Costa Rican Faculty Receive Training in Innovative Teaching Methodologies

SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA, February 19-23 2018-  Over 150 professors from Costa Rica participated this week in the STEM-Costa Rica Consortium, an intensive training program sponsored by the National Accreditation System for Higher Education (SINAES) in collaboration with Laspau.

The participants were professors from 17 public and private universities. The program included international experts from institutions in the United States and Chile, including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Universidad de Chile. The program covered innovative methodologies to improve teaching processes, focusing on active learning, flipped classroom, design thinking, learning assessment and course design.

STEM-CR is an English acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The program has been providing training for faculty from public and private institutions in Costa Rica since October 2017.  The STEM consortium model is also being successfully implemented and having a positive effect in the higher education systems of Brazil and Panama.

To participate in the program, professors undergo a competitive selection process led by the authorities of each participating institution. The selection criteria include a commitment to teaching and innovating and demonstration of leadership skills. The participants are also selected because they are committed to developing a project to improve a specific teaching practice that they are currently implementing in their classrooms.

To learn more information on the STEM-CR program, please read about Natalia Murillo-Quirós, a Professor of Physics who uses Peer Instruction to strengthen physics teaching.

Photos of the 2018 STEM-CR program are now available at University Innovation – Costa.

For more information on University Innovation programs like the STHEM Consortium, please contact our Program Manager for Academic Innovation, Colleen Silva-Hayden.

Programa STEM-Costa Rica

Culminó con éxito el Programa de STEM-Costa Rica implementado por SINAES y Laspau, el cual reunió a 150 profesores de 14 universidades en Costa Rica. 

Looking back at why it took me ten years to apply to Fulbright

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By: Magaly Preciado Reyes – a Fulbright COMEXUS scholar from Mexico and a Master’s degree candidate in International Development and Social Change at Clark University.

I was once in South Korea for ten days on a trip for work, and I missed the Mexican corn tortillas. Years later, I moved to Mexico City, again because of work, and I got used to missing my family and the place that was most familiar to me: the beautiful Tijuana. Situated in the northern border of Mexico (south of California, USA), Tijuana is the place where I was born and raised.

With scholarships, I pursued both high school and undergraduate studies at Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior (CETYS), a university located in Baja California (Mexico). For more than seven years of my academic experience at CETYS, my studies were fully supported. My family and I could not be more grateful as this financial support enabled me to pursue studies that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Naturally, when I realized it was time to continue my academic pursuits the first thing that came to mind was to look for a scholarship.

In front of the Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior (CETYS) stadium in Tijuana, Mexico

I learned about the Fulbright program back when I was studying at CETYS, and I remember thinking about how rewarding it would be to reach a point in my academic and professional life where I felt ready to submit an application, and also how implausible it would be to get awarded such a prestigious scholarship. The years passed while I was advancing in my professional experience and continuing my academic training with courses, diplomas and extracurricular activities. While there was always an immediate and tangible reason for every professional decision I made, somewhere in my head I pondered whether taking the next step would bring me closer to that point where I felt ready to submit a Fulbright application, because this was the long-term goal. I wanted to have international academic experience, increase my multicultural understanding, immerse myself into classrooms that would allow me to reflect on my practice, and have discussions with like-minded people.

Nevertheless, when that moment came and I felt I was academically and professionally ready to apply, I decided not to because of a barrier I hadn’t anticipated: the fear of not getting the scholarship. I was left pondering “What would I do if I am not selected? What would that say about me?” I could not continue my academic studies without financial support, and I had no plan B. So, the years passed, and I avoided applying to Fulbright because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be awarded the scholarship; most importantly, I wanted to avoid the painful exposure to the message that begins, “We regret to inform you…”

Now, just a few months away from graduating with a master’s degree at Clark University, I look back at why it took me all these years to apply to Fulbright and still think of the fortune and privilege, as well as the implausibility, of being granted this scholarship. I am grateful for what I have accomplished in my professional pursuits so far, but also in my personal accomplishments for overcoming my own fears, especially my fear of failure.

