarding, sometimes that individual doesn’t have to look much farther than his or her own back yard.

Take, for example, the 26 pre-service teachers who came from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and Mississippi State University (MSU), who visited the campus of the University of Calgary recently, as guests of the Werklund School of Education’s Offices of Internationalization and Undergraduate Programs in Education.

Calgary, exotic?  It is if you’re from the American South, says Colleen Kawalilak.
“Internationalization and engaging with difference does not always necessitate crossing an ocean, “says Kawalilak, associate dean of the School’s Office of Internationalization. “Connecting with our colleagues from the South provided rich opportunities to explore similarities and differences pertaining to culture, context, perspective, and practice.”

“We realized that our similarities and differences were not always what we might have anticipated.”

The students are part of The Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program (METP), a program that brings top-performing students from both Ole Miss and MSU through an innovative new, collaborative scholarship program.  The goal--to educate English and mathematics teachers who make a five- year commitment to teach in the Mississippi public school system after graduation. 

Their program includes a study abroad component, which is how the students and education leaders came to the Werklund School of Education.  Dean David Rock of the School of Education and Professor of Teacher Education at Ole Miss contacted Werklund dean Dennis Sumara and suggested the visit, expressing interest in introducing his students to the School’s pre-service teacher education program, as well as to visit some local schools to observe K-12 classrooms in action.

“Students and colleagues from Mississippi had an opportunity to connect with some of our students and faculty,” says Kawalilak. “New relationships were forged and the potential for future collaborations explored.”

Kawalilak is now looking into formalizing the exchange, so that Werklund students can travel to Mississippi as part of the Teaching Across Borders component of the Werklund undergraduate program.

“Pre-service teachers in our BEd program have expressed interest in traveling to the USA to learn more about teacher education programs and practices, and to experience deep Southern hospitality and culture,” she says. 

“We look forward to learning from one another and to deepening this new relationship.”