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Opportunities Lost and Found

With study abroad on pause, Montclair State finds new ways to provide global experiences

Posted in: Homepage News, University

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Fulbright Scholar Treasa Praino ’19 MAT still feels the sting of an opportunity lost when the COVID-19 crisis cut short her teaching and research experience in South Africa.

She wasn’t alone. Dozens of Montclair State students and faculty were called home as the world responded to the pandemic with bans on travel, most of which will remain in place for international study and research abroad in spring 2021.

To adapt to the pause on world travel, Montclair State has shifted to creating global experiences right here at home.

The strategy includes technology-enhanced collaborations, global/local connections and domestic programs, says David Schwarzer, professor of Teaching and Learning and the University’s Fulbright Scholar Liaison.

“What we’re trying to do is to create a more internationalized curriculum within a social justice framework,” Schwarzer says.

Faculty recently gathered via Zoom to share the ways they are incorporating global perspectives, particularly as technology reshapes education and provides for cross-cultural and transnational interactions. While it’s impossible to reproduce the immersive experience of study abroad, there are opportunities for new knowledge, for both students and faculty.

Study Abroad and Away

In “normal” times, global experiences are a regular part of the Montclair State experience. Research happens in the Galapagos Islands, Madagascar and the Antarctic. International study trips mix business with culture and produce award-winning journalism. Multiple programs prepare students for careers here and abroad.

A number of Montclair State undergraduates who planned to study abroad this spring are making plans to study away in the United States instead. The University continues to monitor the safety of National Student Exchange programs, domestic exchanges with institutions within the United States, and plans to provide additional guidance over the next several weeks.

And despite the international travel pause, applications are being submitted for future grant opportunities around the world, including the prestigious Fulbright program, which plans to award grants for fall 2021.

Montclair State has been fostering a community of Fulbright Scholars among faculty, alumni and students, and a group of international Fulbright Scholars who arrived before the pandemic are continuing their coursework at Montclair State.

The group includes Ghowash Ishad, a Fulbright Scholar from Pakistan and doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program. “This university has given me equal respect, care, love, support and guidance,” she says.

Last spring, the coronavirus upended the experiences of three Montclair State Fulbright Scholars, including Praino. She had won the award after receiving a Master of Arts in Teaching and certification for Teacher of Students with Disabilities. Arriving at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, she was tapped to lead seminars on effective inclusive practices, work that included a radio program on disability issues and plans for a documentary film.

“I had so many projects up and running where I was stationed, and I was in the process of obtaining ethical clearance for a documentary,” she says. “That’s part of the reason why I was so devastated [when ordered home] because I had so much freedom to implement my ideas to create advocacy and awareness for differently abled students.”

Still, she is embracing that shortened experience as she plans for the future, applying to PhD programs to conduct research on how to better assimilate differently abled individuals into schools and society, mainly in countries in crisis and countries experiencing unrest and economic hardships, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“I am planning on researching how disability intersects with poverty, violence and conflict, so when the world opens again, I can contribute to combatting disability rights issues in regions where these issues are generally neglected,” she says.

“Creating a Montclair State culture for internationalization is part of the strategic plan of the University,” Schwarzer says. “It is our job to translate these theoretical ideas into the development of new curricula, the redesign of our research and teaching agendas, as well as promoting global social justice perspectives.”

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren

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