Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summary of Thoughts from a Doctoral Student

Day Three

Over the past few days we have visited all eleven parishes on the island, as well as the Sunbury Plantation. Today we visited the Barbados Community College (BCC) and the University of West Indies (UWI) for the first time. Much like the differences between a community college and university in the States, there were stark contrasts between the two. Differences included the type of programs offered, campus layout and subgroups of students served. After our visit to BCC, we had a wonderful lunch at the Hotel Pom Marine (the rock cakes were simply awesome!). This hotel is where the BCC Hospitality Institute students hone their culinary and hosting skills.

Also for the first time, we made face-to-face contact with our point of contact. It was a good day for learning the lay of the land, meeting colleagues from other institutions and starting to fill in the blanks within the visions of our presentations.

The evening was wrapped up nicely with a traditional Bajan dinner at UWI. We were honored along with their 5th annual First Year Experience programme with 80 students and staff from the UWI Mona (Jamaica) campus. This was especially poignant given the recent political issues in Jamaica with the U.S. We were afforded the rare opportunity to sit down with the native Jamaicans and hear their side of the issue. Our table had students from different backgrounds that had opposing viewpoints on the situation. It was encouraging to see such young students articulating their positions on this matter. We were also treated to a native music and dance show from the UWI – Cave Hill students. It was a great day overall, but we have much work to do in the next two days in order to present. As the saying goes, time to do work!

Day Four

Today was spent immersing ourselves at our respective schools: half of our team at UWI and the other at BCC. I met with the Mr. Sydney Arthur, Registrar (next in line to the Principal and the Deputy Principal) and received information regarding the way orientation and the first year experience is conducted at BCC. After gathering my data, I assembled myself in the campus Library to tweak my presentation and to conduct further research. Many assume I am just lying on the beach, but there is too much to do instead of just the “touristy” things. We want to come here and make a difference and offer our collective knowledge to our Bajan brothers and sisters, as well as represent the university and our country well!

Day Five

Mission accomplished! We presented to our groups today and everything went very well! Although our technology has been spotty at times in our hotels and around the island, we were able to Skype Natasha Ramsey in to give her presentation. Our hosts seemed receptive to the ideas we put forth and we look forward to helping them implement them in whatever capacity they choose going forward.

Overall – a great day by both teams and NOW we can start to relax and enjoy the natural resources available here on the island. That is after a group debriefing after dinner. Keen insights were offered by each participant. For me, this is the culmination of an emotional semester, even year, that ended with a project that put me in unchartered waters. I was out of my comfort zone in regards to the information I presented. I believe that our collective team delivered on its goal of representing the university well. Hopefully this becomes an annual exchange of ideas for the three institutions and something that we can be proud of that helped lay the groundwork.

Day Six

Running on the beach, shopping at local markets, scuba diving in a sunken ship….enough said about my fantastic day. Later that evening, we were the dinner guests of Mr. Arthur’s at Oistins, a local destination that provides dining al fresco with music and dancing. The portions were enough for two and the fish cakes were out of this world (think of a spicy hush puppy with fish meat). After dinner, we were able to do some last minute shopping and generally just taking in the local flavor. It is hard to believe this trip is over except for the flying.

I am grateful that I was able to learn about and immerse myself in a new culture; and that we hopefully were able to present innovative ideas to our Barbadian colleagues. I look forward to the opportunity to build upon our initial collective works and hopefully will return next year and possibly host a contingent from Barbados should they wish to visit Louisville.

James Atkinson, Doctoral Student

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Short Seven Days

It is our last day on the island. I can’t believe the trip is over. We have been preparing for this week since the beginning of January and in seven short days our job is complete. On Thursday we finally did what we came to do…it was presentation day. On the bus ride to the University of the West Indies our group was eerily quiet. Not a word was spoken as we all mentality prepared for the task that lied ahead. Some were looking over notes, others were practicing their speech, and a few like me were just trying really hard not to think about it. In all honesty I had no idea what to expect, even after 2 full days of preparation with our respective professional contacts. All the information we could have needed had been at our disposal and now those who had so graciously given their time was eagerly awaiting the fruits of our labor…that’s a lot of pressure!

When we arrived we found the room full of faculty and staff from across the university, including their Deputy Principle (similar to our Provost) and 2 Deputy Deans. Somehow I was able to set my nerves aside, take a deep breath and begin my presentation. I have never been in front of such a captive audience. I could see their heads nodding in agreement and their pens busy writing down thoughts on their notepads. When it was over I felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride. I felt as though I had completed my first true task as a student affairs professional. Each of us in our group had ideas that another institution (in another country no less) not only wanted but had every intention of utilizing. Our hard work and dedication to this project had paid off.

