Marymount Hosts Global Perspectives in Education Conference

During the new academic year, Loudon County Public Schools social worker Mary Leidy has been sharing what she learned at a summer conference at Marymount University with her colleagues, particularly the importance of getting teachers to know the whole student and providing culturally responsive lesson plans.

“I gained a lot at the two-day event and it was refreshing to be able to immediately use it professionally,” Leidy said.

The inaugural Global Perspectives in Education Conference was held June 9-10 at Marymount. Made possible through a grant from the Longview Foundation, 110 people from five continents attended, including researchers, government officials, educators and students, said Dr. Clara Hauth, a Marymount assistant professor of education. Hauth and Dr. Lisa Turissini, chair of MU’s Education Department, organized the conference.

The conference featured 40 presentations and 16 posters, including a poster from Leidy that focused on China and the fact that many children with disabilities have mental health issues to consider in the classroom. Leidy offered alternative methods to engage students of all learning abilities. She enjoyed the interactive nature of the conference and the opportunity to talk with Marymount graduate students from China about her work.  

She also appreciated that conference session speakers offered practical information.

“You left each presentation knowing you would have another resource in your pocket,” she said.

After working in social services and for nonprofits for more than 25 years, Leidy took post-graduate classes in education at Marymount to prepare her for a current job. She said Marymount was diverse, future-oriented and inclusive in terms of openness to learning from others around the world.

“The conference helped bring the world closer to those who may not have access to that perspective,” Hauth said. “The important thing to remember is that it’s not about how we do things here in the United States but that children get the education they need in their culture or society.”

Hauth was quick to point out that while she and Turissini led the conference, their entire department worked to make it happen and that it truly exceeded their expectations.

Maria Virginia Parades, a Marymount senior majoring in special education, agreed.

“Every single talk and every single subject had a global perspective, whether it was about bringing a native language back to a tribe in Nicaragua or the culture barriers that students face,” said Parades, who is from Panama. “It certainly provided me with new insights.”

She said that when it comes to special education, the wheel has already been invented.

“But when you look around the world, everyone has a different way to use or not use the wheel,” she added.

Parades, Dr. Jennifer Gray, an associate professor of education at MU, and students Audrey Cate and Sulianys Hernandez gave a presentation on a partnership with a Panamanian school Parades helped initiate. After student teaching this spring, Parades plans to earn her master’s degree in special education at Marymount. Her goal is to return to Panama and open her own school, then a series of schools. Eventually, she wants to be her country’s minister of education.

Ashley Lee, who earned a master’s degree in health education and promotion in August, co-presented a session about the experience of providing health services and education in Ecuador. Sheenjoyed the experience of speaking with other students and instructors who have taught internationally.

“Although we traveled to different regions of the world I was able to connect with each presenter,” Lee said. “Education is such a collaborative field so it is vital to share best practices with one another that extend past the classroom and even the country we’re working in.”

She’s currently applying to be an English as a second language teacher.

“I didn’t realize I had a passion to teach English to international students until after returning from Ecuador and participating in this conference,” she said.

Fakhira Najib, chief executive of POWER99 Foundation in Islamabad, Pakistan, enjoyed the opportunity to talk about her initiative, which works to promote equal opportunities for women and children.

“The conference also provided a platform for networking and partnerships,” she said.

For example, she learned about a conference in Pakistan from a woman she met in Arlington, and she has since submitted a paper that’s been accepted for an oral presentation there.

Photo captions
Photo 1
Mary Leidy, left, talks with a conference participant about her poster on the mental health issues experienced by children with disabilities..

Photo 2
Marymount University Provost Dr. William Ehmann welcomes participants to the inaugural Global Perspectives in Education Conference, which was made possible through a grant from the Longview Foundation.

Photo 3
Ghadir Alomani stands in front of her poster on the effects of positive behavior support in special education in Kuwait.

Photo 4
Recent Marymount graduate Kelsey Christian discusses her poster on the challenges of educating students with special education needs in Uganda.

Photo 5
The conference featured 40 presentations and 16 posters, with 110 people from five continents attending, including researchers, government officials, educators and students.