Global Perspectives for Universal Change
By Shay Carroll
Dr. Sharon Subreenduth of BGSU’s School of Teaching and Learning traveled to Southeast Asia this summer to provide workshops and training to university faculty, prospective educators, practicing teachers and community-based organizations. The goal of the program was to help enhance their curriculum development, teaching skills, and research collaborations as they work toward educational equity, thus increasing their global perspectives and presence.
During her four weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia, Subreenduth worked with alumni from the Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) program, a professional development program for international teachers (known as TEA Fellows) funded by the U.S. Department of State. BGSU is one of only four U.S. universities chosen to host this global outreach program each spring, and out of those four institutions, BGSU is the only one with a gender equity focus.
Subreenduth has been director of the TEA program at BGSU since 2012 and works collaboratively with cross-disciplinary faculty to facilitate the program. As part of her work in Vietnam and Cambodia, Subreenduth worked closely with TEA Fellows and the U.S. Embassy in the planning and implementation of a series of 10-12 workshops and presentations.
Subreenduth’s scholarship and outreach was inspired by her own experiences from dealing with oppression and marginalization while growing up in South Africa. After coming to the U.S. in 1991 to study at the Ohio State University, Subreenduth continued her commitment to social justice and educational equity through her various grant projects with educators both within the U.S. and globally. She uses her experiences and perspectives to nurture educators work towards educational social justice.
This continues after the TEA program through various forms of mentoring and outreach support. Her work in Vietnam and Cambodia was based on the needs of the TEA Fellows and those they work with (especially schools and community organizations) with a focus on gender equity in education, child psychology and homelessness, curriculum development, use of games in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) curriculum and service learning.
Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi asked Subreenduth to work with two universities in that region that requested specific workshops on program/curriculum mapping and curriculum trends in research and effective publication strategies. These diverse collaborations and professional development opportunities offered Subreenduth key insights into the social-cultural, historic-political and educational policy implications of each context. This is key to her ongoing research study on examining grassroots transnational gender equity and social justice commitments.
Subreenduth encourages the TEA fellows in the program to actively consider their own roles within their community and how they contribute to oppression and marginalization of gender binaries and inequities, whether consciously or not. This self-reflection as a starting point helps everyone become more cognizant of how everyday practices enable or can be an intervention for such inequities.
“This can be a challenge for many communities that are so bound by highly integrated religious and ‘moral’ cultural values,” Subreenduth said. Yet, the fellows have taken up this charge even before they come to BGSU for their professional development.
“What we help them do while here is to provide further opportunities for global collaboration, reflection, and tools and strategies to integrate their ideas into curricula, student and community engagement,” Subreenduth explained.
Culminating projects for the program at BGSU are gender equity action plans and curricula that pay special attention to gender dynamics by considering the socio-cultural contexts of their communities so that the fellows can develop realistic, long-term changes.
The professional goal of the program is to make advancements in both educational and gender equity, and through that, begin an integration of service-learning within the communities the fellows come from. Subreenduth is inspired and motivated by the activism of the TEA fellows and their communities. She encourages them to identify and actively point out discrimination and recognize their own roles.
Subreenduth also is encouraged by the movement the program has brought to the BGSU campus. She explained how both students and faculty have had many opportunities to engage with the TEA fellows through Global Cafes for students on campus and through school visits and an international educator night for northwest Ohio schools. Additionally, many faculty who serve as instructors on the TEA program have conducted research with the fellows and have published books, articles and conference presentations.
When asked what she has learned through her travels, Subreenduth noted, “The fellows, their students and colleagues are so thirsty for knowledge and learning about the world. They are always trying to travel as well as read and explore the world, to understand the global other. I wish that more of our youth and educators have the same desire for knowledge about the world.”
She believes that long-term engagement can happen in a respectful and authentic way, inspiring students both here and abroad to become better global citizens and allowing them to affect change on a global scale. Subreenduth said that she is privileged to have the opportunity to work with committed faculty at BGSU who inspire and support the TEA fellows during the TEA program, and she is honored to develop close personal and professional collaborations with TEA fellows all over the world.