Syracuse University

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SU Europe brings together visiting, resident students in two new programs

April 03, 2012

Carol Kim Masiclat
(315) 443-8382

Recently, SU Abroad students from Florence, London, Madrid and Strasbourg participated in two new collaborations in England and Italy. Both were designed to promote cross-cultural teamwork and enhanced learning outcomes.

The first project brought together students from the London Multidisciplinary Design Studio (SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts) with British design students at York St. John University (YSJU) for a four-day charrette. The intensive design collaborative focused on improving the tourist experience in York, England, a city that hosts 7 million tourists a year but has a population of only 200,000. Guy Hanson, head of strategic development for the York City Council, presented the challenges associated with the city’s small, complex footprint that include balancing the needs of residents with those of tourists, attracting younger visitors, and ways to simultaneously showcase the city’s historic and contemporary features. Students then worked in mixed groups to propose design solutions that identified new tourist groups and improved flows of information and navigation.

“It was great to work and earn credit, but the best part was getting to interact with UK students,” says Olivia Perry, an SU London industrial design student. “They were so friendly and really eager to show us York.”

SU London design faculty Francesco Nerici collaborated with YSJU’s Head of School of Art and Design James Fathers to develop this focused meet-and-collaborate opportunity. They were joined in York by SU design professor and senior COLAB Faculty Fellow Don Carr, who represented SU’s and VPA’s ongoing institutional interest in, and commitment to the new partnership.

Based in Florence, the second project brought together students from the SU Strasbourg, Florence, London and Madrid centers for a new online course in technology-facilitated global collaboration. The course was developed to meet the needs of iSchool majors studying abroad, and linked students from four European centers via technology and a weekend residency. Using international education as an example, course designer and professor Carsten Oesterlund helped students explore challenges and opportunities faced by technology professionals working across time zones and cultures. In addition to learning about the technology, the students developed leadership and teamwork skills needed to facilitate effective global collaboration.

The inaugural effort was enriched by a variety of faculty. Visiting lecturer SU Professor Francesco Bolici of the Università degli Studi di Cassino discussed the culture of couch surfing, an informal style of housing exchange in which visitors stay with hosts for short periods of time. His focus was to demonstrate how cultural variations remain significant even when technology shrinks distances and compresses time.

Florence Director Sasha Perugini and SU Europe Director Peter Leuner provided additional case studies involving international education.

“The management of an international center is complex,” says Leuner. ”We used examples ranging from parental involvement, group discussion and crisis management to illustrate some ways that communication is both mediated and complicated by technology.”

The structure of the class also underscored the challenges and benefits of technological collaboration by enabling students and faculty across locations to collaborate for several weeks online, then complementing the online portion with face-to-face interaction during the two-day residency component.

“The residency was a great opportunity to put faces to names and to become friends with our online classmates,” says Madison Goldman, an Oberlin University pre-med student studying at SU Florence. “It helped put many of the class topics into perspective and made the difference between being a part of another class and being a part of something bigger (and better).”

Students also explored the dynamic interplay of technology, culture, and management through a visit to the General Electric Oil & Gas global headquarters in Florence. There, student teams presented analyses on how each would tackle global recruitment or an HR project for the company in South America, Singapore and Europe. The students received feedback from GE HR managers in Florence and via live link from London.

Leuner hopes that both the London- and Florence-based learning encounters are just the beginning of such collaborations.

“These projects enable students from across different centers and universities to learn from each other and the real-world environments in which they were placed,” he says. “By linking SU Abroad students not only across SU Abroad centers, but with local students and local and visiting faculty, we’re pushing the boundaries of international education to new levels of pedagogical and institutional engagement.”

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