First semester at Clark University, Massachusetts, USA

During my first week of arrival in the United States for the Fulbright Gateway Orientation at Northern Illinois University, I had the privilege to meet students from over forty countries. Amidst all the excitement about beginning our studies in different U.S. higher education institutions, it was clear that we all shared stories of persistence and ambition toward becoming a Fulbrighter. In one way or another, regardless of our cultural differences, all of us went through competitive selection process, but also had to overcome personal battles with our own fears.

My message to those who are still undecided about whether to apply to Fulbright or any other scholarship program is that it is worthwhile.

It is worthwhile to go through the long application process; it is worthwhile to overcome your own personal battles. At the end of the day, it was just as feasible for me to receive a decision letter saying, “We regret to inform you…” In fact, the day I understood that such an adverse outcome was valid and acceptable, and that I shouldn’t be afraid or regret trying, was the same day I decided to apply.

Fortunately, I am now at Clark University and missing everything that is familiar to me, just like that time in South Korea when I missed freshly made Mexican corn tortillas!

During the Fulbright Gateway Orientation at Northern Illinois University, Chicago
During the Fulbright Gateway Orientation at Northern Illinois University, Chicago

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

 

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From a cornfield in El Salvador to New York City: How learning English took me overseas

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By: Pedro Alexander Vasquez Jimenez – a Fulbright Faculty Development Program scholar from El Salvador and a Master’s degree candidate in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language/ESL Language Instructor (TESOL) at Binghamton University.

”De lápiz y de papel no se vive.” This is a figurative expression that means “Schooling alone does not provide a way to make a living. If you don’t work, you don’t eat or live.” I grew up in a rural area and was reminded of this phrase over and over again when I was a child. My parents did not believe that education was valuable and didn’t want me to spend time studying as they didn’t see it as a path to earning a living. They often told me that I had to work in the cornfield, that I belonged to this place and to this profession just like other countryside boys in El Salvador. The cornfield where I was brought up is located in the rural area of Morazán, a city considered as one of the poorest areas of the country. Nevertheless, I developed a desire for education, so I persuaded my parents to send me to school in the morning while I promised them to work in the cornfield in the afternoon even if that meant intense days full of work and school.

In high school I became interested in English language and wanted to become an English teacher, but my family could not afford to send me to college. Close to my high school graduation, I applied for a scholarship offered by the Universidad de Oriente UNIVO and got accepted because of my academic performance. To attend the Universidad de Oriente UNIVO was quite exhausting especially because I had to take two buses every day to make it there. Not to mention that I had to get up around 4:00 am to be on time for my 7:00 am classes. Despite of all obstacles I faced in order to complete my bachelor’s degree in English Teaching (TESOL), I still persevered. I remember studying by candlelight every night because we did not have electricity in my house and only carried USD $2.00 dollars on me, which was just enough for the bus fare.

The Global UGRAD experience at Missouri State University (2011-2012)
The Global UGRAD experience at Missouri State University (2011-2012)

 

In 2011, I was awarded with a scholarship to participate in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD), an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State´s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. I attended Missouri State University for one academic year during my undergraduate studies. The experience to fully immerse myself in a completely different academic setting was extraordinary: I had classmates from different cultures, backgrounds, and languages. In September 2015, I was awarded an opportunity by the Government of Austria to participate in an International Civilian Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Training Programme (IPT) at Stadtschlaining, Austria. This was a three-week long program that took place at The Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR). At ASPR, I wanted to focus my studies on Human Rights because I believe that we can teach values and human rights to the youth through education.  In short, I was very excited to get admitted to the program and also to go to Europe. Later in 2016, I graduated cum laude from Universidad de Oriente UNIVO and officially became an English Instructor.

Since then, teaching has become my passion, which I enjoy and love every time I do it. Undoubtedly, I chose the right profession. After I graduated from Universidad de Oriente UNIVO , I was offered a full-time position as the head coordinator of the English Teaching degree program. I taught different levels of English courses, in addition to an honors level course on leadership and competitiveness as a volunteer. This particular course was part of the University honor program for students with a high GPA pursuing a variety of majors. At the same time, I was involved in community service teaching English language to kids of the community.

