Peru Service-learning and Spanish Immersion Program Returns: Some of What I Have Learned in Three Years of the Program*

[the what] The Peru Service-learning and Spanish Immersion Program returned in June from its third year running. Students are back in the swing of things, having started internships and jobs. Professor Nadia Rubaii and I are back to research and planning classes for the Fall 2015 semester.

During our time in Peru for three weeks, the Program, which included this year 18 students and 2 faculty leaders, did a total of 448 hours of Spanish language classes and 56 hours of Quechua (an indigenous language spoken widely in the Andean mountains of Peru) by 2 students at our partner language school, Maximo Nivel, and over 800 hours of service work with our three service partners who you have read about by our posts from our CCPA graduate students (Sarah Glose, Helen Li, Diana Reyes, Dina Truncali, Liz Pisani-Woodruff, and Carolina Garcia): AbrePuertas, Corazon de Dahlia, and the Comedor called Virgin de Fatima.

5.The Group at Corazon de Dahlia

Students were able to see local development, often from the bottom up at all of the service sites. The service sites were all different in how they ‘tackled’ local development and issues of poverty, as one student wrote in a blog post for CCE, “All three of the organizations are doing incredible things in different ways, helping to engage the members of their communities and enhance their lives as a whole.” During their time in Peru, students witnessed and practiced many public service values, and experienced both their challenges and opportunities in the context of Peru, including—issues around equity, effectiveness, community, solidarity, and sustainability.

So, was the Peru Program 2015 a success? If success is measured by building and continuing strong partnerships in Peru and by increasing learning and reflection on important local development questions, the answer is yes, the Peru Program was a success again in its third year.

[so what?] So now it is my time to reflect, given another successful year of the program. I think one of the most fulfilling parts of instructing and leading a class and international service-learning (ISL) program like the Peru Program is working with both the students and our service partners. As I mentioned in the initial Peru Program post, the Peru Program builds ethical considerations into the coursework to advance student learning objectives and also to establish the importance of our relationships with our service partners.

Students: Students come to the Peru Program with a predisposition to want to give and positively influence communities of all kinds. Some know they are going into public service careers like our MPA graduate students and MSW graduate students. Others know they want to go into a career that makes a difference but are exploring options. Students step into the first day of the pre-departure classes of the Peru Program with a desire to give.

6.The Group at Comedor

What I think ISL programs do so well is to complement this desire to give to community. That is, programs like the Peru Program can also foster an even more greater desire to learn. I imagine students knew they would learn something through the Peru Program. Of course they would, right? It is a class, they were doing readings, had papers, engaged in class discussions and the like. However, you cannot step into a new context, in this case Peru, without asking questions, and lots of them. Asking questions fosters learning and also requires that we ask the same questions about our own contexts. I tell students before leaving for Peru, during our pre-departure classes, that they should plan to learn more about Peru, for sure, but also to be just as prepared to learn as much about the U.S.

Service Partners: Our service partners also asked questions while working with us. Like for many of our students, for many of the service partners—both the organizational leaders and those served by the organizations—seeing and working with the Binghamton group was their first experience working side by side with people from another country. They asked a lot of questions and had curiosity about what students were studying, about the students’ families, and what they thought about Cusco, Peru—especially the food!

[now what?] As a professor at CCPA, I commit myself to giving Binghamton students these types of learning experiences. In a last reflection class during our time in Peru, students became critical of some of the macro and structural issues that cause poverty. We should be critical! It can almost seem overwhelming and hard to find solutions. However, what programs like the Peru Program do is put faces to these bigger structural issues. Students can reflect about how their life in the U.S. is related to the lives of the communities and our partners in Peru. Students can continue relations with our partner organizations through social media, information campaigns, fundraising and by returning if possible to Peru. One student explained in the final reflection session that during her time in Peru she was reminded that “people are people.” Indeed, learning and reflection can remind us that all people desire and deserve well being and opportunity, in the U.S., Peru and everywhere.

Looking forward to seeing the Peru Program’s success next year as well!

