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Bold Thinking Keeps Students Globally Connected

A COVID-19 world continues to push the University of St. Thomas to demonstrate its bold agility when it comes to enriching its students’ educational experience. The latest evidence is a path to resume UST’s Study Abroad Program and keep it strong through a partnership with other members of the International Council of Universities in The Spirit of Saint Thomas Aquinas (ICUSTA).

ICUSTA membership is robust and lists participating institutions on five continents. With physical travel constrained by the pandemic, the international consortium provides an alternative—a virtual international exchange. In virtual classrooms with pupils from another country, UST students will still get to expand their world view, meet new friends, broaden their knowledge base, be exposed to new perspectives and gain cross-cultural awareness.

Reframing & Reprioritizing Goals

Study Abroad Advisor and Adjunct Professor Claudia Baba said, “With COVID, there was a need for us to reframe and reprioritize our study abroad goals, keeping in mind the power of global education as a means to strengthen the world. We needed to re-imagine everything. So we began to ask ourselves, ‘What do we want? Why do we want it? And how are we going to get it?’ We refocused the what and why and then reframed the how.”

The New ‘How’

Virtually, the possibilities for cross-cultural dialog between UST students and students around the world are many. For instance, a UST entrepreneurship classroom might connect with a peer classroom in Chile to develop a plan to tackle environmental challenges such as deforestation or air pollution.

At the same time, UST students involved in the diplomatic program might interface with a class in Ireland to discuss their efforts to build a just society.

A Path to Collective Critical Thinking

UST’s Director of Study Abroad, Dr. Ulyses Balderas, said, “These are examples of cross-disciplinary learning experiences enabled by technology, and coordinated by faculty members, which drive students to consider how connected we are—and collectively think critically about how to find solutions.”

More Good News

Any financial barrier to participation is reduced with the elimination of a travel requirement. This means more students and faculty may join in.

“The study abroad story we want to tell five years from now is about a time we demonstrated resilience,” Baba said. “We want the story to be about the time we took initiative, when we took a bummer situation and turned it around.”

For information about the application process and international course offerings for fall 2020 and spring 2021, email studyabroad@stthom.edu.