Better Together: Meeting International Education Goals in Partnership

By Regina Higgins, Ph.D.  

NC educator visits a class in Senegal. The
international study visit was the result of
a partnership between UNC NRCs and
World View.

“Welcome to Carolina.  Welcome to the World,” is the greeting we offer to our incoming students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The FedEx Global Education Center, home to our area studies, study abroad, and international students and scholars centers, stands as a visible sign of UNC’s global mission, a commitment that doesn’t stop where the campus ends.  With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, UNC-Chapel Hill reaches beyond our own students and faculty on campus, to support international education throughout North Carolina.
The seven National Resource Centers (NRCs) at UNC-Chapel Hill represent nearly every world region:
·         African Studies Center
·         Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and  Muslim Civilizations
·         Center for Global Initiatives
·         Center for European Studies
·         Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies
·         Center for International Business and Research
·         Institute for the Study of the Americas
Supported by matching funds from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program and UNC-Chapel Hill, each of our centers reaches out to educators, businesses, thought leaders, and the general public to support and to deepen understanding of world regions and global issues.  Whenever collaboration will strengthen our outreach, the NRCs at UNC-Chapel Hill join together, and we frequently team with campus and community partners to increase diffusion of resources. 
A long-standing and fruitful partnership we share is with World View, a UNC-Chapel Hill program to support international education in K-12 schools and community colleges.  Since 1998, UNC-Chapel Hill’s NRCs have worked with World View to provide professional development and outreach for K-14 educators across North Carolina.  Currently World View works in formal partnership with over 100 systems, schools, and community and four-year colleges to foster commitment to international education.  All NRCs contribute our own expertise, speakers, and resources, according to region or theme, for professional development conferences and outreach. 
“Never has global education been more important,” says World View director Charlé LaMonica, summing up our shared goals.  As partners, we work together “to develop professional learning opportunities for global education, integrate a global perspective into every classroom, and respond to rapid cultural and demographic changes.”  
This unique collaboration has touched more than 20,000 teachers from 1,500 schools and community colleges around the state.  Since 2010, UNC’s Title VI centers have reached 6,770 teachers through World View’s programs, including professional development conferences and workshops, curriculum development grants, and study visits abroad.  These programs bring vital skills and resources into classrooms across the state.  More than 1,880 educators have been supported in just the past year, 116 from schools in the Tier 1 Economic Zone—counties designated by the North Carolina Department of Commerce as the forty most economically distressed counties in the state.  
Over the years, participation in the World View programs supported by the NRCs has encouraged ideas for new international initiatives in Tier 1 counties.  At Bladen Lakes Primary, a school in Bladen County with Title 1 funding to meet the needs of students from low income families, administration and staff determined to make international education a priority, developing plans to introduce world language instruction for the first time.  Educators in Camden County sought out and secured funding and training from LEARN NC at the UNC School of Education for designing virtual field trips, and arranged for second graders to get to know their peers at a school in New Zealand through Skype in preparation for a possible sister school project.
Through our partnership with World View, we remain engaged with schools and colleges year-round.  In the past year, NRC faculty and outreach directors presented sessions and resources at a back-to-school teacher workshop in a rural North Carolina county, two fall conferences: Global Population and Migration, and Global Issues and Solutions, a workshop on international law for community college educators, and two spring conferences, one focused on understanding contemporary issues in Latin America and improving instruction of Latino students in the state, the other on the expansion of the European Union.  All programs carefully balance content on international issues with strategies for teaching, so that participants can incorporate the learning readily in their own classrooms.        
This summer, the NRCs will support a week-long conference for education leaders.  NRCs will also contribute to an annual study visit for educators.  Recent study trips have included Senegal, Russia, India, Brazil, China, and Turkey.  This year a group of 25 will travel to the Balkans.  For many participants, this is their first experience of international travel and immersion in another culture. Educators prepare with a two-day training on the world region, and participate in lectures, school visits, and exploration of and historical and cultural attractions while in the country.  When possible, home-stays are arranged.  Upon return, all participants are supported in sharing their learning with students and colleagues.
Through these many programs and opportunities, UNC-Chapel Hill’s NRCs provide thousands of educators with materials and opportunities for connections from all world regions for truly global learning.  These programs direct affect classrooms, and the impact is monitored and measured by World View staff.  In the past two years, of 3,000 participants surveyed, 634 responding teachers reported creating 469 new lesson plans integrating global topics, enhancing 544 current teaching or initiatives, and sharing information with colleagues about international education 618 times, based on content of presentations.
We also join in funding and supporting community college faculty who are enriching courses with international content.  World View’s curriculum grants program connects community college educators with specific NRCs, who support the most promising grant proposals.  Successful community college grantees are awarded $750, and complete research visits to work with faculty, outreach staff, and area studies librarians to create modules to infuse global content, context, and connections into courses they teach.  Internationalized courses appear on World View’s web site, available to faculty at all North Carolina community colleges. Curriculum grants made possible the creation of the first Middle East history course at a North Carolina community college, and have enhanced sociology, music, economics, communications, and health sciences courses with international content.  Since its inception in 2007, this program has exposed over 6,000 students to international issues, extending the reach of the UNC NRCs across the state.
A curriculum grant combined with professional development can create even greater benefits for international education. This spring, Crystal Edmonds, English and Humanities instructor at Robeson Community College, received a World View curriculum grant funded by the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations to add a module on the Muslim veil to her communications course.  Edmonds participated in the ReOrienting the Veil conference, presented by the Center, with support from its Duke University partner and other UNC Title VI centers.  At the conference, Edmonds deepened her understanding of the veil through presentations by faculty, personal encounters with Muslim women who choose to veil, and an interview with photographer Todd Drake, whose collaborative self-portraits of Muslim women were featured in a special session.  After the conference, Edmonds conferred with UNC professor of Asian Studies Sahar Amer, whose research on the veil was an inspiration for the conference. Edmond’s experience has enriched her plans for the course, and will open a new perspective for her students this fall.
“World View is fortunate to collaborate with the National Resource Centers to achieve the goals of global education for the students of North Carolina,” LaMonica concludes.  We, too, are fortunate in our partnership, and all UNC NRCs look forward to many more years of working and growing together with World View for success in international education.
Regina Higgins is the Outreach Director for the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, a partner in the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.

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