Susan Appe

Assistant Professor of Public Administration

* This CCPA blog series is by CCPA graduate students participating in the Peru International Service Learning Program led by CCPA Professors Susan Appe and Nadia Rubaii. The blog series allows participating graduate students to reflect on their experiences during their time in Peru in June 2015, using a what, so what, now what? model (see: Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001). Critical Reflection in Nursing and the Helping Professions: a User’s Guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan)

Reflecting on Mental Health and Social Services in the Peruvian and U.S. Context*

[the what] As I reflect on and observe my trip and experiences in Cusco, Peru, I notice that there are similarities and differences that can be exchanged between Peruvian culture and American culture.  My focus during the class in the Peru Program for study is mental health, and as such it is important to discuss and observe human behavior in social environments while in Peru and based on my experiences in the U.S. Understanding the importance of mental health and its strong connections to physical health is important, particularly when considering interventions in any culture.

American culture and society can be considered rich in available resources when dealing with any type of need for individuals.  The emotional and mental health needs of Americans are similar, if not the same in some circumstances, to those I observed in Peru, but the delivery of services can be considered dramatically different. The differences do not necessarily indicate negative or positive implications, but rather a better scope to decipher what is always necessary and what is secondary for any individual, regardless of culture. In Cusco, I observed a strong community and familial bond in every setting I found myself in.  Many individuals in Peru operate on a level of general care and concern for all of those around them.  Children were generally watched over by all, not just parents or immediate caretakers, many smiles were exchanged. Even when getting to know some of the locals in Cusco, I could feel the general caring and loving attitude that is practiced just from the behavior of those around me. While my American ethnicity was always an elephant in the room, the elephant was typically warmly welcomed and treated with general respect, even if there were questions for me to answer. While this experience for me may have been largely skewed by being American, I do believe there is a stronger bond among the people of Cusco as a whole.

In contrast, when speaking with a Peru Program service partner, Nestor, who is a psychologist and co-founder of AbrePuertas, I learned that mental health is still stigmatized and under-treated in Peru. Many individuals who suffer from any type of mental disorder are typically under-treated to the point of mental symptoms becoming largely physical leading individuals to their Primary Care Doctors. It is then that they realize the root problem is mental and then they are sometimes referred to a psychologist or mental health care professional. Early intervention and available resources do not seem to be as easily obtained in Cusco where it might be available in the U.S. more readily.

[so what?] Since mental health and physical health are so intertwined, it is through this experience, I sought to further look at what is necessary for any individual to live a high quality of life for them and those close to them, regardless of culture or ethnicity. Cusco appears to have an experiential type of learning and care-taking. This experiential learning and independent nature of children stayed with me beyond the trip into my thoughts here in America. I kept wondering why we care-take and parent so differently in the U.S. and questioned which method is better, and if either or both approaches led to different human behavior and mental health statuses both in comparison and in contrast.

An example of this is El Comedor, a site where myself and the other students worked during our time in Peru. The soup kitchen provided meals to any community members who were in need of food or nourishment. Whether it was a family or workers in the area, it was a general understanding that they come, eat a large meal for a small price, and leave with that need being met. This exchange demonstrating such a beautiful and useful way of indirectly tending to physical need, which cyclically improves mental health needs as well in a community bond strategy.

[now what?] In the U.S., community health is something that is constantly being revamped and improved in order to improve the overall health of individuals. Programs like El Comedor (the soup kitchen) and Corazon de Dahlia (a children’s after-school program) demonstrate a type of bonding among people and understanding of emotional and physical needs that Cusco seems to master through their innate human behaviors. On the other hand, there are systemic concerns that prevent some individuals in Cusco from achieving optimal health care and mental health goals in order to live a higher quality of life. While there may be very limited economic or government support in Cusco in comparison to U.S. for needs like emotional care or mental health care, the communities seem to take it into their own hands through bonding and affection—demonstrating true the public service value of community. Ultimately, the U.S. can benefit from the affectionate way that Peruvians care for one another and generally look out for each other when we are faced with challenges of apathy here at home.