I believe everything is possible when you are an optimistic person. We find obstacles in the way, but they make us stronger and help us to look for different ways to approach them and achieve our goals. Taking risks as well as trying new things may be challenging for everybody but it is worthy, and I am an example of it. Stepping out of my comfort zone is something that I will never regret. The experience of pursuing academic studies abroad and being introduced to a new culture have been the most amazing journeys in my life. I remember as a child while I was working in the cornfield, I used to look at the sky and see the planes flying over me and I never thought that once in my life I would take one. Now, I am in New York pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in TESOL and what I know is that dreams come true if you dare to believe them; of which always makes me reminisce about one of my favorite quotes, “Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop believing.”

More news about Pedro (in Spanish): http://univonews.com/soy-prueba-de-que-univo-tiene-profesionales-con-valores-competentes/   

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

 

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Life is an opportunity, take it

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By: Gabriela María Fretes Centurión – a BECAL scholar from Paraguay and a PhD fellow in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

“Gabi, why are you going to leave the country? There are also opportunities here”, I remembered these words a few years ago when I was concluding my undergraduate studies. Many of us think that everything ends here, nevertheless here is where a new path begins. In my case, I already knew where I was going to go for my master’s degree even before I began my studies at this particular University. A swimming competition took me to Chile, so when I finished my undergraduate studies I found myself searching for universities where I could pursue graduate studies in nutrition in this country. I discovered the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (Instituto de Nutrición y Tecnología de los Alimentos, INTA) at Universidad de Chile, and in some way, I felt a connection to this place. The Institute only offered graduate programs in this field and because my undergraduate concentration has been in Basic Sciences and Technology, I decided to pursue a second undergraduate studies in Nutrition in my country and then go abroad seeking to specialize.

First day of classes at INTA, Universidad de Chile (March 2011)

Leaving the country is not an easy decision to make, however, the experience is so enriching not only at a professional level, but also at a personal level. Pursuing a master’s degree abroad opened the doors to new cultures, established connections with wonderful people from other countries, and allowed me to share my culture with others. Back in July of 2010 when I started looking for scholarships at a master’s degree level, compared to June of 2017 when I was going through the same process at the Ph.D. level, the situation was completely different. Over the past decade, the opportunities have grown exponentially. After an intense search, I applied to the scholarship offered by the International Cooperation Agency of Chile (Agencia de Cooperación Internacional de Chile, AgCI) through the Secretariat of Technical Planning (Secretaria Técnica de Planificación, STP). Like all scholarships, the paperwork seemed endless, but the goal was clear.

View of Santiago, Chile – photo taken from Cerro Maquehue (2012)

When I arrived with a group of grantees for the visa interview at the Consulate of Chile in Paraguay, I found myself surrounded by people with extensive work experience and vast involvement in their areas, which is why at that moment I felt at a disadvantage. Not only I had just finished my undergraduate studies, I did not have much experience other than being an Assistant Professor at the University for a few months, and I was the youngest applicant from the applicant pool. A month later, I woke up with a phone call with the news that I had been selected along with three other compatriots to begin graduate studies in March 2011. It was the beginning of one of the most enriching experiences of my life and demonstrated to me that we have to try, the most we can get as an answer is a no, but this should not discourage us from continuing to try. The times in Chile were unforgettable. Living in a big city like Santiago, sharing with colleagues from all over Latin America, strengthening friendships, visiting wonderful places for field research in one of the most renowned and prestigious nutrition research institutions in the region were experiences that are already part of my book of life.

Recognition for Outstanding Scholar of Paraguay by the Agency of International Cooperation of Chile (AgCI) (December 2012)

Although my faculty advisors already suggested that I should pursue PhD studies at the end of the master’s program, I made the decision to return to Paraguay to obtain some professional experience and then rethink the idea of ​​doing doctoral studies. Returning to the country was not easy, but there are so many things that are yet to be done in my country that any contribution, no matter how small, can make great changes. I started to coordinate a group of volunteers of Food Revolution Paraguay movement to teach at the University and to launch an enterprise. I had the opportunity to represent Paraguay at several international events and continue to build a network. Then there was an opportunity to serve at the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare, where I worked for more than 2 years. During this time, I decided it was time to leave again and continue with my professional training.

