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ACM Meeting Sharpens Tools for Study Away Faculty and Staff

Published: June 23, 2017

ACM Meeting Sharpens Tools for Study Away Faculty and Staff

ACM program staff, visiting faculty, and consortial staff at a picnic along Chicago's lakefront.

Pedagogy, ways to facilitate cultural learning and adjustment on off-campus study, and students' health, safety, and wellness were among the broad topics addressed in the ACM Program Directors and Visiting Faculty Conference on June 5-8 at the ACM office in Chicago.

Faculty and staff from ACM off-campus study program sites in India, Italy, Costa Rica, and Chicago were joined at the conference by professors from six ACM colleges who will spend a semester as visiting faculty in 2017-18.

See the conference schedule and list of participants

Information sharing among the participants is a key aspect of this annual professional development conference and an experienced group attended this year, according to Joan Gillespie, ACM Vice President and Director of Off-Campus Study.

"Nearly all of the visiting faculty have already led study away programs with students from their own campuses," she noted, "and for the first time in several years our four permanent on-site directors were able to attend the meeting, along with three of our on-site program coordinators. They shared a tremendous amount of experience and ideas about holistic student learning on an off-campus program."

The two-day schedule of sessions opened with the topic Off-Campus Study and New Pedagogical Paradigms for the 21st Century, led by Javier Espeleta, Costa Rica program director. "The session introduced a valuable discussion on the potential of off-campus programs to create synergy between academics and the development of students' 'soft skills' — skills that are more social than technical and are broadly applicable in careers," said Gillespie. "The group focused on how to purposely design coursework that incorporates activities such as teamwork and community engagement to build such skills and a sense of community among students."

In a panel discussion, program directors Jodie Mariotti (Florence), Ujjwala Barve (India), and Dorothy Burge (Chicago), program coordinator Rosita Cirri (Florence) and Spanish language coordinator Mario Morera (Costa Rica) spoke about ways to facilitate students' cultural learning, providing recommendations for scaffolding assignments that build students' cultural awareness and self-awareness, and for addressing issues like race and gender stereotypes head-on.

Several sessions were designed to familiarize faculty and staff with the academic, administrative, and student life policies, procedures, and supports that ACM has in place for off-campus study, as well to provide guidance for managing a wide array of issues that may arise while teaching off-campus.

In a session on Student Health and Wellness on Off-Campus Programs, St. Olaf College Director of Counseling Steve O'Neill presented a practical approach to addressing students' concerns for program faculty and staff.

"Steve's session was a highlight for the visiting faculty, as well as our on-site staff, in their role as first responders to students' health issues," said Emily Gaul, ACM Assistant Director of Off-Campus Study Programs. "He outlined what he called his 'mental health first-aid kit' for assessing a variety of situations, so faculty and staff can arrange for students to receive any support they may need as quickly as possible."

Individual meetings among off-campus program faculty and staff and ACM consortial office staff rounded out the conference.

 

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