On February 25, 2016, WLC hosted a reunion at the ISU Alumni Center for students who studied abroad in Spain since 2003 on WLC-sponsored programs.
2003 was the year that the department began the very popular ISU on the Mediterranean – Summer in Valencia program and the equally admired ISU in Cáceres semester program. Together, over 1,300 students from dozens of disciplines have studied in Spain since 2003 making it one of the largest alumni groups of its kind on campus.
The ISU in Spain Reunion was an opportunity for WLC to say thanks to these students for their commitment to global education, and to give them the opportunity to reminisce, share experiences, and meet with old and new friends.
In addition to the over 100 study abroad program alumni who attended the reunion, guest speakers at the event included current program directors Chad M. Gasta, Julia Domínguez, Julie Wilhelm, and Steve Rodermel and former program director, Leland L’Hote who is now Dean for Spain & Latin America, IES Abroad. Other program directors such as Cristina Pardo and Beatriz Spalding attended as did affiliate faculty David Sly.
In addition to evoking great memories about earlier programs, the speakers concentrated on the overall value of study abroad in today’s world.
Chad Gasta perhaps best summarized the personal value of study abroad: “I believe that study abroad is one of the most important things a student can do in his or her life. In addition to achieving an informed view of the world, students who study abroad are better communicators, critical thinkers, problem solvers, and they are more likely to work internationally in their careers, bringing their companies greater value. And, let’s face it, studying abroad is one of the most gratifying things you might do in your life.”
Similarly, Julia Domínguez highlighted the close connection she feels with students because they studied in Cáceres, her hometown: “It feels amazing to be able to send ISU students to Cáceres and see their lives being touched by my hometown. Who would have thought that my former university professors are now teaching my ISU students, that neighbors and family members now care for my students and they in turn offer lessons to their children, that friends’ businesses host internships for my students, that when I mention streets, cafés, bars, restaurants, the cathedral where I got married, and all the special places I grew up with, my ISU kids smile at me knowingly as they tell me Cáceres was amazing!”
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Beate Schmittmann visited the Valencia program in 2014 along with Associate Provost and Professor of Spanish Dawn Bratsch-Prince. Both were on hand at the reunion to provide attendees a brief overview of her visit that included meeting with ISU students in Valencia and touring the research and teaching facilities at the university.
Their speeches highlighted the ISU and LAS goals of educating students to be effective members and leaders of the global community.
Dean Schmittmann summarized and underscored the essential premise of study abroad as embodied in WLC’s commitment to global education and engagement:
“I want our students and graduates to think critically about global affairs and to acknowledge and celebrate human diversity. I want students to be prepared to lead in the global workforce. Many of our students will go on to international careers or distinguished international research programs, and employers want graduates with leadership, communication, and people skills. Students need to understand how cultural differences affect problem-solving, relationships, and working environments. If you can build respect and trust across cultures, your business and research relationships will thrive.”
In addition to the speakers, many students connected with old friends, networked with new ones, and even provided a short video message about the value of study abroad.
As we look back on decades of study abroad success in WLC as symbolized by these two programs, we are reminded of the value that international education can play in each student’s life. We invite our alumni to consider how you can provide the same international learning opportunities for today’s students that you may have enjoyed while at Iowa State.
You can do this by supporting a current ISU student to study abroad or by sharing your connections to employment or internship opportunities. If you are interested in doing so, please contact LAS Alumni Relations specialist Kim McDonough (firstname.lastname@example.org / 515-294-7487) or WLC Department Chair, Chad M. Gasta (email@example.com / 515-294-0918).