Family, Work and Doctoral Studies

[vc_row][vc_column][mpc_button preset=”preset_2″ url=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.laspau.harvard.edu%2Fscholarblog%2F|||” font_preset=”default” font_size=”12″ font_transform=”none” font_align=”inherit” title=”SCHOLAR AMBASSADOR BLOG” background_color=”#ffffff” border_css=”border-width:2px;border-color:#165a5a;border-style:solid;” padding_divider=”true” padding_css=”padding-top:6px;padding-right:10px;padding-bottom:6px;padding-left:10px;” margin_divider=”true” margin_css=”margin-top:25px;” hover_font_color=”#ffffff” hover_background_color=”#165a5a” mpc_tooltip__preset=”mpc_preset_28″ mpc_tooltip__position=”right” mpc_tooltip__show_effect=”slide” mpc_tooltip__font_preset=”mpc_preset_22″ mpc_tooltip__font_color=”#f7f7f7″ mpc_tooltip__font_size=”12″ mpc_tooltip__font_line_height=”1.7″ mpc_tooltip__font_transform=”capitalize” mpc_tooltip__font_align=”center” mpc_tooltip__text=”UmVhZCUyME1vcmUlMjBTdG9yaWVz” mpc_tooltip__background_type=”gradient” mpc_tooltip__background_gradient=”#a01e24||#e62824||0;100||118||linear” mpc_tooltip__border_css=”border-width:1px;border-color:#a01e24;border-style:solid;” mpc_tooltip__padding_divider=”true” mpc_tooltip__padding_css=”padding-top:3px;padding-right:20px;padding-bottom:3px;padding-left:20px;”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

By: Dr. Abrilene Cynthia Johnston-Scott – Organization of American States (OAS) fellow from Jamaica, pursued Doctor of Education degree from Nova Southeastern University.

The Scholarship

When the recession hit the global economy in 2008, I was completing my first semester in a doctoral program at Nova Southeastern University. Because of financial constraints, I had to take a leave of absence from the program. Despite this, I remained committed to finishing my doctorate and fortunately, I was introduced to the Organization of American States scholarship program by a former colleague at the College where I worked in Jamaica as a teacher educator. I immediately made contact with the Ministry of Finance in my home country and got further details on the scholarship. I applied and attended an intense interview in 2009 lasting about 40 minutes.

After seven months on leave of absence from the university, I received a call from Washington, D.C. informing that my scholarship application was approved for the prestigious Organization of American States (OAS) program to complete my doctoral degree. This was like a dream come true! I was able to get back on board and complete my doctoral work in two additional years with the unprecedented support from my esteemed professors, remarkable scholarship advisors at Laspau, my ardent academic advisor at Nova Southeastern University and my family.

Work, Family and Online Study

Pursuing full time job, full time studies and full time family is not a piece of cake! In relentless pursuit of my doctoral degree, I demonstrated grit, determination, very high level of self- discipline and met all deadlines. This was fundamentally how I was able to succeed. I had to carry a full teaching load as a lecturer throughout the duration of my studies due to the fact that there was no leave of absence possible since my doctoral program was conducted online.

The demands of the children were great. I managed with strong support from my spouse, family and a child care provider. The commitment of these persons held my  family together until I completed my program. To them, I am still indebted.

Throughout my program, I shared in information-rich online learning communities with international students and professors from diverse backgrounds. This international space was ideal for the development of connections, tolerance and respect for divergent views that were useful for my cognitive and affective development. I remembered that the discussions and debates were intriguing.

With my husband at the graduation ceremony

The Challenges

One of greatest challenge studying online was slow internet connectivity in my home country at the time. My computer froze many times during online chat sessions, frequent power outages, and slow connections were like lingering nightmares. I had to listen to the recorded classes to catch up. Through it all I developed persistence and learned to tackle the challenges at hand.

I remembered breastfeeding my daughter while browsing through the online libraries to find scholarly articles to complete assignments. The most challenging aspects however, were the times when my children were ill with very high fever and having deadlines to meet. I had many sleepless nights and missed opportunities to see my daughter go through her early developmental milestones, like taking her first steps and saying her first words.

