Students Embrace Global Awareness Through Education
The Inaugural Class of GATEFor one group of freshmen at The University of Texas at Tyler, the end of the spring semester wraps up a year of experiencing not just a world-class education ... but the world.
-- UT Tyler President Rodney Mabry
Students in the inaugural class of UT Tyler's Global Awareness Through Education initiative are well on their way to a global education as they complete coursework for their second semester of learning. And by all accounts, GATE has created a successful on-campus learning community that has immersed students in the cultures of the world as they pursue their education.
"It's good for us to learn about what's beyond what we know, our culture and what we're used to," said Jelissa Lair, a GATE student and civil engineering major from Houston.
"I'm really interested in different cultures and every aspect of it," said GATE student Miles Zeorlin, a general studies major from Tyler. "The more I know about the world, the better. I like the sense of going and exploring."
It was that sense of adventure that sparked the interest of students who were named part of the first ever GATE class. The program drew inquiries from students across Texas, from other states, even from other countries.
"We were looking for students with a sense of adventure, who wanted to do something different and who wanted a study abroad experience,'' said Dr. Jill Blondin, UT Tyler Center for Global Education director. "I've seen that in the group of students we've chosen. They seem to be students who rise to the challenge and work hard."
Dr. Blondin and Ashley Ward, CGE assistant director and GATE coordinator, began recruiting for the inaugural class in January 2011.
Ward noted, "Much of the recruitment and application process is making sure that these are students who want to learn about other cultures and are willing to be put in a country that might make them uncomfortable because the culture is so different than their own.''
UT Tyler was charged to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan as part of the university's 2010 accreditation reaffirmation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The university chose GATE as a way to enhance overall institutional quality and effectiveness by improving global awareness on campus.
"Global connectedness is unprecedented and is already changing the world for our students,'' UT Tyler President Rodney Mabry said. "It will change how they interact with each other and how they understand one another. We need to make our students fully aware of the global marketplace for goods – and for ideas.''
A two-year residential learning program designed for incoming freshmen of any major, GATE consists of three primary components:
Core Curriculum – As a requirement to graduate, all UT Tyler students complete the university core curriculum, consisting of 14 classes including English, political science, history, math and science. GATE students take GATE-specific sections of 10 core curriculum courses that have been redesigned with a global focus.
Cultural Activities – GATE students participate in on- and off-campus activities that are globally engaging and culturally diverse including a lecture series, international film festival, concerts, service activities and trips to museums and live performances.
Study Abroad – The program culminates in a five-week study abroad experience the summer after the sophomore year. GATE students travel to an international location to complete the final two core curriculum courses and explore the culture and sights of the host country. Courses will be taught by UT Tyler faculty, with UT Tyler administrators on-site to coordinate events and activities for students.
The inaugural GATE class, also known as the GATE '13 class, is preparing to travel to Japan in the summer of 2013. They will begin the summer in Tokyo and then spend several weeks at Shimane University. They'll also visit various sites in and around Hiroshima, Kyoto and Osaka, including Hiroshima Peace Park, Byodo-in Temple and Himeji Castle.
The second GATE class – GATE '14 – will begin UT Tyler in fall 2012 and visit Brazil and Argentina in summer 2014.
"There is nothing like GATE," Ward said. "Students not only go to special globally focused classes that have been redesigned for them, but they also are guaranteed to study abroad. And we have cultural activities that they can participate in that are free and are designed to help enrich their overall experience at UT Tyler. The students constantly feel engaged."
Although 23 students enrolled in the inaugural GATE class, students across campus benefit from the program. The globally enhanced core classes often include both GATE and non-GATE students, and many of the program's cultural activities are open to the entire campus, Dr. Blondin noted.
GATE includes students from all five colleges with a variety of majors. "They all come from different backgrounds and have different interests,'' said Dr. Blondin. "And many of them have very clear ideas of what they want to do with their degrees."
Some students said they chose UT Tyler because of GATE.
"When I was accepted to the GATE program, I came here," said Emily Main, a computer information systems major from Spring. "I really like international travel and learning about other cultures. And I really wanted to do study-abroad in college."
Main said she hopes for a career as an international computer systems analyst and manager.
