International Year of Ecuador wraps up

Madison Martin

With finals approaching and the spring semester coming to a close, so ends the Office of International Programs’ series, “International Year of Ecuador.” 

The first of its kind, with many more planned to follow, International Year Of… endeavors to provide WKU students and the surrounding community with an opportunity to learn about the chosen country through different class courses and events, helped and facilitated through the expertise of faculty 

“Overall, I think we had a great number of programs,” Kari Paschetto, programming coordinator, said. “We had a fantastic number of visitors come to our campus. We had several faculty members tying it in to their courses which is a big plus for us.”

The International Year Of… program was started when the Office of International Programs saw a need for more opportunities for internationalization.

“What we were realizing was there’s a large number of students who don’t go abroad and who may not have everyday interactions with international students, so what are we doing to internationalize their experience?” Addie Cheney, assistant director for International Programs, said. “That’s where this idea came from. We bring the world to them. There’s no need to leave. They don’t need to travel—they don’t need to go abroad.”

 Chief International Officer Craig Cobane was interested in starting this type of program after seeing models from other schools.

The International Year of Ecuador was largely attributed to the help the late David Coffey, who had some of the strongest connections to the country. The faculty planning committee was made up of seven other members, who helped guide and shape the events and courses that followed throughout this school year. 

“We really rely heavily on a committee of faculty members with said expertise in the target countries,” Cheney said. 

South Africa will be this upcoming academic year’s focus. South Korea, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, are slated for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, respectively.

Some future events include an exhibit running throughout the fall in the Kentucky Building called “Conscience of the Human Spirit: The Life of Nelson Mandela.” Fifty-one quilts will be displayed, whose artists were inspired by the South African politician.

Africa Night, the result of collaboration between the African Student Union and the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences is planned for a night in November. Attendees will have the opportunity to experience the food, music, fashion and dance of South Africa and other African countries.

In an effort to transform the learning experience for students at WKU, one of International Year Of South Africa’s goals is for faculty to extend international perspectives and create curriculum regarding the country, while bringing in outside speakers and creating other events related to the content of the class. 

To help provide for this, the Zuheir Sofia Endowed International Faculty Seminar will occur this summer, which will take a small group of faculty, most without previous experience in the country, to three different South African universities in order to make faculty connections and further their disciplines.

“It’s an intensive interdisciplinary study program that centers around the target country,” Cheney said. “We really we want it to be a springboard for the faculty members’ long term engagement with that country.”

The trip will be led by Mike Stokes, a biology professor specializing in wildlife ecology and part of the planning committee for International Year of South Africa, who has been working and doing extensive research there since 2002, as well as leading student study abroad trips in the summer.

“I found it a country of such contrast,” Stokes said. “That economically, socially, ecologically, almost every way I could imagine, the country has fantastic challenges and opportunities.”

By internationalizing faculty, the hope is that they will remain engaged with the connections they made in the country and lend that to the classroom, enabling them to expose their students to other diverse perspectives. “I’m really happy we have the opportunity to do this,” Stokes said. “For those of us who appreciate internationalization, (WKU) is a good place to do it, and I hope that passion spreads.”