Transformational Experience

Currently, I lecture in Education, Philosophy and Research Methods at Bethlehem Moravian College in Jamaica. One of the greatest impacts of my education was the role I played in conceptualising and nurturing a research culture at this College. This role involved my contributions in reviewing the College vision statement to include a focus on research, the training of faculty to adequately supervise students’ action research papers, taking students to multiple research conferences, hosting research conference at my College and allowing students to present their papers at this conference. I created and used a Research Blog to further stimulate discussions on issues/topics in educational research which was also novel and effective in building this culture.

This experience impacted my career interest and teacher education in Jamaica as my dissertation focused on improving students’ collegiate experience by creating greater opportunities for co-curricular involvement. My dissertation paper was presented in multiple research conferences in Jamaica.

The doctoral program has bolstered my cognitive development including my reasoning abilities, critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence, information literacy and collaborative skills and spirit. I benefitted immensely from my involvement in extensive research work which has helped to shape my worldview of education and my approaches to students’ learning, their collegiate experience and development.  I became the youngest faculty member with a doctoral degree.

In all of these aspects, the experience of earning a Doctor of Education degree was extremely transformational for me and has allowed me to give back to the field of Education in Jamaica.

With my husband and children

 

[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.

[/mk_mini_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”3392″ img_size=”70 x 70″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][mk_padding_divider size=”10″][vc_single_image image=”3393″ img_size=”350 x 100″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Using the Field of Interior Design to Redesign Physical Schools and Learning Environments

[vc_row][vc_column][mpc_button preset=”preset_2″ url=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.laspau.harvard.edu%2Fscholarblog%2F|||” font_preset=”default” font_size=”12″ font_transform=”none” font_align=”inherit” title=”SCHOLAR AMBASSADOR BLOG” background_color=”#ffffff” border_css=”border-width:2px;border-color:#165a5a;border-style:solid;” padding_divider=”true” padding_css=”padding-top:6px;padding-right:10px;padding-bottom:6px;padding-left:10px;” margin_divider=”true” margin_css=”margin-top:25px;” hover_font_color=”#ffffff” hover_background_color=”#165a5a” mpc_tooltip__preset=”mpc_preset_28″ mpc_tooltip__position=”right” mpc_tooltip__show_effect=”slide” mpc_tooltip__font_preset=”mpc_preset_22″ mpc_tooltip__font_color=”#f7f7f7″ mpc_tooltip__font_size=”12″ mpc_tooltip__font_line_height=”1.7″ mpc_tooltip__font_transform=”capitalize” mpc_tooltip__font_align=”center” mpc_tooltip__text=”UmVhZCUyME1vcmUlMjBTdG9yaWVz” mpc_tooltip__background_type=”gradient” mpc_tooltip__background_gradient=”#a01e24||#e62824||0;100||118||linear” mpc_tooltip__border_css=”border-width:1px;border-color:#a01e24;border-style:solid;” mpc_tooltip__padding_divider=”true” mpc_tooltip__padding_css=”padding-top:3px;padding-right:20px;padding-bottom:3px;padding-left:20px;”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

By: Néstor Isaac Ramos Marchena, a Fulbright MESCyT scholar from the Dominican Republic is currently pursuing Master’s degree in Interior Architecture at The University of Texas, Austin.

I studied architecture in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. Similar to most of my classmates, I aspired to create huge buildings that provoked awe and admiration. While the architect ego was there since the first semester, ironically, the definition of architecture that I always loved since the beginning is the one that involves the term service. I was somehow more attracted to projects with social connotations.

After my first year in architecture school, I started to feel incomplete. I thought I needed to change my major. There was something missing. My professors convinced me that architecture was MY thing and pushed me to stay for at least two more semesters. I did, and looking back today, I can see what worked: The following semester, the studio worked on a project with a heavy focus on the interiors; the design of a museum that celebrated Dominican-aboriginal culture.

I was instantly attracted. I realized that the interiors is what I was more interested in about architecture. After all, it was the closest space to human scale, and what I love most about design and architecture is precisely the possibility to influence people, making them feel good in a space, improving the way they live and work, therefore, improving their lives.