I think each one of us on this trip is returning to the United States and the University of Louisville with a little piece of Barbados and a new perspective. We all have grown and changed in our own ways over the last 7 days. For me, I am bringing home a raised level of confidence, an increase in patience, and new friendships. I may not have always loved everything about the Bajan way of life (or food) - but it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Toree Parrish, 2nd Year Graduate Student

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All While In Barbados

Today was a GREAT and productive day! I am so happy to have taken advantage of this opportunity. The people here in Barbados have been so welcoming that I almost don’t want to leave. I’ve been so excited about finally having the opportunity to work with the staff at the University of the West Indies and today was the day that it happened.

The staff and administrators here at the University of the West Indies (UWI) are phenomenal! I’ve learned more from them in the last two days than I had imagined that I would. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to talk with 2 remarkable administrators, Ms. Yearwood & Ms. Nurse. If you can’t already tell by my excitement, we had a GREAT working session about student leadership development. My first aha!
moment of this trip came during our conversation when I realized that although we are thousands of miles away we have similar triumphs, challenges and opportunity for growth.

This experience was not only a learning experience involving my professional development but also my personal development. I’ve realized more about myself and my strengths than I could have imagined. Who ever knew that I could get all this accomplished….all while enjoying Barbados!!!

Leondra Gully, M.Ed. (Recent 2010 Graduate)

Barbados Photos - More Uploaded

Photos Uploaded, Wednesday @ 2:00

Day 5: May 26, 2010… “It’s Been a Long Time Coming”

Today has been the day I’ve been waiting for, after months of emails, phone calls, and ambiguity I was able to sit down and have a dialogue with staff members from the University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. And must I say it was an incredible meeting with one of their Resident Assistants, Carson Hamilton. He clarified his role as an RA and what he would like to see out of the position and with Residence Life as a whole. Carson was very candid about the position and I believed in that moment we helped each other understand our “university’s culture” when it comes to Residence Life.

As our conversation continued to grow and develop we were able to create a working organizational structure for the enhancement of the Office of Residence Life. By speaking with him he helped me to comprehend what he thought was essential to the office and the position and other things that needed to be more comprehensive. During our discussion all I could think is how he would make a great Student Affairs professional. He is engaging and really is dedicated to his position and student development. I almost think I should’ve encouraged him to think about this field….hmmm…maybe I will.

Learning the positions and roles they play within Residence Life was interesting. Understanding how similar the positions are just with different titiles became more and more clear over the time that we met. With some input from Dale Lynch, I begin to feel that we were making progress and that at the end of this I would be able to take our suggestions and present them to the group in a positive manner. It’s all about growth, patience, and understanding. I think the ongoing dialogue is just the beginning of this relationship and will continue to grow and develop.

This day has been incredible, as we’re sitting here blogging we’re reminded that we are in another country, beautiful Barbados, in fact…but working. I smile to myself and say this has been wonderful. I really have enjoyed my conversations and have learned a lot. I really could imagine myself consulting with other schools in other countries about their Residence Life programs and other services they offer. I think I’ll ponder on this some more.

Aris L. Hall, M.Ed (Recent 2010 Graduate)

We're Not So Different

We just finished meeting with our respective contacts from UWI. Toree and I discussed Orientation and the First Year Experience Program with Ms. Lynch and Ms. Pollard. We learned a lot about their programs and even discovered that the students from both our campuses face similar challenges when transitioning to college. We even have similar challenges such as staffing and reaching out to the wider campus community. It seems that higher education in Barbados is similar to higher education in the United States even though they operate from the British model of higher education. I’m not sure how to explain it in its entirety, but for the most part students entering into UWI come from the 5th form or 6th form of education. 5th form would be similar to high school and earning a diploma and 6th form would be similar to a junior college and earning an associates degree.

Tomorrow we will give our presentations. So this afternoon we will be working on those and reflecting on the discussion from this morning. The project I will be presenting will be on their First Year Experience Program and the ideas they came up with from our discussion. Their program is similar to a First Year Seminar or a GEN 101 course at UofL except that it is not for-credit. However, it does have elements of the First Year Initiatives Program at UofL in that they do have a Book-In-Common program.

It seems that it’s time to get back to work. Today is a work day afterall.

Carrie Harris, 2nd year Graduate Student

My Purpose Became Clear

Why are we going? That was a question I received many times this last semester from friends and classmates as I was preparing for this trip. Why are we here? That is a question that I have received many times from friends and colleagues we have met since arriving in Barbados. My answer has varied many times, highlighting different aspects of the trip depending on the context of the conversation. Today, my purpose became clear...and it was not what I had expected.

Today I have spent the morning talking with Ms. Lynch and Ms. Pollard with the University of the West Indies. I had envisioned the morning as a question and answer session about their orientation programs. I would be asking the questions and they would be providing the answers. What the session evolved into was a dialogue about not only orientation but student services and student development in general. It was very interesting to listen as they talked about the struggle between academic competency, social engagement, and holistic student development. Even in a country with an educational system far different from that of America, they too are racking their brains on ways to solve the same problems we have. To barrow the words of a colleague here on the island, education is bridge connecting everyone in the global village. The world just hasn't figured out best way to travel yet.

Ms. Lynch, Ms. Pollard, and all the amazing staff of the Student Services Department here wear many hats and juggle multiple balls in the air. Just listening to them recount the areas they are responsible for made my head swim. They have been so generous in giving us their time and candid thoughts. I thought I was coming here to offer my ideas to them, little do they know how much they have helped me. Talking with the ladies here at UWI has really opened my eyes to so many things. I have an excitement and eagerness to travel to other countries and examine their education system, bringing back knowledge that can aid me both professionally and personally.

Toree Parrish, 2nd Year Graduate Student

Blogs Can't Capture the Full Experience

A brief blog entry can't begin to capture the full experience of this ISLP trip! As a group, we have experienced and learned so much!

Yesterday we meet with people at both campuses (Barbados Community College and University of the West Indies-Cave Hill) as well as toured each. It was nice to be welcomed to their institutions and to learn a bit about each one. In addition, these meetings allowed us to better understand the similarities and differences between these institutions and ours. I was also impressed with how well prepared the UofL students were, how much research they had done in advance, and the questions that they posed to administrators.

Our UWI hosts invited us to a dinner and cultural performance last night with 80 students from the Mona campus in Jamaica who are visiting as part of their first-year experience. It was a lovely end to a great day! We enjoyed talking with these outstanding new students, saw a great dance performance, and got to sample several yummy local foods. Each of these experiences helped us to better understand the educational system and culture of Barbados.

Today our group is divided between the BCC and UWI campuses, with students engaged in meetings to learn more about their particular areas of focus. The information gathered will shape their presentations tomorrow. In observing the group at UWI, I have been impressed with how open and candid the exchange of ideas was. Part of what has made this experience so special is that although we arrived as strangers, we were welcomed as friends and colleagues—thus, open dialogue about accomplishments and challenges at each school was easy. Many ideas have already been exchanged and several are likely to be followed up on.

Beyond the academic experience, we are having great weather, eating great good, and loving our time in Barbados! It is difficult to believe that our time here is half over – assuming that we don't decide to stay!

Dr. Joy Hart, Professor, Communication & ISLP Faculty Co-Coordinator

Barbados Photos - More Uploaded

More Barbados Photos Uploaded

Day 2 of our Barbadian Expedition

We’ve been Chillin’ like a Louisvillian and Breezing it like a Bajan. Bajan is the slang term for Barbadian. The climate has been much like Louisville in a typical August with the humidity. Our schedule has been full and tight and we have experienced much in regards to the Barbadian culture. Our indoctrination began with arriving at the hotel where we were greeted by a local dressed in calypso garb armed with island scented, cool washcloths to refresh us after our flight. This illustrates the importance of hospitality to the Barbadian culture and tourism industry.

See Photos --

Historically, the island of Barbados was mostly white and shifted towards black because of the influx of African slaves. The island came under Anglican rule when it was settled as a British Colony in 1627. In deference to other island nations, the Barbadian slave population became self-sustaining. Sugar cane, tobacco and cotton were the main vehicles for commerce for the enslaved island during those times up until their Emancipation in 1838. Tourism came to be their main industry after receiving freedom from English rule and colonization. Unlike many of their West Indies counterparts, Barbados was exclusively under British rule and did not change hands with France or Spain.

An impoverished nation, Barbados had issues with infant mortality in its early beginnings, but has risen to become a leader among the West Indies nations, especially in regards to education. Their people are considered to be their primary resource today and possess one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Since opportunities are limited on the island, many Barbadians expand themselves to all corners of the globe in order to benefit their families and to act as ambassadors for their nation.

Our group arrived in Barbados with a good base of knowledge and has continuously worked to advance our understanding of their culture and their needs in regards to education. Their situation is that they are caught in the middle of continuing to model the British system in regards to traditional academia, and their appreciation of the North American model where applied learning can be more beneficial to their people now.