The formal concern and understanding of the need for mental and physical health care in the U.S. would provide very beneficial change in the lives of many Peruvians on a macro level because of the need for a more resources and larger support. The formal health care that we provide in the U.S. could be useful if implemented in Peru for individuals suffering from behavioral dilemmas of any kind. However, U.S. mental health and social service might too have lessons to learn from Peru. A give and take from both cultures could benefit both greatly on mezzo/community levels and macro/systemic levels. If all human-beings are attempting to achieve optimal quality of life well beyond that of just surviving, then we can see the importance of using each other’s beneficial techniques in working with communities and its people.

Elizabeth Pisani-Woodruff

Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Social Work (MSW) Dual Degree Student

* This CCPA blog series is by CCPA graduate students participating in the Peru International Service Learning Program led by CCPA Professors Susan Appe and Nadia Rubaii. The blog series allows participating graduate students to reflect on their experiences during their time in Peru in June 2015, using a what, so what, now what? model (see: Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001). Critical Reflection in Nursing and the Helping Professions: a User’s Guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan)

Profe! Profe! Profe! Y Cuando Regresan?

[the what?] We have now officially worked alongside all of the service partners that we had planned to work with. It has been a very enriching, different, eye opening and emotional experience for many different reasons, the most impactful one being that, now  that we have returned to the U.S., we no longer get to see the children we were working  with! Every time we finished at a service site, I could not help but hold back my tears and get a knot in my chest until we drove away. It would not have been fair to start crying in  front of the children who were doing perfectly fine before I arrived; my tears would have just made a scene and probably caused the children to get sad. In any case, it was a very draining experience when the time came to leave and say goodbye. I was saddened by the realities that many of the families of these young children were faced with. Most of my sadness stemmed from knowing that I was leaving so many children in the same situation that I found them in, and that I was unable to change anything about the way they are living their lives. Many of the people that we interacted with came from rural areas where there are limited resources, which limit the lifestyle that many of the families can have. One specific example was seen at AbrePuertas, one of the service sites we visited, where the program was located in a rural setting, surrounded by mountains and dealing with issues of poverty. Although the service site is there to help children in the neighborhood overcome challenges associated with poverty, I could not help but think that the work that is done is made so much harder by the lack of resources, sponsors and support that this service site receives. Along with AbrePuertas, Corazon de Dahlia and El Comedor were sites that lacked many resources and this limited the services they were able to provide.

[so what?] While in Cusco, I did make an effort to ask questions to the directors of the places we served to get a better understanding of what resources are available in Peru and get an idea of why the lack of resources exists. Many of the responses shared about the lack resources were accompanied with responses about lack of support—financial and  other—from the community and from the government. I think that a big problem Peru faces in its communities is that there are many concerns aside from service providers that need government attention and resources, for example, the issues related to malnutrition. Although the service sites that we visited provide very important services, sometimes they might not be considered the most important to most Peruvians. However, the service sites were creative. For example, Corazon de Dahlia has made sure to show up at all big town and community events to make its presence known and to inform the community of the importance in supporting educational initiatives like Corazon de Dahlia in the community. I think that although we were not able to help make changes or create a large impact on these service sites, we have definitely learned what it takes—the true dedication needed—to start, run, and keep a service providing program open and functional.

Coya plaza and mountains. This is the town, Coya, where AbrePuertas is located and serves.
Coya plaza and mountains. This is the town, Coya, where AbrePuertas is located and serves.

[now what?] Although our trips to these different service sites were pretty short lived, I think that the most important part of the experience is what the group from Binghamton learned from it. We might not have been able to make an immediate impact on the students that we were working with, or the communities in which we were in, but I am sure we all learned something. During our pre-departure classes at Binghamton University, we were assigned various articles to read that spoke about how volunteers should stay in their own countries and help the millions of people that may need help there instead of going across the world to provide this help. Even though I agree to a certain extent with that philosophy, I also think that being able to travel allows us to understand and see what it is that might be wrong in our own countries and how to fix it. Also it might help give us the tools to assess the strengths and weakness that our country has related to public service and how to make service to others even stronger and more impactful.