Presenting Final Project at The University of Texas, School of Architecture

I started then to envision design as one of the most powerful tools for human development. Approaching the end of my undergraduate studies, I was more and more certain that a path in interior design was going to be my next step.

In those days, a new education model had been applied in the Dominican Republic, which added four more hours of class per day, totaling eight hours of class. This was greatly criticized due to the lack of infrastructure and facilities that the schools needed in order for the program to be a success. Moreover, the visual characteristics of these spaces created a generic atmosphere, using colors and materials that not only ignored the local character and heritage, but also yielded an aesthetic similar to prisons.

This motivated me to shape my undergraduate thesis project into research on the impact that good design has on students in their educational environment. My team and I thought it was logical to think that if the students were going to spend more time in the school, then the spaces should reflect and respond positively to this extended stay.

We were excited to substantiate that a well-designed environment can have an enormous effect on the learning process of a student, increasing the chances of academic excellence and social relationships. As a result, we proposed a series of school prototypes, according to the population and weather of the region in which they would be installed, resulting in a positive social response to actual problems.

Convinced that through architectural design I could influence and positively benefit the lives of people in my country, and especially childhood and education, I applied for an International Fulbright Scholarship, that I received months later. Thanks to the scholarship, I went to the United States to pursue a Master’s of Interior Design at The University of Texas at Austin. I understood that by getting a deeper knowledge of interior design, through a Graduate Degree, I was going to be able to design better spaces for people.

As a way of continuing my line of interest and as an extension of my previous study, I decided to shape my MDS (Final Master’s Project) into a community center for rural areas of Dominican Republic, that provides educational programs to all the residents in the community. A prototype that can be replicated and adapted to different settlements, allowing variations of layout and materials and that involves the community as part of the building process to create a sense of ownership, pride and appropriation.

It has been thrilling to be working on this project, that means so much to me on a personal level. Weeks away from graduation, my mind is already bubbling with excitement as it thinks of the many ways I can go back to my country and try to contribute with all the knowledge I have gained here in the United States. And this is one of the purposes of the Fulbright Scholarship: to give back. And it is my intention to give back by doing and teaching.

Doing, through professional practice. I envision myself working to advocate for better designed schools, and better learning environments. It would be my biggest dream to make an impact in my society through design, to not only achieve the aforementioned qualities in public education, but also to demonstrate that designers are not just “decorators”, but activists, agents of change and social development.

And also, by teaching. It is obvious that design and education are both my passions, and there is nothing I would rather be experiencing than the feeling that I am contributing to make our built environment a better place.

Holding the Dominican Republic Flag at the UT Austin graduation

[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.

[/mk_mini_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”3392″ img_size=”70 x 70″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][mk_padding_divider size=”10″][vc_single_image image=”3393″ img_size=”350 x 100″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

A new collaboration between Laspau and the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Peru

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Laspau has begun a new program with the CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, April 3, 2017- National University of San Marcos (Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, UNMSM in Spanish), a top-ranking institution in Peru, which is among the oldest in the Americas. The aim of the program is to build core competencies as creators, leaders, problem-solvers, effective communicators and collaborators with a global awareness. Additionally, the program exposed the participants to numerous teaching assistant models with the intention of these participants to become the first undergraduate teaching assistants at San Marcos.

Over the next few months, more than 100 students, professors and institutional leaders will participate in the program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The program includes seminars, workshops, and interactive sessions with faculty, educators, lecturers from local universities such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Boston University, among others. Participants will be exposed to best practices in teaching and learning and work on interdisciplinary teams to create solutions for local challenges in Peru. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][mk_image src=”http://www.laspau.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/unnamed-10.jpg” image_size=”medium” frame_style=”single_line”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Bringing Technology-Enhanced Active Learning to Costa Rica

Peter Dourmashkin

Peter Dourmashkin of MIT presents on higher education and society at SINAES in Costa Rica.