A Learning Community
GATE is much more than a class. It's a learning community – designed to engage students and faculty and strengthen learning opportunities in and out of the classroom.
GATE students reside together on campus and take classes together, including two globally enhanced core curriculum courses, per semester. They participate in cultural activities as a group and help organize globally focused events for the entire campus. And with their diverse family backgrounds, the students learn from each other's cultural experiences.
"I've enjoyed taking classes with other GATE students," said Zeorlin, who is interested in a marketing career involving international travel. "It's nice to see familiar faces wherever you go and it's nice to be able to study with them and hang out with them. We're kind of like a family. And the cultural activities have been fun.''
For Zeorlin, residing on campus with his peers has been a learning experience as well. "My roommate is actually from Brazil, so I've been able to learn a lot about Brazil through him,'' Zeorlin said of roommate and fellow GATE student Matheus Schneider do Canto, a finance major from Florianopolis, Brazil.
"Just being on campus can be a global experience because you learn everyone else's views on different things,'' said Zeorlin. "It gives you an opportunity to reflect on what you believe.''
The GATE-enhanced core classes are getting positive reviews from students.
Lair, who hopes to serve underdeveloped countries as a civil engineer through Engineers Without Borders, particularly enjoyed the GATE section of American government taught by Dr. Robert Sterken in the fall.
Members of The University of Texas at Tyler's very first class of GATE students include:
Karina Barrera of Tyler and Mission Hills, Calif., management major.
Gabrielle Cruz of Allen and Castillejos, Philippines, nursing major.
Keerin DeWet of Tyler, general studies major.
Jocelyn Felix of Tyler, psychology major.
Alberto Hernandez of Tyler and Ojinaga, Chihuahua, finance major.
Uroosa Khalid of Tyler and Brooklyn, N.Y., biology major.
Jelissa Lair of Houston, civil engineering major.
Bianca Lopez of Denton, Spanish major.
Megan Lord of North Richland Hills, early childhood education major.
Emily Main of Spring, computer information systems major.
Betty Mutai of Arlington and Nairobi, Kenya, political science major.
Sara Nguyen of Irving, nursing major.
Vincent Nguyen of the Colony, mechanical engineering major.
Matheus Schneider do Canto of Florianopolis, Brazil, finance major.
Elisa Vazquez of Plano, nursing major.
Roberto Vazquez of Tyler and Anaheim, Calif., marketing major.
Miles Zeorlin of Tyler, general studies major.
"It was so different than most American government classes,'' she said. "He'd show us a picture or 100 pictures representing a day in someone else's life or he'd show us a video. We'd look into the eyes of children in a village in the Middle East – in a city we'd never even heard of. Those are the kinds of things we'd look at, and he'd ask us, 'What do you get out of this? How does this affect you?' ''
Tyler resident and Brooklyn, N.Y., native Uroosa Khalid said her GATE courses "are definitely my favorite classes. They're smaller than the rest of my classes. And in my GATE classes, there is a lot more interaction. I think you learn a lot more that way – by people asking different questions that you have to think about."
Khalid, whose parents were born in Pakistan, said she chose GATE because "I love learning about different cultures and being around different people. I was always the different one in school, so I'm used to being asked questions and I love sharing my culture. And I love learning about different languages, different foods and different ways of interaction. Everyone lives differently."
The biology major said she wants to become a dentist and practice overseas.
As these students have learned a broader perspective from their instructors, the students have passed on a few lessons as well.
Dr. Hui Wu, UT Tyler Department of Literature and Languages chair and professor of English, taught GATE-enhanced Grammar and Composition I in the fall.
"As the instructor of their first college writing course, I was fortunate to be in contact with these creative and active minds on a daily basis," she said.
"They wrote about their goals to help people in their future careers; many of them want to pursue a profession they are passionate about; some of them want to create success stories as first-generation college graduates of their families,'' the professor noted.
"GATE students aim to develop their global awareness and writing abilities to achieve productivity, accountability and leadership in their future professions. The majority of them already speak two languages,'' Dr. Wu said. "This linguistic ability will place them favorably in this increasingly globalized world.''
UT Tyler plans to build upon the success of the inaugural GATE class for years to come. The possibilities for global awareness across campus are endless.
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