Vote set to approve SST pilot program

Vote set to approve SST pilot program

The first faculty-wide vote on revised Study-Service Term curriculum will take place on Thursday, Nov. 21, beginning the process of approval for the 2020-21 SST pilot program.

The proposal, which originally included changes to SST core courses, course sequence/length of SST term and cost, was altered to solely address the piloting of two new courses, after faculty and staff addressed their concern.

“The faculty, administrators, everybody is about the big idea,” said Jan Shetler, director of international education. “They’re happy about it, but it’s the logistics of this thing that kind of boggles the mind. How do you have all these different forms and meet everybody’s needs?”

If approved, the vote will put forth two new courses to be piloted alongside existing SST alternative courses in fall 2020. The courses are Cultural Perspectives, focusing on one topic or cultural group, and Community Engaged Learning, a volunteer-focused course accompanied with an action-based research project.

The pilot program is set to last a full school year, with the goal of launching a completely revised SST program at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

“This year gives us some time to gather that kind of information and have more discussions and so that hopefully, by the end, both faculty, students, administrators, everybody’s kind of on board,” Shetler said.

The impending changes to the Goshen College SST program came in response to decreasing student participation over the last few years, an issue presented to the Goshen College community last March during a “Global Education for All: Renewing Our Vision” workshop held on campus.

For the past two years, only 53% of GC students have participated in the SST program — 60% white students, 24% minority students and 21% Latinx students.

The question, “How can we strengthen Goshen College’s international education core, including SST, to make it more effective, engaging and possible for our students in the current global context?” is the guiding question, Shetler said.

Groups on campus such as athletes, international students and commuter students have heavily relied on SST alternative options to complete their cross-cultural requirement due to financial issues, conflicts with scheduling and lack of time.

For the graduating class of 2018, only 6% of commuter students had participated in a semester-long SST program.

While the vote on Thursday will only include the piloting of two new courses, the broader plan will include both international and domestic options with variety in the length of time a student must spend immersed in the culture. Anywhere from three weeks to as long as the existing semester model will be offered.

“Some people say that’s going to kill the international options,” Shetler said. “I don’t think so. I think we can still get people excited about this.”

An SST curriculum working group, consisting of representatives from each major department, has been working to provide feedback and plans for the project in preparation for the vote.

“The vote is important because it will be the culmination of several years of hard work to ensure that the revised SST program will remain Goshen College’s premier academic offering and a program that remains on the cutting edge of international study programs offered by U.S. colleges and universities,” said Richard Aguirre, community impact coordinator and member of the working curriculum group.

“It [the vote] will show that our professors fully support our new approach and it follows extensive work by students, faculty and administrators,” he said.

For now, the vote on Thursday will seek to pass two courses, a feasible step that teaching faculty can agree on.

“It was too much all at once,” Shetler said in regards to the original SST curriculum proposal. But the goal stays the same.

“It’s a kind of going back to the original promise that this was something that we really wanted for all Goshen students,” she said. “To have this cross cultural, immersive, experiential service-oriented [opportunity]. That it would set a level for the rest of their lives.”

Current students will not be required to participate in the pilot program but are encouraged to sign up for the new courses and provide feedback if interested, Shetler said.

Twenty students from the 2019 SST units that traveled to Indonesia and Peru are already participating in a pilot class, taught by Shetler, that replaces the online Mahara portfolio, a capstone project required for successful SST completion.

“I didn’t feel that sitting at home, typing answers to prompts was really going to give me the reflection time I know I needed after an experience like that,” said senior Emily Hilton-Nickel.

Feedback from faculty and students will continue to drive the ongoing changes made to GC’s SST. Students completed surveys last year in regards to SST, but Shetler hopes to find opportunity for focus groups, to listen to the needs of GC students — both athletes and musicians, domestic and international students, commuters and on-campus students.

“This is one program,” Shetler said. “It’s got one set of goals, it’s part of the core for every student, and we want everybody to benefit.”

Ecuador and China SST units are still set for the 2020-21 academic year; the International Education Program recently announced the new leaders. Judy Weaver, director of the academic success center, and Richard Aguirre, community impact coordinator, will lead the Ecuador unit, having led SST in Peru during the 2013-2014 school year. Susan Miller Setiawan, associate professor of nursing, and Ben Setiawan will lead the fall China unit.

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Written by Mackenzie Miller, Copy Desk Chief

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