Taking every opportunity that I can to immerse myself in the local culture, my good friend and colleague at UofL, Orville Blackmon, graciously provided me the contact information for his longtime friends, Sean and Clifford. Sean and his wife Bonnie, along with their two-year old daughter Naomi, picked up Dr. Alexis Lyras and myself at our hotel and took us out for some Roti and Mauby, local favorites. Mauby is a drink made from tree bark that is quite sweet, but has a bitter aftertaste. We were very appreciative of our hosts taking time out of their Pentecost Monday celebrations to spend time with some foreign strangers that have now become fast friends.

James Atkinson, Doctoral Student

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Barbados Photos

Here is a link to the Barbados photos.
Barbados Photos

I NeverThought I Would Have This Opportunity

I am very excited to be in Barbados. During undergrad I never had the opportunity to do study abroad and thought that my only chance to visit a foreign country would be on vacation. However, upon enrolling at of UofL I learned of this ISLP opportunity to Barbados. The great thing about this, and the part that I find to be very interesting, is that we get to learn about higher education here, work with professionals on two of the college campuses (University of the West Indies and Barbados Community College), and get to learn about Barbadian culture.

When we first arrived my first thoughts were, “Golly…It’s hot here!!!” Since then I’ve somewhat acclimated to the climate, but have found that I wasn’t as prepared as I thought. Today I came down with a bit of sunburn even though I used sunscreen. However, that small inconvenience is worth the experience of learning about another culture.

Yesterday (Day 2) we went on an island tour. Our day began at the Sunbury Plantation House, which is over 300 years old. During our tour we saw what life would be like on a sugar plantation in the 18th century. The walls of the house are 25 inches which makes it withstand hurricanes. The house was filled with artifacts and furniture from the era and the people who lived there. One of the rooms had wall completely covered with a camera collection! It’s probably my favorite picture so far. The cellar was filled with antique carriages and riding equipment. To sum it up, the house was filled with all types of collections ranging from horse drawn carriages to eye glasses to children’s toys from the era.

On our island tour we drove the entire island! There are 11 parishes in Barbados, which I think are like counties, and each parish has a parish church. As we were on our island tour I began to take note of the terrain and driving. Barbados is actually very hilly and in some places there are hairpin curves and steep inclines. Here they drive on the left hand side of the road and when going around blind turns the driver always honked the horn (it’s more like a little beep beep than a honk), I’m guessing to alert oncoming traffic that we were coming around the corner. Also, they drive on the left hand side of the road and use roundabouts about most main intersections. This is probably some of the British influence. They were a British Colony so you do see those influences.

There’s a lot more that I would like to share, but I will wait until next time. But if you’re feeling like you need to know more about Barbados and what we’ve seen our trip, check out the bearded trees. I saw several of them today and they are amazing! They grow up and then down and are unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Carrie Harris 2nd year graduate student

We have arrived - All is well

Welcome. We have arrived and Barbados is fantastic. Our students are fantastic. The trip seemed effortless to all of them.

This ISLP is the first of what we hope will be a longstanding opportunity for our graduate students. A few years ago we hoped to create an experience for our graduate students in college student personnel/higher education.  The University of Louisville has fast become one of the premiere graduate preparatory programs for those seeking positions in higher education. It seemed fitting, given our efforts to provide meaningful international opportunities, to develop a program for graduate students. Dr. Michael Cuyjet took on that challenge and has worked with his small class all semester to prepare them for this unique experience. Each student worked with others either at Barbados Community College or the University of the West Indie – Cave Hill (Barbados) campus.

The International Service Learning Program (ISLP) is in its 13th year. It first started in Barbados in 1997. Since that time the ISLP has seen continuous service in Belize and has recently expanded to the Philippines and Botswana. The twelve person delegation in Barbados will work with the two tertiary-level institutions and offer insights into how they might evolve their current programs. Naturally we stand to learn a great deal from this well-developed community and educational system.

Over the next week the graduate students (which includes master-level and doctoral-level students) will be exposed to the culture of the island, as well as the educational systems of this region. At the beginning of the semester the students learn about the campuses, projects, and community. This is followed by intensive orientations prior to departure. Once travel begins, the ISLP model is built on a seven-day sequence of events. The program devotes the first two days to acculturation in country through cultural and local activities. The mid-portion of the stay is the actual service activities on the campus or in the community. The end of the week is spent back in cultural and social activities before returning the US. This model has been applied to all four programs across the world.

In the following blogs you will hear from the students and the faculty participating in the program. Please enjoy. Tom Jackson, Team Leader.