Carolina Garcia

Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Social Work (MSW) Dual Degree Student

* This CCPA blog series is by CCPA graduate students participating in the Peru International Service Learning Program led by CCPA Professors Susan Appe and Nadia Rubaii. The blog series allows participating graduate students to reflect on their experiences during their time in Peru in June 2015, using a what, so what, now what? model (see: Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001). Critical Reflection in Nursing and the Helping Professions: a User’s Guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan)

Adios a Service Learning in Peru*

[the what] On June 20, 2015 at midnight, I arrived home from a three week journey to Cusco, Peru on a service-learning and study abroad trip. When I woke up the next morning, I took the longest, hottest shower of my life and went down to greet my family. As I walked downstairs, I found my parents and my sisters waiting for me to regale them with crazy stories from my time in a foreign country. They prompted me with, “how was it?” to which I replied, “it was incredible,” and that was all. Apart from a horrible, vomit-filled story of me paragliding off a cliff in the Andes, and of course, the awe of seeing Machu Picchu, after about five minutes, I found myself having really nothing else to say. Everyone seemed confused and slightly concerned. “Well, did you have fun?”, my parents prompted. Fun? It felt like such an odd word to use, and I told them as much. “What? So you didn’t have fun?”, they responded. But it wasn’t that I didn’t have fun on the trip; that really wasn’t it at all. In fact, I had such a great time, and it was probably the most amazing experience of my entire life. Yet, to call the trip “fun” seems to miss the entire purpose of the trip.

[so what] I went on the trip to Peru to learn more about sustainable development in a new country, practice my Spanish, and meet new people and live in a place that was much different from the place I call home. What I got out of the trip was much more than that. I have seen things in Peru that I never thought I would ever see. Snow-capped peaks, ancient civilizations, extravagant outdoor religious celebrations, salt mines on the side of a mountain. All of these things were intriguing, exciting, and beautiful. However, I also saw a lot of other things during my time in Peru. Plastic bottles jamming up rivers. Children running around with no shoes. Old women begging for coins on the side of the street, carrying all of their belongings on their back. Extreme poverty. And that was hard for me. I don’t think of myself as living a very sheltered life in the States, but I also don’t think anything could have prepared me for seeing the poverty and despair that has struck many of the towns and villages we visited on our travels. Even as someone working in public service, the truth was hard to swallow. I wanted to have a “fun” time in Peru, but I couldn’t seem to ignore the reality that was in front of me. That was, until we visited the three service sites at which we worked.

The organizations Abrepuertas and Corazón de Dahlia and the comedor (dining hall) Virgen de Fatima all worked extremely hard to tackle local development and make life better for everyone in their communities. Seeing the optimism, good spirits, and faith of the directors, leaders, and workers at all three of these sites was not only reassuring, but also incredibly empowering. The community leaders, most of whom were women, worked tirelessly and selflessly for the betterment of their societies. Being a part of that experience was inspiring and motivating.

2.Making Watia

[now what] Tomorrow I am moving to Boston, Massachusetts to start an internship at an environmental nonprofit. Having come fresh off the trip, I feel I can bring a lot of the experiences I’ve had in Peru to the internship and my work in public service. Now, no problem seems too large to tackle. When faced with a situation that seems unjust, unfair, and utterly hopeless, I know that I can call upon the lessons learned from the strong community leaders in Peru and work my way through it. So, while I may not describe my trip to Peru as “fun,” I would definitely call it the most rewarding, eye-opening, and inspiring experience of my life. I now feel excited to work on new problems, and know that my work in public service is only just beginning.

Dina Truncali

Master of Public Administration (MPA) Graduate Student

* This CCPA blog series is by CCPA graduate students participating in the Peru International Service Learning Program led by CCPA Professors Susan Appe and Nadia Rubaii. The blog series allows participating graduate students to reflect on their experiences during their time in Peru in June 2015, using a what, so what, now what? model (see: Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001). Critical Reflection in Nursing and the Helping Professions: a User’s Guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan)

Buenos Dias! Our first week gone—Where did the time go?*

[the what] When I first landed in Cuzco, Peru, I was immediately hit with altitude sickness. Never thinking that I will be sick from the lack of oxygen, I spent the first few days in Cuzco with a constant migraine and fear of throwing up again. Once I settled in and got used to the change, I found that Cuzco was nothing like I expected. From the mountains surrounding the city to the traditional Inca landmarks throughout the alleys and streets, Cuzco is extremely beautiful in the city’s representation of their heritage.