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA, November 1, 2016 – Peter Dourmashkin, an MIT physicist and mathematician, founder of the Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) Lab and frequently collaborator with Laspau’s University Innovation programs recently visited Costa Rica. With Laspau’s help, Professor Dourmashkin was a featured speaker in the 8th annual meeting of the National System for Accreditation in Higher Education in Costa Rica (SINAES) to discuss higher education in the context of society. 

[su_list icon=”icon: link” icon_color=”#24B7B0″]

[/su_list]

New IGIP Certification for Engineering Educators is Open for Registration

Certification offers engineering educators an internationally recognized qualification in teaching methodologies for their field.

MAYAGÜEZ, PUERTO RICO, September 27, 2016 – Laspau, in collaboration with InnovaHiEd, the University of Puerto Rico and several regional and international research centers, is launching a new international certification for engineering educators in Spanish. The certification program offers an internationally recognized qualification for teaching and learning methodologies in engineering, science, math, physics and related disciplines. Participants completing the course will be able to add IGIP.Ing.Paed to their title.

The inaugural program, offered for the first time in Spanish, will launch on January 23rd, 2017 at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez Campus. The program will run over a period of six months and will include online and in-person components. More information on curriculum and registration can be found at: http://igip.education/ 

Organization of American States Scholar Desmond Campbell is Advancing Education in Jamaica

Desmond Campbell is a former OAS scholar, and a graduate of Hamline University where he earned a master’s degree in environmental studies. Currently, Campbell works as a professor at Moneague College in Moneague, Jamaica, and has implemented many educational projects there.

campbell2
National Science Fair in Jamaica; Moneague College placed second in tertiary category

Desmond Campbell, a former Organization of American Studies (OAS) scholar, has always been the type of person to seek out leadership roles, never settling to idle in the background. While pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in Natural Science and Environmental Educations from Hamline University, Campbell played an active role in his campus community.

“I was the first secretary of the newly formed Hamline International Graduate Student Association (HIGSA) and pulled off success after seventeen years of failed attempts by other students,” Campbell shares.

In addition, Campbell participated as the only student in a Faculty Diversity Reading Circle to assist in the electing the first female president in Hamline University’s history, an accomplishment he is very proud of.

Since graduating, Campbell continues to make an impact in his home country of Jamaica in whatever way he can. Currently, Campbell serves as a professor of environmental science at Moneague College. There, he initiated two different projects: the Environmental Studies Program, a program that, after its establishment, allowed students be certified at both the Associate of Sciences and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, and heads the Food Security Project.

Despite the tremendous progress Campbell has created at Moneague, the ambitious leader strove to accomplish more beyond the college’s walls.
“Annually I lead explorative, educational, professional development workshops,” Campbell explains. The workshops take teachers from Jamaica to join others in the United States for an annual Rivers Institute interactive workshop designed to increase teachers’ knowledge in water related content, STEM investigational skills, and literacy skills.

Desmond Campbell on campus at Hamline University
Desmond Campbell on campus at Hamline University

To further his mission of enhancing the quality of education, Campbell has implemented a teachers exchange program and a student exchange program between institutions in the United States, Europe, and Jamaica.

All of this work has led to Campbell’s recognition as Moneague’s 2011 Outstanding Faculty Award, and the 2011 National Award for “Champion Environmental Teacher” by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). He is currently the North central Chairman of the Association of Science Teachers of Jamaica (ASTJ); co-chairs the St Ann Hi-Tech farmers Group and now serve Moneague College as Principal Lecturer and Head of Department.
As for the future, Campbell has no plans of slowing down. When asked what hopes to accomplish next in his professional and academic career, Campbell explains he plans to implement more programs especially those with international focus and to pursue post graduate studies applicable to national and international development and sustainability.

If his past perseverance is any indication, he is capable of achieving whatever goals he sets for himself.

Fulbrighter Everardo Rivera is making university more accessible in El Salvador

Jose Everardo Rivera Bonilla (Ever, as called by family & friends) is a Fulbright scholar with a degree in Political Science – International Relations from New York University (NYU). Today Rivera Bonilla is Provost of Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios (ESEN) in his home country of El Salvador. ESEN comes from a remarkable and decisive effort of the private sector that is engaged with improving the quality of higher education in El Salvador. This effort has been led since the beginning by Ricardo Poma, a Salvadoran visionary leading regional businessman. Therefore, Ever is contributing at ESEN towards providing a higher education to students regardless of income, religious beliefs, or political views.

