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Susan O'Rourke | August 23, 2023

First and foremost, any course can benefit from being globalized. Next, globalizing courses also helps students to be less apprehensive about the world around them. From a faculty perspective, I know for me, having served for more than 17 years teaching ancient history in the NCCCS, it breathed new life into my curriculum. It’s great fun and the students love it.

This month we are excited to feature Rebecca Berry of Wake Tech Community College as our Global Educator Spotlight! Rebecca has taught a number of humanities courses at Wake Tech for the past 16 years, including World Civilizations I and II, Technology and Society, Hispanic Civilizations, and College Transfer Success. Rebecca has been instrumental in expanding global education opportunities at Wake Tech and collaborating with peers to deepen students’ engagement with the world. 

Rebecca has particularly been influential in crafting the Wake Tech study abroad program. She explains that:

Our greatest interest in recent months has been with study abroad. Wake Tech’s study abroad offerings have grown organically over the years. Most notable is the work of Jeff Myers in the Business and Public Services Technologies Division with his annual study abroad opportunity to Salzburg, Austria. This opportunity demonstrated that our students find value in studying abroad, which has, in turn, allowed additional faculty to develop several other study abroad opportunities. Before the pandemic, study abroad trips were launched for Art and Music in the Foreign Languages and Fine Arts department. I was also fortunate to add my World Civilizations II course to the Salzburg opportunity this past summer and I’m adding a 16-week World Civilizations I course that will spend spring break in Rome. In the upcoming academic year, we will have at least five trips, offering credit for six classes across two divisions.  

Rebecca appreciates the collaboration between Wake Tech faculty and members of the administration. She shares that the administration has invested in increasing opportunities for all students to participate in global study programs. She explains:

Because study abroad is a high impact practice that aligns with the goals of our strategic plan, our Executive Vice President, Dr. Nicole Reaves, has included it in her “High Impact Practices” group and is publicizing these opportunities to students in typically underrepresented groups. This has opened new channels of support, including a recent Wake Tech Innovation Fund award. The goal of this project is to build a cross-divisional model for global education at Wake Tech and has allowed us to join UNC World View’s Scholar of Global Distinction program. 

For Rebecca, global perspectives are crucial to her pedagogical practice. She understands that “students who are competent in world history can make better sense of the world around them, are more culturally aware, and are more likely to actively engage in civic activities.” With that in mind, she always “[tries] to convey contemporary relevance and purpose in the World Civilizations courses [she teaches]. For example, “this past summer, [Rebecca] was fortunate to teach World Civilizations II in Salzburg, Austria.” She shared that “This location is perfectly suited to teach this course, because of its deep, historical connections with the French Revolution, World War I, and World War II.” The trip involved cross-cultural studies of historic sites and the ways historic events are memorialized around the world. She explains that:

On the Salzburg study abroad, students were asked to keep journals of their perceptions of historic sites before they visited. Then, they were asked to take notes about what they learned at the site, making notes of how guides or placards contributed to their understanding. When they returned from the trip, they were asked to find journal articles that aligned with or challenged these perceptions and why there may be similarities or differences. I believe this exercise not only taught them about the historic sites, but also about how our perceptions of historic events are influenced by our own culture.

Rebecca encourages instructors curious about global education to engage with UNC World View and become Scholar of Global Distinction campuses! She recalls that seeing UNC World View presentations at a conference encouraged her to “investigate how to use what [she had] learned and how to expand opportunities to a greater diversity of students. [She] saw the need for a model to organize all of the great work that was being conducted at Wake Tech…. [and] noticed that the Scholar of Global Distinction program was the common denominator in many successful programs across the state.”

Rebecca did further research on the impact of the Scholar of Global Distinction program and read the article, “An Exploration of Access to Global Experiences at North Carolina Community Colleges” by Andrews, Whatley, Russell, and LaVenture. There she observed “how closely aligned the goals of the Scholar of Global Distinction program….with our own ‘Reach and Rally’ strategic plan.” With this in mind, Rebecca “[was motivated] to approach the administration at Wake Tech to ask to join the program. It was at this time that [she] wrote for an Innovation Fund award with the goal of creating a cross-divisional model for global education and to join the Scholars of Global Distinction program.”

Rebecca appreciates the “invaluable support” the Scholar of Global Distinction community provides to instructors looking to join the community and noted that both Hazael Andrews provided valuable connections (one of which has provided support to two new study abroad opportunities) and Suzanne LaVenture provided advice for forming a new program.” 

As an educator with 16 years of experience, Rebecca was excited that the Scholar of Global Distinction program helped “[breathe] new life into [her] curriculum.” since “it’s great fun, and the students love it.” The program encourages “faculty with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests” to come “to the table.” 

We value Rebecca’s leadership, ability to bring diverse faculty and administration together, and investment in expanding opportunities for students of all backgrounds to participate in global experiences. We look forward to what’s to come from Wake Tech!