Marymount Education Students Gain Global Experience in South Africa

A Marymount University education class traveled to South Africa for 10 intense days this summer, visiting local schools, working with peers from the University of San Diego and attending a conference in Cape Town. At the conference, they presented research papers and posters. They even found time to fit in a safari at a national park and game preserve.

“These students had the opportunity to conduct and share critical areas of research on a global scale with teachers, policymakers and more at the DISES (Division of Special Education Services) Conference,” said Dr. Clara Hauth, a Marymount assistant professor of education. “This opportunity to work internationally was a huge benefit as they created relationships with educators from around the world in the quest for support for all learners.”

The immersive educational experience was part of a course Dr. Hauth taught, entitled Education in the Global Classroom. Dr. Lisa Turissini, associate professor and chair of the Department of Education, helped lead the trip that included seven graduate students and three undergraduates and was coordinated by Marymount’s popular Center for Global Education.

For several months prior to arriving, the students collaborated with peers from the University of San Diego and Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa on a Changemaker project, which was a collaboration to develop more multicultural educators, which they completed in Johannesburg.

“While speaking with the local educators, we found more similarities than differences when discussing our students and how we help them,” said Kasey Machalec of Springfield, a Marymount University graduate student and a ninth grade biology teacher at Bryant Alternative Learning Center in Alexandria.

Machalec has stayed in touch with her Changemaker group, where members continue to discuss topics and share ideas.

Pat Lodi, a senior from South Riding, Virginia, said her favorite part of the trip was meeting people.

“I made sure to sit in the front seat to talk with the drivers,” Lodi said. “Their backgrounds were always so interesting. I also loved meeting the teachers in Johannesburg. They were all government teachers and faced real challenges.”

Those challenges include low pay, overcrowded classrooms and a lack of technology. The trip, she said, has inspired her to work to make the world a better place.

This was the first graduate school class for Maria Virginia Paredes, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Marymount in May.

“I loved getting a very personal tour of Soweto by bike because it allowed us to really connect with the community and learn more about how everything there works,” said Parades, a native of Panama City, Panama. “It allowed us to see a side of South Africa that maybe not a lot of tourists get to see.”

The conference drew 350 attendees.

“This was a one-of-a-kind experience because I was able to see so many different perspectives and learn from professionals such as educational researchers from Israel, innovators from Dubai, teachers from the Caribbean and many others from whom I learned so much,” Parades said. “It allowed me to better understand how different cultures and populations shape their own educational system. As an educator, this skill will allow me to break the barrier between my students and me, as well as with coworkers.”

Through the Center for Global Education, Parades has participated with Dr. Hauth in four other courses taught abroad, one in Costa Rica, and three others in Panama (which Parades helped organize). She has also been to Italy as part of a fine arts class and England for a literature class.

“These experiences will serve me in my future career,” Parades said. “They also made me realize how connected we all are to each other. I now have a better understanding of why it is important to have an open mind and to understand different perspectives because this is the only way we will be able to share our beautiful planet.”

Next year Hauth will again take students to the DISES conference, which will be in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Photo Captions
Photo 1: Students taking a break outside in Cape Town at the DISES conference 2018.

Photo 2: Marymount students, Collin Bazemore, Allie Ojjeh, Patricia Lodi, Danielle Miles and Madelynne Decou present their research poster at the DISES international conference in Cape Town.Proud faculty includes Drs. Hauth & Turissini.

Photo 3: Marymount Student Conference Presenters Sammer Eghtesadi, James Lightweis, Michaela Reardon, Maria Paredes and Kasey Machalec.

Photo 4: Celebrating a great trip together at the top of Table Mountain are (front to back) James Lightweis, Danielle Miles, Patricia Lodi, Madelynne Decou, Michaela Reardon, Allie Ojjeh, Collin Bazemore, Kasey Machalec, Maria Paredes & Sammer Eghtesadi.