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WATSON COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

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Global Scholars Program Supports Globalization of Education at WCE

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Watson College of Education's International Programs Committee promotes the development of global and international perspectives for WCE students through study abroad programs, international partnerships and faculty research support.

In 2015, the committee introduced a Global Scholars program in partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill. The project supports faculty initiatives to embed global concepts in their courses and encourages collaborative efforts to offer students the opportunity to focus on various parts of the world, comparing and contrasting culture, environments, language, education, politics and history, while preparing to be teachers in the United States.

“Future teachers will have students in the classroom who are English language learners, and future issues to be addressed will involve global issues such as clean water and a sufficient food supply,” said Susan Catapano, WCE professor and international program coordinator. “We need to prepare our pre-service teachers for this. The global scholars program is designed to support faculty on work that will enable them to broaden students’ minds, make connections and build knowledge that can be shared in future classrooms.”

Projects selected for the Global Scholars program receive a $2,000 research scholarship from UNC-Chapel Hill. An additional $1,000 travel stipend is provided by UNCW. The program supported WCE faculty projects in Ethiopia, Finland, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands and Syria in 2015-16.

Ethiopia – Heidi Higgins

Heidi Higgins received a Global Scholars grant to help support her research on Ethiopian pedagogical approaches to teaching mathematics. Higgins is an associate professor in the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle Grades, Literacy, and Special Education (EEMLS), and coordinator of WCE’s undergraduate elementary education program.

In December 2015, Higgins traveled with WCE associate professor Michele Parker and eight students to Addis Ababa, in WCE’s first field experience to Ethiopia. The group spent three days at the Deborah School, a private English-speaking school serving tuition-paying students in pre-K through 12th grade. They also visited the Fregenet School, which opened its doors in 2004 to serve young children in a small and impoverished community in Addis Ababa. A second field experience to Ethiopia has been postponed due to travel advisories in the country, but Higgins’ research into global issues in the country continues.

View photos and digital stories of the students’ experiences.

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Finland – Elizabeth Crawford

A Global Scholars award enabled Elizabeth Crawford to travel to Finland in May 2016 to learn more about Finland’s education reform efforts. Her work focused on phenomenon-based learning, an interdisciplinary approach that engages students in investigating, alongside their teachers, real world phenomena or issues and proposing solutions to address them. Crawford is an associate professor in WCE’s Department of EEMLS and elementary education graduate program coordinator at the Watson College.

In September, students in Crawford’s undergraduate social studies methods course Skyped with masters students enrolled in Educational Sciences, Educational Leadership and International Cooperation programs at Finland’s University of Jyväskylä. The university has a large international student population, and the experience helped to strengthen WCE students’ intercultural communication skills and to broaden their perspectives on a range of global issues, Crawford said.

Crawford returned to Finland in October to continue her collaboration with Finnish teacher educators and classroom teachers – work that will enhance her teaching at WCE, she said.

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Japan – Tracy Hargrove 

A Global Scholars award enabled Tracy Hargrove to travel to Osaka, Japan, on an exploratory visit before leading a field experience for 11 students to the country in summer 2016. Hargrove is an associate professor in WCE’s Department of EEMLS.


The field experience provides an intense, informed cultural immersion for participating students. Visits to schools and dialogue with Japanese educators also provide an opportunity for students to compare perspectives and educational practices in Japan and the U.S.

EEMLS chair Kathy Fox and associate professor Brad Walker joined Hargrove on the trip.

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Mexico – Marta Sánchez

In April 2015, Marta Sánchez partnered with UNCW’s Centro Hispano to arrange a panel discussion of issues surrounding the Sept. 26, 2014 abduction of 43 pre-service teachers in Mexico, an event that garnered global attention. The students were abducted during a peaceful protest and are presumed dead. The UNCW event was designed to raise awareness, show support for families of the students and demonstrate a need for global connectedness on human rights issues.

A global scholar award has enabled Sánchez, an assistant professor in WCE’s Department of Instructional Technology, Foundations and Secondary Education (ITFSE), to continue her research into the experiences of individuals residing in rural communities in Mexico. Her work has expanded to include a bi-national STEM project to assist reforestation efforts in areas where national resources have been depleted.

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Netherlands – Denise Ousley-Exum, Amy Garrett Dikkers and David Gill 

A global scholars award has enabled WCE faculty to study newcomer education in the Netherlands, with a goal of incorporating globalization into secondary and middle grades English education courses at the Watson College. Course materials will be integrated into graduate programs in educational leadership, as well. Ousley-Exum and Gill are associate professors in WCE’s Department of ITFSE. Garrett Dikkers is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership.

The Netherlands is recognized as one of the world leaders in providing education to refugee and immigrant children and families, Ousley-Exum said. The team traveled to the Netherlands in summer 2016 to lay the groundwork for WCE’s first field experience to the country, planned for summer 2017. The Netherlands trip is open to Watson College students. Administrators and teachers in WCE’s PDS partnership schools are also able to participate as non-degree seeking students.

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Syria – Susan Catapano

Susan Catapano traveled to Athens, Greece, in summer 2016 to research the experiences of Syrian refugees. She conducted interviews with community and faith-based agencies and immigrant schools, but found access was limited. After returning to the U.S., she continued her research on support for new immigrants and refugees by visiting the Nahed Chapman New American Academy in St. Louis, MO, and conducting interviews with organizations involved with resettlements in St. Louis and Chicago.

The U.S. resettlement program is the largest resettlement program in the world, and more than 50,000 immigrant children were expected to enter U.S. schools in fall 2016. Catapano’s research on the needs of teachers, children and families is ongoing.

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For more information on the Global Scholars program, visit uncw.edu/ed/international/scholars.html