This past summer, Assistant Professor of Education Cheryl Hunter and Assistant Professor of Spanish Renee Gutiérrez began a collaborative research project between the foreign language and education departments. Professors Hunter and Gutiérrez organized a pilot research study that sent three students abroad in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
Hunter spent one month overseeing and participating with two education students in a language immersion program and collected qualitative data on the impact of language and cultural immersion for teacher perceptions of language diversity. The third student was placed into an internship with an aid program for street children in the Dominican Republic.
Gutiérrez also spent two weeks visiting local schools and communities in Peru. She is working on establishing the groundwork for future collaborations for Hiram Education and Spanish students with a variety of educational institutions abroad.
Alyssa Sedlak ’11, one of the education student participants, has chosen to build on her Professional International Interdisciplinary Engagement, or PIIE experience, for her senior capstone and research the internationalization forces on college campuses. She collaborated with Hunter and Gutiérrez and presented the preliminary findings of the summer pilot study on a panel at the Comparative International Education Society Conference in Ypsilanti, MI in October.
As a result of the support from students for interdisciplinary study at Hiram College, Hunter and Gutiérrez offered a team-taught course, “Spanish for Teachers.” Twelve students enrolled in the course, which teaches them some basic Spanish, and helps them build a portfolio of literacy strategies and techniques applicable to using Spanish in the classroom and working with English language learners.
Hunter and Gutiérrez plan to build upon these collaborations in the future. Interdisciplinarity, an enriching component in the liberal arts has a longstanding and fruitful academic history at Hiram. Future PIIE program elements will expand foreign language experiences into the professions, preparing teachers, nurses, medical students and entrepreneurs to address the needs of their future clients, especially those who are culturally or linguistically different from themselves.