Expanding mid-Michigan’s borders

To compensate for a steep anticipated decline in enrollment across the university, SVSU is reaching out to orchestrate relationships with international institutions.

Saginaw Valley State University is coordinating a student and teacher exchange program between three local K-12 school districts and a high school in China.

A delegation of eight students, four teachers and a principal from Friends High School in southwest China arrived Sept. 22.

Friends High School is a high-achieving institute in the Chongqing Province, serving 4,000 students in grades 6 to 12.

The visitors were paired with host families from Western Middle and High School within the Bay City Public Schools district.

Students attended classes and extracurricular activities alongside their host students; teachers and administrators were paired with a Western Middle or High School faculty member in a similar discipline. They were then able to compare pedagogies and learn from one another.

As schools in China tend to focus on rote learning, the visitors have been able to see the value in the innovative and creative spirit that local American schools try to foster.

After sampling everything the Great Lakes Bay Region has to offer, including local industries, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the Dow Gardens, the Bay City State Recreation Area, SVSU and other regional K-12 classrooms, the delegation departed Oct. 4.

On Oct. 18, a return visit is planned.

Three teachers and two administrators from Bay City Western Middle and High School along with eight Western High School students; four elementary school teachers from the Frankenmuth School District and two teachers from Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District’s Career Center will visit the Nan’an District for two weeks.

The idea for this collaborative exchange program came out of a visit to China by the Gerstacker Fellowship Program in 2012.

The Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation allocates funds for a select group of teachers and administrators throughout the state to participate in a leadership development program. It then gives them an opportunity to visit a country with high-achieving students, such as Finland, Singapore or South Korea, and talk to administrators and teachers to determine why their students perform so well.

Robert Maurovich and Carolyn Wierda serve as the co-directors of the Gerstacker Fellowship.

“The endowments provided by the Gerstacker Foundation allow us to administer the Fellowship … and develop a new mode of leadership,” Maurovich said. “The idea (for this exchange program) came out by being in China for the Gerstacker Fellowship, but is not part of it.”

SVSU’s role in this exchange program is as a convener.

“While this exchange problem doesn’t necessarily involve SVSU, it connects us to the community,” Maurovich said. “As a public university, we have a responsibility to serve the community in a larger sense. This allows us to use our expertise in planning and logistics to create the opportunity (for the exchange) to happen.”

A similar exchange is planned for the schools and 2015, and the possibility for including more school districts in the arrangement in the future is real.

“This exchange is meant to be a transformative experience for all parties involved,” he said. “It gives them a better feel for the educational system in a different prism.”

Maurovich is confident that the internationalization allowed by the cultural exchange raises understanding and makes school districts aware of their place in the world.

“This is really meant to acquaint the students, teachers and administrators with a different culture,” he said. “This lets them know that we really have a lot more in the common that we would have thought.”

SVSU also began a partnership with Saginaw Township Community Schools and the Rani Channahmma international Residential School for Girls in Kittur, India on Friday, Sept. 12.

Out of this partnership will come various faculty and student exchange programs. The three educational institutions will share teaching and learning approaches considered best practices, work on joint research projects and provide opportunities for students and faculty to travel abroad and experience different practices and cultures.

SVSU and Rani Channamma have had a similar arrangement with Carollton Public schools for several years.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014 and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed.