This summer, William & Mary’s School of Education established its first official partnership with a university in Colombia with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts of the Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga (UNAB). The partnership is intended to facilitate wider exchange and collaboration between the two universities.
“Colombia exhibits one of the most vibrant economies in South America, lies at the cultural heart of the revolution that cast off Spanish colonialism from the continent, and provides a home to numerous indigenous populations of the Amazonian and other regions of South America,” said Gladys Krause, assistant professor of math education at the William & Mary School of Education. “Yet W&M’s School of Education to date has no formal ties allowing faculty and students to experience and delve into this rich culture. This partnership will lay the foundation for an infrastructure through which we can open the door to the vast diversity of South America.”
Krause, a native of Colombia, has been working and networking with faculty from institutions of higher education in Colombia, Chile and Mexico for more than 10 years. When a new provost was named at UNAB connected to this network of collaborators, she saw an opportunity to forge a partnership between the two universities.
“I am very pleased to support the new agreement between the W&M School of Education and the Department of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at UNAB,” said Steve Hanson, Vice Provost for International Affairs and Director of the Reves Center for International Studies at W&M. “This partnership builds on W&M’s long history of scholarly and educational engagement with Latin America, and expands that engagement in exciting new directions.”
The partnership is intended to promote joint research and publications; scholar and researcher exchanges for lectures, talks and sharing of experience; and collaborative participation in conferences, colloquia and symposia. In time, Krause envisions the establishment of exchanges allowing students from W&M to take courses in and experience the cultural setting of UNAB.
“Fittingly, this door will first open on the educational systems of the two countries, letting faculty and students experience the intersection between society, language and policy as they meet in the context of the classroom,” said Krause.
With expertise in bilingual education as well as mathematics education, Krause is eager for the partnership to promote cultural exchange that will benefit teacher education and the K-12 educational systems of the two countries.
For instance, UNAB runs a K-12 school on their campus, and Krause is working to develop a program where W&M students studying to become teachers can engage in a practicum at UNAB teaching a content course in Spanish. In addition to opportunities for learning and practicing Spanish, the partnership will pave the way for faculty and students to collaborate on research projects related to bilingual education and cultural and linguistic diversity.
“Over time, this continued exchange of faculty and researchers will open opportunities for student exchange allowing the next generation of bilingual teachers from W&M to travel and hone their skills in a new and different linguistic and cultural context,” said Krause.
Krause and colleagues are also working to develop a COLL course that will take place during the summer in Washington, D.C. and will align with an existing program at UNAB called Diplomacia Cultural y Relaciones Internacionales. The program brings UNAB students to D.C. to explore international relations and visit cross-cultural organizations, including the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Word Bank.
Krause envisions that in the future, not only will W&M students have more opportunities to take part in projects and programs centered in Colombia, but students from Colombia will be able to participate in campus life at W&M.
“This breaking down of borders will deepen W&M students' understanding of other cultures and, at the same time, the diversity of perspectives already represented within the W&M community will have its own impact on these visiting students,” said Krause.