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Semester in Spain Challenges, Inspires Undergrad

Posted on December 12, 2014 2:18 pm by dlleeder

student Megan Hornbeck twoStudying abroad allows students to apply their learning to the real world, as they gain first-hand experience with other cultures, languages, traditions and people. It also teaches students a lot about themselves as they navigate new, unfamiliar environments.  This Q&A highlights how Humanities and Social Sciences students have incorporated study abroad into their undergraduate career.

Megan Hornbeck is a senior double majoring in Communication Media and Spanish Languages and Literatures. Her study abroad in Spain enhanced her cultural awareness, challenged her to navigate a new environment, and shaped her future goals.

Who sparked your interest in study abroad?

My high school Spanish teacher is the first person who mentioned studying abroad. I was very interested in the cultural aspects of her lectures, so one day she pulled me aside and told me about the opportunity. Ever since then, I made it my goal to study abroad in college.

Briefly describe your experience.

 I studied abroad in Santander, Spain, during Spring 2013. I took 15 credit hours of Spanish classes at La Universidad de Cantabria, helping me to complete my minor. I lived with a host family that included a mom, grandma and two brothers. Living with a host family is beneficial because you experience authentic traditions and culture that you wouldn't get if you lived in your own apartment. While I was abroad, I worked with an elementary school and taught English classes every other week. It was a great way for me to be an ambassador for America, practice Spanish, and connect with children to become passionate about learning English.

How do you feel the study abroad related to your major, career goals, and personal interests?  

I am a communication major, so interacting with people is something I love. It was a challenge to live in a small community where nobody spoke English, but it highlighted the importance of nonverbal communication. For the first couple of weeks, hand motions and facial expressions were my specialty! When I returned from Spain, I added Spanish as a double major. This was not my intention before I went abroad, so you can say that studying abroad made a huge impact on my future. During Fall 2013, I continued my ambassadorial role in America and started working with NC State's Intensive English Program. I taught an American Culture class once a week to international students in the program. Now I am a part-time employee and intern with IEP, learning a lot about ESL programs and international relations. Studying abroad also made me catch the travel bug: as of October, I am a Fulbright Scholar applicant to teach English in Ecuador for 10 months. I won't hear back from the program until April, but for now, I think it is safe to say that studying abroad was the stepping stone to this decision.

What are some things you learned?

I learned that I am capable of being a lot more independent than I realized. I traveled almost every weekend and made my own arrangements in foreign places. I also learned that the Spanish lifestyle might seem lazy to an average American who works from 9-5, but in my opinion, the quality of life is a lot better in Spain. Time spent with family and friends became a priority and it was very hard to return to the American lifestyle. While abroad, I met people from so many different countries and it shocked me when they knew two or three languages and had studied abroad multiple times already by the age of 22. I feel that is an aspect of American education that could be improved. If students learned one more language or visited one more country, they would be a lot more culturally aware and open minded.

What were some of the challenges?

The language barrier between my host family and me was pretty difficult to overcome, especially when I didn't feel well and needed medicine. But looking back on the experience, my greatest challenge was the culture shock upon my return to the United States. Everyone was in a rush, and I really missed the friends and family that I met abroad.

What were some of the rewards?

I use my experience abroad in job interviews and applications. It is very rewarding to realize that the time I spent abroad is appreciated in the work world. I am more understanding of people from different cultures, and my patience with people has improved dramatically. I also now have very close friends in many different countries, and it is great to think that I have somewhere to live and someone to travel with when I go abroad again.

Preparing the Next Generation of Mental Health Workers

Posted on December 10, 2014 12:23 pm by Lauren Kirkpatrick

MSW student Meloday Futtrell is working at WakeMed with social work supervisor Clifford Bell.

MSW student Meloday Futtrell is working at WakeMed with social work supervisor Clifford Bell.

NC State University’s Department of Social Work is launching a new workforce program to recruit and train graduate students for careers in mental health and substance abuse treatment. The program is supported by a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) and aims to prepare graduates to work in the mental health field with under-served young people, ages 16 to 25.

“The United States has a shortage of people who can provide mental health and addiction treatment services to young adults – particularly in rural areas,” says Dr. Jodi Hall, assistant professor and director of field education in the Department of Social Work at NC State and principal investigator of the research. “We’re creating the Behavioral Health Scholars Education and Training (BHSET) initiative to address that need, with a focus on integrating mental health care and physical health care.”

Dr. Karen Bullock, co-investigator of the research, says the initiative has already established partnerships with the NC State Counseling Center, Holly Hill Hospital, Duke University Medical Center, WakeMed Hospital and a host of other healthcare providers to serve as practicum sites to provide high-impact learning experiences for NC State students.

The BHSET initiative will be open to students in the last year of their MSW program and will provide intensive, innovative education, training and internships for students interested in mental health or addiction treatment careers working with young people.

