Guest Column by: Jodie Ferise, PhD
Associate Provost for International Engagement and Shared Governance
I remember as a young adjunct professor 15 years ago, I fretted over every detail of lesson preparation for my students. But I always had lingering doubts. How much of it stuck? Was I really teaching them? When they needed the information, would they recall it?
Then, in the fall of 2010, I was approached with a request that I take a group of students to Ghana, Africa, the following May. There was an opportunity for me to teach a class on social enterprise and mission-driven business, and I jumped at the chance. This was something I had always wanted to do. But in the months and years to come, I became as much student as teacher.
Since May 2011, I have taken groups of students on six different trips to Ghana. Each time, we have studied mission-driven business and the benefits of social enterprise. Each time, we have completed projects to create sustainable education-based opportunities for children. And each time, I have become more and more convinced of the value of experiential learning opportunities that are unmatched in their ability to broaden the perspective of all who are involved.
More than 50 students later, the impact on both sides of the ocean has been immeasurable. Many of them have told me that the work that we have done has been a catalyst for changes they made in their personal and social lives, their way of thinking and even their career paths. Their empathy has grown, and, along with it, their creative ideas for enhancing the lives of others.
Aristotle is quoted as saying “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” This is what our work in Africa has offered: an education of both heart and mind. And that is a win-win proposition.