One of the shelves painted for supplies at Abrepuertas (taken by Sarah Glose)
One of the shelves painted for supplies at Abrepuertas (taken by Sarah Glose)

Not only did the people breathe the essence of Peruvian culture, but the way in which they have conserved many of their beliefs and values has amazed me every day during my daily walk back and from Maximo Nivel. Since the first week, I have learned so much from just observations. From the stray dogs that wonder the streets, to the venders constantly trying to attract tourists with souvenirs, to the constant beeping of taxi drivers, Peruvians thrived on the amount of constant activity during the day.

Just these past few days, our group visited AbrePuertas, our first service-learning site. There we reconstructed recycled containers into shelves for materials within the classroom, helped build a new computer station for the children there, and interacted with the children. For example, we helped children with their homework and held games of soccer and kickball. The director, Ellyn, was very excited to have us help out and meeting the children was one of the best experiences ever. Although I am very excited for our next service-learning project, I will miss the people I’ve meet at AbrePuertas and hope to carry on the excitement I have for our next adventure at our second service site of Coraźon de Dahlia.

 Bing students with AbrePuertas students (taken by Sarah Glose)
Bing students with AbrePuertas students (taken by Sarah Glose)

[so what] As the first week has passed, I find myself realizing that three weeks here in Cuzco, Peru is extremely short. While learning Spanish for two hours in the morning every day before heading off to our service partners in the afternoon from 1pm to 6pm, there is not enough time to explore Cuzco. I wish I had more time to continue to fully immerse myself into the Peruvian culture!! In the following weeks until the end of this journey, I hope to learn more about the Peruvian people. Through observations and personal interactions, I hope to understand the culture better and broaden my understanding of its unique beliefs and heritage.

[now what] For someone who will be working in public service, I find that it is important to understand the service partners’ motivations and ideals in regard their own beliefs of what should be done to help their community. As our first service-learning site was at AbrePuertas, it was important to know what Ellyn needed us to do, to know that we are there to learn and to be able to communicate that we are there as learners who wish to commitment themselves to public service. At AbrePuertas, I felt that it was important for me to play an active role. I was no only very much learning but it brought me closer to many of the public service values of CCPA such as collaboration and working in fields of social justice.

 Ellyn, AbrePuertas founder and director, receiving a Certificate of Appreciation from Binghamton University (taken by Sarah Glose)
Ellyn, AbrePuertas founder and director, receiving a Certificate of Appreciation from Binghamton University (taken by Sarah Glose)

Our next stop would be at Coraźon de Dahlia. There we will be spending more time with the children and our task there is to come up with activities. I hope that my experience from AbrePuertas will allow me to better demonstrate my service-learning skills. Despite us only being there for the next two days, June 8th and June 9th, I believe that our time there will be awesome and it will also allow use to better understand the local development and municipalities in Peru. It will not only provide a better perspective of the student organization we have on campus which helps support Coraźon de Dahlia all the way from Binghamton, NY, but allow us to understand nonprofit work in Peru.

I hope those who are reading this blog are following along with our experiences here in Cuzco! Continue to follow us on our trip hashtag: #binguperu15 on either twitter and/or instagram. This is all new and exciting for us and I can´t wait to continute this experience with my classmates and two professors. For those who await for us to get back, I still can´t believe we´re able to go through this program. Challenges will be ahead of us, but I believe that as we continue on, we will gain even further knowledge of how to overcome them and stay true to the values of public service, especially as our group continues on to the second week of our adventure.

