Concord prof brings international experience to American classroom
Dr. Darla Wise
March 4, 2013 ·
A biology professor at Concord University is helping to internationalize education at the institution. Dr. Darla Wise recently returned from a trip to Greece where she taught at a college in Cyprus.
“I was honored," Dr. Darla Wise said. "I actually got as much from them as they got from me. So it was mutual."
Concord University Professor of Biology Darla Wise got a little emotional when she shared some memories of her experience as a visiting professor at Near East University in Greece.
“Some of them are from countries that are in war right now,” Wise said. "Being in that area near the Middle East and where a lot of turmoil is going on but yet Cyprus is relatively safe.
"It’s kind of on it’s own there in the Mediterranean and so parents who could afford to would send their children to school there so they would be safe.
"We don’t see that type of situation where you can’t go home.”
Wise taught microbiology, virology and bacteriology in Cyprus during the Fall 2012 semester. She was surprised to teach English as a second language and faced the challenge of teaching much larger classes.
“The class of 200 taught me that struggling with 40 is nothing compared to 200,” Wise said as she laughed.
Wise explains her Cyprus students have a serious incentive to excel.
“They compete very hard for any position,” she said, “because a lot of the positions are government based and so there’s only so many.
“So you can do really, really well but you’ve got to be the best of the best in order to get those positions when you’re done.”
The experience was part of a Consortium established by the WV Higher Education Policy Commission in 2006 meant to enhance international education opportunities across the state’s colleges and universities.
Among other international efforts, Concord University created a relationship with Near East University in Greece through collaborative research, faculty exchanges and other opportunities.
“They were very honored and excited that someone would come all the way from the United States to teach them,” she said. “That it was a very unique experience to the point that the vice president of the university overheard students bragging about how they had American instructor.”
Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission, says the small consortium is meant to help West Virginia students compete in a global economy.
“The numbers are increasing again as far as their desire to get a post-secondary education within the United States," Hill explained, "however we are not doing much to attract them to our campuses in West Virginia. Part of this is to do just that."
Hill says the efforts of the Consortium are especially important to West Virginia institutions because of the relative lack of diversity within the state’s population.
“The fact that West Virginia is a fairly homogeneous state. That is we are more than 95 percent caucations we have only 3 percent African Americans. We have no other minority group I believe Hispanics have moved to one percent Asians to one percent."
"So you see that there is not a lot of cultural diversity within our local population and yet we as West Virginians are doing a lot of work and travel and business, particularly in selling equipment and selling coal to other countries, therefor the opportunity to have more of an international experience while students are gaining their education rather than to be forced to do address that after education brings a more rich more educational experience."
Since 2006, Hill says larger schools like Marshal and WVU have made significant progress in expanding their international education.
Hill says it takes a plan or strategy to help foster these relationships, and while smaller schools have smaller budgets, the HEPC can help.
“The commission has authorized the central office to begin to build the capacity here," Hill explained, "that we might help particularly the smaller institutions in the state like Concord. We would work with them to help direct students who may express some interest to help bring them to their campus and to help facilitate the program as a whole that is one of the first things we might be able to do because the resourses are not there on each and every campus in the state.”
Dr. Wise hopes to see this relationship grow.
“I’m hoping that my experience there will get other faculty to take the opportunity to do these experiences and enrich themselves," Wise said. "But also maybe open some doors for some of the students for example collaborative research projects where they would do part of their project at Near East and then get their degree hear at Concord."
"Do some international shadowing for veterinary medicine or some of these other areas so that they’re not just looking at local or even national but they’re looking at these careers from a more global perspective and I think that would be great but you have to do that one person at a time.”
Chancellor Hill says he hopes to see more classes that offer English as a second language at colleges and universities across the state. Despite looming state and federal budget cuts Hill says the efforts will continue.