“This will be intense community engagement – above and beyond the already demanding workload expected of MSW students,” Hall says. Students who are selected and participate in the BHSET program will be eligible for a $10,000 stipend.

Hall and Bullock, who is head of NC State’s Department of Social Work, designed the innovative BHSET curriculum when applying for the grant. Eighteen agencies have accepted students for internships over the next three years. These partner agencies will also be part of a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the BHSET curriculum. Hall and Bullock plan to expand the program to 25 agencies next year, and to enroll 35 in the final year of the grant that ends in September 2017.

“As agencies around the state see the benefits of high-impact learning through internships with the BHSET program, we’re optimistic that we will continue these interdisciplinary collaborations to sustain this mental health initiative long after the federal grant funding has expired,” Hall says.

By Matt Shipman, NC State News Services

Student Success Internships: Summer on The Hill

Posted on November 26, 2014 7:12 am by dlleeder

Congressional intern Graham Dean.

Congressional intern Graham Dean.

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences encourages students to participate in internships that help them explore career options and acquire real-world experiences. In this Q & A, a student shares how his summer 2014 internship in the U.S. House of Representatives helped him gain new skills, knowledge and insights. His internship was made possible in part through the Latta Washington Internship Scholarship, created by alum Sandra Latta (Political Science '84).

Graham Dean is a senior majoring in political science. He is a member of the University Honors Program and is the 2014-15 NC State student government chief of staff.

How did you locate this internship?

Last school year I interned under the NC State director of federal relations, Matt Peterson. During my time there, I had a lot of interaction with congressional staffers. When I decided I wanted to intern for Congress, I emailed one of the staffers about an application, and she put me in contact with their intern coordinator.

Describe the internship.

I worked full-time for Congressman Howard Coble, of North Carolina's 6th congressional district. My work ranged from answering the phone to giving tours to constituents. I spent most of my workday in the Rayburn House Office building, but I also spent a lot of time in judiciary committee hearings.

How do you feel the internship relates to your major, career goals and personal interests?

This internship was something I had always wanted to do. As a senior in political science, I have taken quite a few classes about the federal legislative branch, but I have always been curious about how business is actually conducted on the Hill. I have plans to attend law school next fall, which made working for the chair of the subcommittee on courts, commercial, and administrative law all the more interesting. Being in D.C. also gave me the chance to network with interns from around the country with similar professional goals.

What did you learn?

My internship gave me a lot of appreciation for the work that congressional staffers do behind the scenes. The amount of information coming into a congressional office every day is staggering, and it is up to these staffers to prioritize and manage everything to ensure productivity.

What were some of the challenges?

Many of my challenges related to the logistics of this internship. The Capitol building complex is massive, and learning to move effectively between the buildings definitely takes time. While in D.C. I also took a class at the Duke Law Summer Institute, and balancing the case readings with full workdays was challenging.

What were some of the rewards?

Interning on the Hill was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I had the chance to work hands-on with some really brilliant staff members, many of whom took time out of their day to teach me about their work. I also had the chance to hear a lecture from Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, who came to speak to my Duke law class. I would suggest that all political science majors give interning on Capitol Hill a shot. I would like to thank the Latta Washington Internship Scholarship and University Honors Program for helping finance my time there.

Seeking Global Strategic Partners: Travels to Uganda

Posted on November 24, 2014 7:22 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Left to right: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maamma Watali founder, Derek Aday, Minster of Education, Second Deputy of the Bugandan Kingdom, Jeff Braden, Minister of Lands and Agriculture (back), Minister of Tourism (front), James Kiwanuka-Tondo. Photo taken in front of the Bugandan Parliment building.

Left to right: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maamma Watali founder, Derek Aday, Minster of Education, Second Deputy of the Bugandan Kingdom, Jeff Braden, Minister of Lands and Agriculture (back), Minister of Tourism (front), James Kiwanuka-Tondo. Photo taken in front of the Bugandan Parliment building.

This blog post was written by NC State Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jeff Braden:

NC State seeks out strategic partners around the globe. That quest took me to Uganda recently, where I led a university delegation to explore the potential for partnerships between Makarere University, the Kingdom of Buganda, The Aids Support Organization (TASO), and the Maamma Watali Project. My goal was to assess the resources, capabilities and needs of our potential partners in order to advise the Office of International Affairs on whether or how to proceed in developing partnerships and, if appropriate, to document them through Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs).

NC State does not lack for global partners. Our university has hundreds of MOUs with various entities around the globe. However, one of our provost’s goals is to develop strategic partnerships—meaning fewer relationships that serve a small number of faculty and students, and instead have much deeper and richer partnerships that serve a wide range of disciplines and interests on our campus. While fewer, richer partnerships make sense for administrative reasons, they are also more likely to foster the key strategic goal of developing interdisciplinary scholarship and research to address the world’s challenges. In other words, rather than have paper and wood scientists going to one set of universities in Africa, while crop scientists and textile colleagues go to other institutions, and humanities and social sciences students and faculty heading for yet other institutions –each pursuing their own disciplinary goals – we should instead bring a range of disciplines together to address grand challenges in partnership. Doing so will reduce administrative complexity while increasing interdisciplinary collaboration.