Since he was ten years old, Fulbright Scholar Jose Everardo Rivera Bonilla was determined to find a way to serve his country of El Salvador. He contemplated the military (because of his grandpa) and he contemplated medicine (because of an uncle & a cousin). His priest, sensing Rivera Bonilla’s potential, even suggested the possibility of President. Eventually, he decided to study business and economics at Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios (ESEN) with the hope of gaining valuable leadership skills.

Completing his studies at ESEN only intensified Rivera Bonilla’s hunger for learning. After graduation, he spent six months in Toronto to practice his English skills, and he later received a scholarship to study Applied Macroeconomics and Public Policy in Chile (at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile).

With two Masters’ degrees, it was no surprise when the Academic Director of ESEN (Daniel Wisecarver) called and offered Rivera Bonilla a full time position. At just twenty-six years old, he became a full time professor at El Salvador’s best business school. While teaching at ESEN, Rivera Bonilla decided to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship. After being granted the scholarship, Laspau helped match him to the Political Science – International Relations Program at New York University.

“Indeed, I feel a huge responsibility because of the opportunity that I was given. Thus, I want to give back and share my experiences with younger generations.”

“It was simply amazing and unforgettable what I felt on that day,” Rivera Bonilla explains when he thinks back to the morning he received news of his acceptance to the program. “I will always be, definitely, thankful to Fulbright and Laspau… I was given the chance to develop an international understanding through meeting people, lots of them, friends now, with whom I am still in touch.”

Rivera Bonilla makes a point to visit New York City at least once a year to say hello to these friends and to walk through the streets of a city so different from those of San Salvador.

“Indeed, I feel a huge responsibility because of the opportunity that I was given. Thus, I want to give back and share my experiences with younger generations.”

Today Rivera Bonilla holds the position of Provost at ESEN where he is fulfilling his childhood goal of serving his country by providing an education to young and ambitious Salvadorans regardless of income, religious beliefs, or political views. Rivera Bonilla and ESEN’s team have pushed to increase internship opportunities for his students and has strengthened the university’s job placement program. ESEN can boast that one hundred percent of its alumni receive job offers within six months of graduation.

As for the future? Always striving for further knowledge, Rivera Bonilla has the interest of learning and contributing in government and politics someday. Who knows? Maybe Rivera Bonilla will serve as El Salvador’s next president, as predicted by his catholic priest. But for now, Rivera Bonilla is very happy and thankful with the opportunity of learning from an amazing team and being in touch with younger generations of Salvadorans through his dynamic and challenging work at his beloved alma mater.

First Phase of Panama STEM Education Project Comes to a Successful Close

PANAMA CITY, PANAMA, October 14, 2015- Nearly 100 professors from public and private universities have successfully completed the Panama STEM Education project. The project, which kicked off in March of 2016, aims to strengthen STEM teaching and learning in Panama through the use of student-centered learning and the creation of communities of practice in each of the 10 participating universities.

Professors benefitted from both online and in-person class sessions over the past 7 months and were required to evaluate changes in their own classrooms as a result of their learning. The program also encouraged the development of communities of practice within each institution around teaching and learning in order to foster lasting change.

The project was initiated jointly by the Association of Rectors of Panama, the Association of Private Universities of Panama and Laspau. Professor Diomedes Concepción Muñoz, Vice Rector of Research and Graduate Studies of Columbus University, led the effort along with Dr. Stanley Muschett, Rector of Universidad Interamericana de Panamá. Participating universities included Universidad de Panamá, Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí, Columbus University, Quality Leadership University, Universidad Interamericana de Panamá, Universidad Latina de Panamá, Universidad del Istmo, Universidad Santa María la Antigua, Universidad Americana and Universidad Metropolitana de Educación, Ciencia y Tecnología.

With the first phase of the project coming to a successful close, all participating institutions hope to expand the program in 2017 in order to serve more professors and ultimately, improve the learning of larger numbers of students in STEM fields in Panama.