In June 2016, the BECAL Doctoral Scholarship Program (Programa Nacional de Becas de Postgrados en el Exterior Don Carlos Antonio López) announced a scholarship opportunity to pursue PhD studies in the United States. Making the decision to pursue graduate studies abroad is like a marriage commitment; it really is one of those critical decisions in life. Though the English language was a barrier, I still decided to apply for the scholarship. The process was exhausting, in parts frustrating, but finally rewarding.

I was awarded a BECAL scholarship and admitted to the top nutrition programs in the United States: Columbia University, Northeastern University, and Tufts University.

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Moreover, I had the opportunity to refine my language skills in Northampton, Massachusetts before I began my studies this past September. To conclude, I am now at Tufts University and I feel so grateful to have accepted the challenge. I know it will be a new journey, but I will always be raising the flag for Paraguay and continuing to collaborate from afar while the country thrives on its progress.

Follow Gabriela on Twitter @gabifretes

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official site of the program sponsors. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the program sponsors or partner organizations.[/mk_mini_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Launching the Scholar Ambassador Blog

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, February 6, 2018- Laspau is pleased to announce the launch of the Scholar Ambassador Blog, a place where scholars from Laspau-administered programs share stories in their own words of what it is like to study, research, and teach at higher education institutions abroad. These stories demonstrate the scholars’ belief in the transformative power of higher education, as well as their dedication to applying the knowledge and skills they’ve gained abroad for the betterment of their communities and countries. They are also a testament to the vision and commitment of the incredible sponsors (including governments, foundations, corporations, and individuals) that we have had the privilege of working with over the years.

As we embark on this storytelling journey, we hope that the blog will enable you to share in the experience of scholars from diverse backgrounds and regions and understand how they stayed motivated and focused, despite significant challenges. We also hope these stories will open doors to a world of possibilities to those who dream of following the path of higher education and international exchange.

Homepage

The scholar ambassador blog is organized into three sections: About the Blog, the scope of the project; Become A Scholar Ambassador, an invitation component that encourages scholars to become bloggers; and Recent Stories, a component where blog stories are housed.

The blog is edited and moderated by Laspau staff.

Content & Support

To get involved, scholars must be a current or former Laspau-administered grantee, and committed to writing two or more stories within a year. Scholars submit the story through an interest form, and then receive feedback and editing assistance.

Social Media

Each blog story contains integrated social media buttons for Facebook and Twitter to foster content sharing between readers’ social network.

Innovating in Higher Education: Key Experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean 2016-2017

SANTIAGO, CHILE, February 1, 2018- We are delighted to announce the launch of a series of books: Innovating in Higher Education: Key Experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2016-2017.

Laspau and Universidad de Chile have published a series of books on best practices in teaching aimed at promoting quality learning for students in higher education. The three-volume series is available in Spanish and Portuguese at this time.

Organized around three central themes, the combined volumes consist of 52 unique cases and present an array of best practices based on methodologies, classroom settings, curriculum and assessment, technology implementation, professional development, and diversity & inclusion. The cases are based on the experiences of faculty from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay at their institutions.

 

[su_button url=”http://eepurl.com/c9SxTL” target=”blank” style=”flat” background=”#E62824″ size=”5″ center=”yes” radius=”0″ icon=”icon: cloud-download”]Download Now[/su_button]

 

In March, Laspau will announce the call for proposals for submissions to the fourth volume in the series. We welcome proposals from faculty, scholars, administrators who would like to share experiences of innovation in their university teaching that may contribute to the advances of teaching practices in the region.

For more information on University Innovation programs or publications, please contact Colleen Silva-Hayden, Assistant Director of University Innovation