Of course, the trick is to find institutions and settings that provide rich options for a wide range of campus disciplines and constituencies. Hence, the reason for my visit. From a distance, the matchup with Makarere University looked promising. MU has just about all of the disciplines we do at NC State, and most are organized in similar administrative units: for example, they also have colleges of humanities and social sciences, veterinary medicine, and natural resources. MU is also the oldest and most prestigious university in Uganda, and arguably in East Africa, a region that is important for geopolitical, agricultural, and other reasons. Furthermore, NC State claims a few MU alumni among its faculty; one alumnus, James Kiwanuka-Tondo, associate professor of communication, was part of our delegation, and was instrumental in initiating the contact. The other member of our delegation was Derek Aday, professor of applied ecology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

We met with MU’s vice chancellor (in universities following the British system, the vice chancellor functions as our chancellor does at NC State) as well as individual professors. Our goal was to look for places where their faculty, student and infrastructure capacity either matched or complemented our own. Over two days of meetings, we asked about and searched for common interests and capacity. As NC State’s emissary, I inquired about companion animal vs. large animal vet practices in Uganda, whether they had nuclear engineering and data analytics, and what they did in fashion and architecture. In nearly all cases, they were interested, although they often had more interest than capacity.

I found great potential for non-university partnerships as well. The Maamma Watali (literally, “in the absence of mothers”) project, founded by a woman whose mother and two sisters died in the ravages of war and HIV/AIDS that swept Uganda’s Loweero district from the late 1970s through the mid-2000s, showed possibilities for combining disciplines as diverse as HIV/AIDS communication (James Kiwanuka-Tondo’s speciality), oral history, water resource management, micro-lending and sustainable organic farming areas. The needs of the area are great, and the promise of a comprehensive site where we could coordinate study abroad, service learning, research and scholarship was truly exciting.

Which brings me to the highlight of the trip—a meeting with ministers of foreign affairs, agriculture, tourism, land, education and the second deputy for Buganda at the Bugandan Parliament. The primary point of discussion was to secure a gift of land from the kingdom to build facilities to house visiting scholars and students, provide preventive and primary health care, a civic meeting area, and a library to house books we have already given—and perhaps more importantly, the HIV/AIDS communication materials and the oral histories of the elders of the region we hope to create. All agreed that a grant of 15-20 acres for initial investment and development was the best place to start, and could be followed by additional grants for land appropriate to specific projects (e.g., aqua culture would require different land configuration than a community chicken coop).

Although I was buoyed by the content of the discussion, what struck me most was that the meeting opened and closed with all in attendance (at least, those who knew the words in Bugandan!) singing together. It was quite striking and moving to see the group do so without a whiff of self-consciousness. I could only imagine what would happen if we sang “Where the Winds of Dixie Softly Blow” at the beginning and end of each of our meetings.

Our delegation concluded the trip with visits to such historic and cultural sites as the source of the Nile River and the colonial capitol of Entebbe. As we shared dinner before heading home, one of the grand challenges impacting Uganda made itself evident. Two years earlier, Derek and James had eaten at the same restaurant on the beach of Lake Victoria—but the water level of the lake had completely covered where they had been seated. The increased rise in the level of Lake Victoria threatens communities, habitat and more. The case for collaboration could not have been more compelling.

Film Brings Cherokee Language to Life

Posted on November 21, 2014 3:50 pm by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Filmmakers Danica Cullinan, Walt Wolfram and Neal Hutcheson with the Public Service Award they won at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival for First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee.

Filmmakers Danica Cullinan, Walt Wolfram and Neal Hutcheson with the Public Service Award they won at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival for First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee.

The Cherokee language has been spoken for three millennia in the Appalachian highlands of western North Carolina, but if current trends aren’t reversed, Cherokee will soon go extinct. Of the 13,000 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, only about 250 people are native Cherokee speakers who grew up speaking Cherokee as their first language in the home — and that number decreases every year as more of them pass away.

The Cherokee tribe is taking steps to preserve their language, but it’s an uphill battle. NC State’s North Carolina Language and Life Project has produced a film documenting the tribe’s efforts and sounding a call to save the language. First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee will premiere at the North Carolina Museum of History on Friday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. First Language won the award for Best Public Service Film at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival. The film is available for purchase online.

The seed of First Language was planted when Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English at NC State, and his chief collaborators on the film, video producers Danica Cullinan and Neal Hutcheson, went to western North Carolina a couple of years ago to do research on the English spoken by Cherokee speakers.

Read the full story at