Faced with a severely altered educational landscape in Spring 2020, Ferris State University’s Office of International Education promoted sustainability and enhance communication competency through its Global Engagement e-Certificate, a free, non-credit co-curricular program.
Megan Hauser-Tran, the OIE education abroad coordinator, said the office spent those weeks following campus closure in the Spring 2020 hosting deliberative dialogues on Zoom to encourage student engagement and discourse. This program provided a framework for the e-Certificate program, an opportunity for Ferris students to connect with peers worldwide when travel abroad wasn’t possible because of the pandemic.
“In May of that year, we offered the first of three four-week sessions, collaborating with Zhengzhou University of Aeronautics and inviting participants through EducationUSA, a network of advising centers supported by the U.S. Department of State, to join Ferris students in virtual deliberative dialogues,” Hauser-Tran said. “We determined that taking up dialogues on the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals would align with our current BEYOND initiative theme of sustainability. Building on the original efforts, we have developed the e-Certificate into a 10-week program, completed seven sessions and are actively supporting our eighth, with a diverse group of participants from two dozen different countries.”
Hauser-Tran said they engaged over 1,000 students through the Global Engagement e-Certificate program, which she considers an important element of the learning process as students pursue their degrees.
“Having a good understanding of the modern professional skill set, an appreciation of global issues, and a focus on sustainability will have great value for those studying in any discipline,” Hauser-Tran said.” We currently have participants from majors such as Linguistics, Nursing, Architecture, Supply Management and other Business programs. These concepts can add meaning to the fields of study they choose to pursue. Our participants have described this as a profound experience, joining with students from other continents, sharing their experiences and coming to understand how they are interconnected and can address global issues, from their unique perspectives.”
The e-Certificate curriculum requires that students prepare for deliberative dialogues by completing background reading and viewing instructional videos, along with data gathering and reporting. Discussion facilitators encourage active student participation in the required conversations. In addition, they must complete a reflection activity at the close of the program, which is submitted for review by program coordinators.
“Students can augment the weekly discussions and learning that results from the program by speaking from their own experiences,” Hauser-Tran said. “We want them to build their international communication competency, to engage in meaningful exchanges with others who may differ from their background and culture.”
The OIE intends to continue offering the Global Engagement e-Certificate program, with six-week sessions available during summer semesters and 10-week programs each semester in the fall and spring.
“This is a very valuable introduction of Ferris for students from other countries,” Hauser-Tran said. “We collaborate with our international admissions specialist, which has resulted in applications to the university from other countries, where participants got their introduction through this certificate program.”