Fall 2016 I sat in the office of the Assistant Vice President for the Center of Global Engagement blubbering. I was literally shedding mascara.
Me: I’m such a loser. I’m 41 and don’t even have a passport.
Her: [grabs tissue box] It’s never too late.
Me: [whining] All of my colleagues have been places, are from other countries, and I’ve been nowhere and have done nothing. [drops head to hands]
Her: [calmly] Really, it’s never too late.
Me: I’m scared.
Her: So are our students who have never traveled. You’re the perfect person to lead a faculty-led program.
Me: [cynical laugh and snort] Yeah, right.
Her: It’s true.
Me: I don’t even know where to start, but I don’t want my daughters to be 40 and never have gone anywhere.
In the summer of 2017, with the Assistant Vice President’s help, I attended a workshop in Paris to learn best practices in faculty-led programs. I spent four days in London exploring and two weeks in Scotland meeting with businesses, university representatives, and exploring cultural sites.
I came home and got right to work on my faculty-led study away program in Scotland for June 2018 titled Going Green: The Impact of Sustainability on International Business and Culture in Scotland. I ended up taking fourteen of the coolest students on the planet to Scotland. You can read about our trip and see pictures from our adventures @WSUScotland on Facebook.
The mission of the WSU College of Business is to create life-changing learning experiences for students. We strive to provide them with opportunities that will forever alter the direction of their life. During a College of Business retreat for University Advancement day, I was asked to speak for about four minutes on how the Scotland faculty-led study away program created life-changing learning experiences.
I reached out to the students who had been on the trip and received several responses. In a nutshell, they came away with a new appreciation for recycling, reuse, and zero waste initiatives and changed their consumption behavior and their use of plastics and non-recyclable materials. They experienced a new culture and adjusted to it while they were in the country and realized they could be successful not only in Minnesota but also in other areas around the world. They took more risks and got out of their comfort zone and were more environmentally aware overall. Many had caught the travel bug, even though they had traveled little or none prior to the program and were actively planning more overseas adventures. I relayed this to my colleagues, but then decided to go a bit farther. I told the story of sitting in the Assistant Vice President’s office in 2016 and taking the initial trip to Europe in 2017.
Here’s what we do not realize about life-changing learning experiences: there’s a ripple effect.
After the 2018 faculty-led program, my colleague accompanied the students back home from Scotland because my husband and daughters had flown out to meet me in Edinburgh. At that time, my daughters were 15 and 12 and had only recently gotten passports in preparation for this trip. Together, we spent five days in Scotland, four days in London, and then the girls and I went on to spend four more days in Paris.
The ripple effect of my creation of life-changing learning experiences for my students lands squarely in the lap of my own two beautiful girls. If I had not been brave and vulnerable in the Assistant Vice President’s office, stepped out of my comfort zone, and learned how to move through the world, neither would they. They would grow up seeing their mom being afraid to take risks for fear of looking and feeling stupid. They would learn that it was fine to stay scared and not challenge yourself to be better.
What I left out of the list that I shared with my colleagues is what I witnessed from my students firsthand during and after the trip.
I saw students be brave.
I saw students over-prepare out of anxiety, but realize they had this just a few days into the trip and were able to relax and enjoy the time away.
I saw students embrace each other and step out to explore this new world together.
I saw students become confident travelers, realizing that sometimes just asking a stranger for directions is the best way to get around.
I saw students purposely getting lost and instead of being afraid, relishing the adventure.
Later, back at school, I heard students share their experiences and talk about their next adventure with excitement and joy.
In front of my colleagues, I admitted that while we are striving to create life-changing learning experiences for our students, we are also creating them for ourselves as well. The benefits derived from participating in a faculty-led study away program or a semester-long residential program cannot be quantified, but they can ripple throughout a lifetime.
Jana Craft, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Management & HR, Chair, Business Administration
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