HOUSTON – On June 1-2 in Houston, BestSemester hosted a conference of Council for Christian Colleges & Universities Off-Campus Study Coordinators. Administrators, faculty, and staff tasked with encouraging and preparing students to study abroad attended from 17 CCCU member and affiliate campuses. The conference theme, “Bridge the Gap: Study Abroad and the Christian Student,” focused on important issues in the context of faith-based study abroad and off-campus study.
In the opening keynote address, Cynthia Toms Smedley, director of Educational Immersions at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, challenged conference participants to consider how study abroad opportunities prepare students to embrace otherness in their own neighborhoods as well as across the world.
Two of the BestSemester program directors were on hand to share their on-the-ground perspectives. Kirk McClelland, director of the India Studies Program, presented on the value and struggles associated with international internships. Mark Bartels, director of the Uganda Studies Program, shared how students can learn to engage other cultures from a perspective of friendship rather than servanthood.
Additional sessions discussed an array of topics important to off-campus study coordinators. Brock Schroeder, an associate vice president at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and a member of the CCCU’s Student Academic Programs Commission, addressed assessment methods and standards of off-campus programs. Ken Bussema, CCCU vice president for student programs, provided insight on standards of good practice in crisis management planning.
Jeffrey Miller, assistant director of off-campus programs at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., presented highlights of the findings from the Taylor University Intercultural Inventory which measured student development due to intercultural experiences and how the university can incorporate the findings into further development of their pre-departure and re-entry programming.
Wendy Lippert, director of international programs at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., demonstrated many of the lessons Messiah has learned in developing programming to support students’ transition back to the United States and beyond.
“The sessions were informative and...the whole conference had a nice laid-back feel,” said Brent Reimer, director of semester abroad programs at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind. “The best part of the OCSC conference for me was meeting colleagues from schools across the country and networking.”
Barbara Pointer, off-campus programs coordinator at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., said the conference was a “wonderful way to connect with colleagues, wrestle together with the challenges, gain new ideas and perspectives, and encourage one another on our respective campuses”
She added, “Once again, I was renewed in my passion to help students significantly connect their off-campus experience upon return to their campus and on into their life work.”
About BestSemester: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities offers 12 off-campus study programs, collectively branded BestSemester®, which expand learning opportunities for students from CCCU campuses and are designated as culture-shaping or culture-crossing programs. Culture-shaping BestSemester programs are: American Studies Program (Washington, D.C.); Contemporary Music Center (Nashville); Los Angeles Film Studies Center (Los Angeles); and Washington Journalism Center (Washington, D.C.). Culture-crossing BestSemester programs are: Australia Studies Centre; China Studies Program; India Studies Program; Latin American Studies Program; Middle East Studies Program; Programmes in Oxford; and Uganda Studies Program. Visit www.bestsemester.com for program details.
About CCCU: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 185 intentionally Christ-centered institutions around the world. The 116 member campuses in North America are all fully-accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences. In addition, 69 affiliate campuses from 25 countries are part of the CCCU. The Council’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit www.cccu.org.