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Minnesota State Mankato expands its global boundaries

New international partnerships

Pushing global boundaries with more international partnerships.

By Tanner Kent, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 7/7/2011]

Dan Swenson wanted to find something interesting in life. He found it in Siberia.

Sherrise Truesdale-Moore found something eye-opening in South Africa.

And Chris Corley broadened his hori­zons in Palestine.

These students and faculty are push­ing the boundaries of Minnesota State Mankato. Through the university's swiftly expanding catalog of international pro­grams, they discovered an education that simply does not exist in southern Minnesota.

“ We want to have opportunities for all of our students and faculty to study abroad,” said Maria- Claudia Tomany, assistant vice president for under­graduate studies and international education.

In 2010, Minnesota State Mankato unveiled a list of Global Solutions, which essentially serves as the institution’s strategic blueprint. Among the solutions was a stipulation that the university expand its international partnerships — including student exchange programs, international internships and faculty- led research programs.

The document calls for a 15 percent annual increase in study abroad students and exchanges, as well as a 10 percent annual increase in enrollment of international students.

But the objective, Tomany said, isn’t to establish relationships that result only in an annual exchange of pleasantries among academics. Rather, she said, the goal is to foster targeted programs that prepare students and faculty for a shrinking world.

Already, Minnesota State Mankato has about 30 of its own international partnerships and access to dozens more. Tomany said the goal is not only to boost the number of institutions with which MSU has partnerships, but expand their depth.

For instance: In recent years, Minnesota State Mankato has had an exchange of business students with the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Finland. But it has learned that Haaga-Helia has a nationally respected degree in the coaching and administration of ice hockey.

Minnesota State Mankato and its Finnish partner are now working on an exchange between sports management programs.

Dan Swenson acted on his lifelong fascination with Russian culture by embarking down the path of becoming an English-language teacher. He found himself teaching a semester of English in the fall of 2010 at North-Eastern State University in Magadan, Russia — a partnership formed five years ago by Elizabeth Sandell, an elementary education instructor in Minnesota State Mankato's College of Education.

Sandell has led a handful of delegations to the Russian university and hosted some in return. An NESU professor visited in 2008 to study early childhood programs. A few MSU, including Swenson, students have gone to study abroad.

Joy Broscoff, a Minnesota State Mankato secondary education major, will leave this summer for Magadan to help teach English at an immersion school for elementary students. While there, she will gain the necessary experience to earn a certificate to teach English as a second language.

For students in Minnesota State Mankato's College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, this spring represented the first opportunity to visit and study in South Africa.

A total of 16 students and two faculty from the social work and corrections departments went to the country as part of a twoweek service-learning project suggested by social work instructor Christine Black-Hughes, who has is teaching at the University of Fort Hare in East London, South Africa.

As part of the project, Black-Hughes’ social work students worked with children in a number of capacities, including one project that included donating more than 100 pairs of socks, shoes and T-shirts from Scheels in Mankato to impoverished children.

Meanwhile, students in the corrections department participated in a comparative criminology course in which students compared South Africa’s criminal justice system to that in the United States.

Sherrise Truesdale-Moore, a corrections instructor, said she created the class to teach students how to see the American corrections system through a different lens.

One of Minnesota State Mankato's newest partnerships is with Birzeit University in Palestine.

The partnership, formally signed last year, represents a continuation of the work that began with Lee Tesdell, a technical writing instructor and Fulbright scholar who visited the institution in 2009.

Earlier this spring, Chris Corley, a history instructor and honors program director, visited several Palestinian institutions in an effort to deepen his understanding of Palestine and to broaden both his own and his institution’s connections to the region.

Those contacts have now opened a variety of possibilities for students and faculty, including the possibility of sharing classes through video conference, exchanging faculty and collaborating on research. (One collaborative study in the works includes civil engineering students comparing the effects of climate on concrete quality.) Tamer Essawi, Birzeit’s dean of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, visited Minnesota State Mankato in June to seek out ways to partner.

For the complete Free Press story, see Thursday's print edition, or go to the e-edition at

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