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MTSU professors take South American trip to boost ...

MTSU professors take South American trip to boost online education

MTSU faculty and administrators traveling in March 2022 to promote online international education are shown with a map of South America, with the countries of Peru and Argentina showcased, and the logo for the Office of International Affairs. Clockwise from top left are Drs. Robert Summers, vice provost for international affairs; Christine Eschenfelder of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media; Vickie Harden, coordinator of the Master of Social Work Program in the Department of Social Work; Ibtissam

Five professors from four Middle Tennessee State University colleges are off on a South American adventure, aiming to boost student and faculty educational partnerships online.

With their specialties including fermentation science, information technology, interior design, journalism and social work, the trip seems like the perfect foundation for both learning and diplomacy.

Dr. Robert Summers, vice provost for international affairs

Dr. Robert Summers

The MTSU faculty members are on a two-week trip to Mendoza, Argentina, and two cities in Peru to visit university peers and discuss how students and faculty there, and here, can work together to expand online learning worldwide. Led by longtime School of Agriculture professor Tony Johnston, the trip was made possible through a mini-grant initiative created by Robert Summersvice provost for international affairs.

Dr. Ibtissam “Sam” Zaza, assistant professor, Department of Information Systems and Analytics, Jones College of Business

Dr. Ibtissam “Sam” Zaza

“I believe the Peru and Argentina trip presents a new opportunity to develop relationships between universities in both countries,” says Dr. Ibtissam “Sam” Zaza, a Jones College of Business assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems and Analytics whose specialties include business data communications, business analytics and using IT applications for decision-making.

“It is not just a one-time collaboration; it is a relationship that will last for MTSU and present more opportunities for future students. We can start with analytics and extend it to other majors and classes, depending on what we discover during our trip there.”

Those academic adventurers traveling to Maza University in Mendoza, Argentina, and San Juan Bautista University in Lima and Ica, Peru, include:

• Dr. Christine Eschenfelder, a veteran multimedia journalist and associate professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media in the College of Media and Entertainment.

International Affairs logo• Dr. Vickie Harden, coordinator of the Master of Social Work Program and an associate professor in the Department of Social Work in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences.

• Dr. Tony Johnston, director of the Fermentation Science Program in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

• Dr. Kristi Julian, director of the Interior Design Program in Behavioral and Health Sciences’ Department of Human Sciences, where she’s also a professor.

Dr. Tony Johnston, professor, School of Agriculture, and director of the Fermentation Science Program

Dr. Tony Johnston

The group accepted Summers’ 2020 challenge, and funds from a mini-grant, to support online intercultural exchange at MTSU. In the process, Summers hoped they’d boost both the university’s internationalization and the number of students who study abroad, in-person and remotely.

Each professor completed Collaborative Online International Learning, or COIL, training offered through MTSU’s Office of International Affairs.

Dr. Christine Eschenfelder, assistant professor, School of Journalism and Strategic Media, College of Media and Entertainment

Dr. Christine Eschenfelder

Johnston, who’s worked with faculty and administrators at the South American universities for more than five years to coordinate and collaborate on teaching and research on grapes, wine and fermented products, took the lead in asking his colleagues to work with their South American counterparts.

Eschenfelder, like the others, jumped at the chance.

“Journalism is an ideal discipline for intercultural exchange programs,” adds Eschenfelder.

“Journalism students often work on collaborative tasks and collective inquiry. Their craft requires social interaction. They have strong digital media skills and are adept at virtual exchange.”

When they return, the professors will continue their efforts by planning more MTSU Signature Study Abroad programs, which are more in-depth, faculty-led courses, and COIL opportunities to create more collaborations between MTSU students and their counterparts in Argentina and Peru.

Dr. Kristi Julian, director of the Interior Design Program and a professor in the MTSU Department of Human Sciences

Dr. Kristi Julian

Dr. Vickie Harden, associate professor in the Department of Social Work

Dr. Vickie Harden

“This opportunity promotes global communication between native and non-native speakers and international discourse on multiple perspectives,” Julian says.

“Student engagement provides opportunities to gain 21st century skills and competencies.”

For more information about study-abroad opportunities at MTSU, visit https://mtsu.studioabroad.edu. For help with international education of all types, visit the MTSU Office of International Affairs website at www.mtsu.edu/intered.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)


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