Each year faculty members are given the opportunity to apply to lead a Study Service Term. According to Tom Meyers, Director of International Education, a committee reviews faculty applications and then Meyers makes final decisions with the academic dean, Dr. Anita Stalter.
For the 2015-2016 academic year, three SST destinations will be offered: Peru, Cambodia and Senegal. While Peru units would normally have been offered in fall, spring and summer, the fall unit has been cancelled due to lack of interest. Assistant Professor of Biology Kris Schmidt and his wife Kathryn will lead the remaining spring and summer units. The Cambodia unit will take place during the spring semester and will be led by Dan Koop Liechty, director of alumni relations, and Jill Koop Liechty, admission inquiry and outreach manager. Jan Bender Shetler and her husband Peter will lead the Senegal unit offered in the summer.
Though only Bender Shetler has ever led SST before (Ethiopia 2005 and Tanzania 2008), each of the couples are going into SST with some sort of experience abroad. For the Koop Liechtys, this includes several personal experiences with the SST program. Dan (’88) and Jill (’90) both experienced SST during their time as Goshen College students. Dan also went along on SST as a child when his parents were SST leaders. Throughout their careers, the couple has spent lots of time abroad. The Schmidts have experience overseeing student groups because they spent time leading a Mennonite dorm in Vancouver.
The most exciting part of leading SST for the Schmidts is the opportunity to get to experience a new culture.
“I’m excited about getting to explore this wonderful culture and city with our family and two boys. I’m also excited about staying for eight months, understanding customs, building language skills, eating the food and being close to the water,” said Kathryn.
In addition to all the things his wife is excited about, Kris is also looking forward to a nontraditional professorial role and getting to engage with students one-on-one.
Dan Koop Liechty is also excited about the new role he will be in both with students and by experiencing a new culture.
“I’m looking forward to working with students and learning about the culture. I am fascinated by Cambodian history. It will be an interesting place to be with that much history,” commented Koop Liechty.
Bender Shetler has spent a time in Africa for research, but that has not satiated her curiosity.
“I’m a specialist in African history so it will be great to get to see a different part of Africa, get to revive some old French and experience a new place,” said Bender Shetler.
Each of these couples is excited about the prospect of leading SST for specific reasons.
“My life has been shaped by SST and living abroad,” said Koop Liechty. “We wanted to lead because we both loved SST and know the power of it. We know it is an amazing program and an incredible learning experience that students will never quite have again.”
“We keep hearing stories about how SST is life-changing and people never forget it. We want to help students form bonds and create memories. We want to help them feel free and safe and have a sense of family so they have a good experience and don’t feel lost, alone or scared,” said Katheryn Schmidt.
“We want to create an environment where we get students thinking about things that they can only get by being completely immersed,” added Kris. “We will be as transformed as students will by the experience.”
Jan Bender Shetler and Dan Koop Liechty agreed that SST is a great experience for students and leaders alike.
Koop Liechty summed up his expectations about SST by saying, “It’s hard being in a new culture and meeting a new family. It’s a powerful experience.”