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John Ferrick: Preparing students for international study

[audio:http://news.cals.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/john_ferrick_international_studies.mp3|titles=John Ferrick talks about international studies]

Transcript:

Sevie Kenyon

A whole world of education. We are visiting today with John Ferrick, director of International Programs, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison Wisconsin and I am Sevie Kenyon. John, welcome to our microphone. Can you introduce us to this notion of students and studying around the world?

John Ferrick

What we are trying to do here in the College of Ag and Life Sciences is really making the classroom the world, that your classroom is much more than what you learn from just here on campus. It is expanding your world out into the state, it is looking at what is going on at the national level and then it is connecting all of those to the questions that are out there that you are going to explore and be a part of in the world.

Sevie Kenyon

Why would a student want to go overseas to study, John?

John Ferrick

The excitement, it is learning more about themselves, it is learning more about the world in which they live, but there are also some real practical reasons and one is jobs. When we talk to employers, one of the number one things that they say when they look at job applications and what separates the resumes from others are international experiences. It shows that a student can adapt to different cultures, different places and work with different people. That is really important in the work world. The ability to be able to work in groups, the ability to work across cultures, the ability to understand cultural differences are all going to be assets that will benefit a student when they go out in what ever career they choose.

Sevie Kenyon

And John, can you give us an idea of what kind of opportunities there are for students here at the UW?

John Ferrick

There is a growing number of short term programs where students will look at specific topic areas. For instance, I help run a program in Uganda where we are looking at international health and nutrition. Students that are going into the health professions, nursing, medicine, vet medicine, pharmacy, they get a chance to look at what are the issues that are confronting the majority of the world’s population. They take a course where they learn about the different cultural, political, and economic factors and then we go to Uganda every winter break and do some hands on experience going to clinics, going to hospitals, going to agricultural research stations. There is a strong connection that we need to do a much better job, and we are trying to work with here, connecting the food we eat and the agriculture that we do, with the health of our human and animal population. So that connection between human health, agriculture and food is critical to this.

Sevie Kenyon

John, can you give us a sense for how many students participate in these programs and where in the world they may go?

John Ferrick

Roughly 80-100 students a year are on our programs and there are more that go into the International Academic Programs. We have a great program in CALS with Oxford and Cambridge where students in the life sciences get to go into labs at Oxford and Cambridge and learn how labs work in a different country context and as well as in very high academic places. We have the Philippines, we have Norway, Denmark, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras… Our job is to see where the students can connect with faculty and where the faculty have interests, especially research interests, because that brings the faculty into it who can really take what they are doing in their research and be able to demonstrate to students how the research they are doing is applied in the real world.

Sevie Kenyon

John, can you give us an idea perhaps, how do you pay for all of this?

John Ferrick

Most of this is payed for by students themselves. They do fundraisers, it’s amazing what students will do. I always tell them to go to the civic clubs in their communities, if they have the Rotary clubs, the Moose clubs, the Elks, wherever they may worship, and then talk to them about what they are going to do and what that will mean for them in their careers and how that then might apply to what they will do when they come back and their careers here. That is a challenge. We are always looking to see how we can finance students ability to participate in this because we want all of our programs to be available to all of our students, no matter what their financial situation may be.

Sevie Kenyon

John, look into your crystal ball a little bit. Where would you like to see these overseas opportunities 5-10 years from now?

John Ferrick

Well if I dream and dream big, I’d like to see something available to all of our students, so that when they come to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, they know that they are going to be able to apply what they are learning to a world context. This means an opportunity no matter what your major to really take it international and be able to learn from other people and other places. That would be my dream and that there would be the resources to support that.

Sevie Kenyon

John, how does a student prepare for one of these overseas programs?

John Ferrick

First of all, academically, they need to sit down with their advisor and make sure that what they are going to do fits into their core curriculum and meets whatever requirements they need to meet in their major to graduate on time. That is really the first step, the next I tell students is to sit down with yourself. What do you want to get out of this international experience? There are cultural things that are very valid, academics that are very valid, there are things about yourself that you want to learn, and to test yourself. Those are all very valid reasons, but the different lengths of programs cater to how you can answer the question. So obviously if you are looking at wanting to get real international cultural experience, the longer you stay someplace the better off you are, but you might not be able to do that within your major. So then you can ask yourself the question: “where do I go in the short term that I can one, learn a little bit about the culture but also learn more about that topic area or subject area that I am interested in studying?”

Sevie Kenyon

John, how are these overseas opportunities created in the first place?

John Ferrick

Well what we try to do is really work with faculty because we believe that it is faculty, and their interest in their research or outreach or teaching in an international context, that will then get the students more excited. If we can connect with faculty and they then can provide the venue for students to go overseas, it is just more successful that way because the connection is really powerful when you get a faculty member and students working together. I always tell a student that comes in to me that during their time here on campus they should really get to know a faculty member to the point that that faculty member would write them a letter of reference. Connecting on that intimate level that you do in international experiences, you’ll get to know that faculty member better and that faculty member will get to know the student much better.

Sevie Kenyon

We have been visiting with John Ferrick, University of Wisconsin Extension and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison Wisconsin and I am Sevie Kenyon.