Helen Li

Master of Science in Student Affairs Administration (MSAA) and Master of Public Administration (MPA) Dual Degree Student

* This CCPA blog series is by CCPA graduate students participating in the Peru International Service Learning Program led by CCPA Professors Susan Appe and Nadia Rubaii. The blog series allows participating graduate students to reflect on their experiences during their time in Peru in June 2015, using a what, so what, now what? model (see: Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001). Critical Reflection in Nursing and the Helping Professions: a User’s Guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan)


Dear CCPA Friends:

Earlier this year, I shared my reflections about teaching philanthropy. Earlier this month, the students in my course Philanthropy and Civil Society completed their grantmaking. I wanted to share with you the blog post below, written by Brittany Berke, a student in the class, who reflected on what she learned over the course of the semester. The post is a wonderful example of the power of philanthropy and the promise of engaged teaching in preparing students for lives of active citizenship. After all, that’s what teaching at CCPA is all about, right? Happy reading!

David Campbell


“I am a philanthropist”. The first line of the first video we were assigned to watch for this class.  Remember this: four months ago, we entered Room 260 as a group of strangers. We introduced ourselves by name and year and explained why we were taking the class. For some it was a Scholars requirement, for others a PPL course, for others just a way to fill a gen ed. I would like to use this blog post to recognize how far we’ve come and what we’ve truly achieved.

On the first day of class, I explained that I was involved in theatre and hoped to approach philanthropy through that lens. I then proceeded to not do that at all this semester. Instead, I opened my mind to a whole new realm of possibilities. I soaked in everything that every one of you said and know that I’ve become a more informed and fulfilled person for it. I hope that you can all say the same.  We are philanthropists through our growth, improvement, and open-mindedness.

During our class today, as we deliberated how to finally divide our $10,000, I was struck by the power and integrity in the room. Some of the thoughts shared include: “Expansion is critical”, “Can our money have a better direct impact on other organizations?”, “This request has a sense of urgency to it” and “They gave us numbers for a reason”. These are questions and ideas we would not and could not have articulated back in January. This class has provided us with a new set of vocabulary and skills that most people our age don’t have, and that many people probably never will have. We are philanthropists through our understanding.

Some of us have expressed disappointment with our finalists; others have argued that we couldn’t have gone wrong in our decision-making. Many highly impressive and very deserving nonprofits applied for our grant, so did picking the “right” three really matter? I wholeheartedly answer yes to this question. Picking mattered, less because of our outcome, and more because of the remarkable process we struggled through together. We are philanthropists through our experience.

Once our decision was made, one class member mused “Maybe the heart won over the head for me a little bit” and many of us nodded in agreement. Will the heart always overpower the head, and if so did we waste our time debating between emotion and reason for so many weeks? I don’t think so. Heart alone would not have supported our process. Our hearts gave us passion. Our heads gave us values, criteria, and insight into the difference we could make with $10,000. Our reoccurring debate of Heart vs. Head perfectly sums up this class experience: we all came in with a lot of heart, but the heads we cultivated this semester led us to our final outcome. We are philanthropists through our hearts, heads, and the balance found between them.

Whether we gave money to your favorite organization or not, we should all be proud of what we have accomplished this semester. We have transformed from 25 strangers to 25 collaborative, understanding, and enlightened students. Please take a moment to consider how much you have changed personally and academically since our first day together in January. I would love to hear if any of you have specific memories from class that have defined this process for you, or rather that have helped this process to define you. Congratulations to everyone and thank you for this experience! We can now each say with pride and honesty “I am a philanthropist”.

Brittany Berke

Preparing Students for Peru: The what, the so what, and the now what of International Service Learning

Preparing Students for International Service Learning in Peru[1]

[the what] This will be the third year that the Peru Service-learning and Spanish Immersion Program is running at Binghamton University. The Peru Program is a collaboration between Binghamton University’s Department of Public Administration in CCPA, Office of International Programs (OIP) and Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), along with one on-site language partner and three service partner organizations in Peru. The Peru Program is an international service-learning program organized around an academic course (titled “Local Development in the Andes”) which begins at Binghamton University prior to leaving the United States. The course, which I teach, provides an opportunity for students of diverse backgrounds and interests to learn about the dynamics of sustainable development with a focus on the Andean Region in Latin America. It situates local sustainable-development practice within its interconnection between environmental issues, economic viability, social equity and cultural identity. The course is designed to help students develop knowledge and skills that enable them to reflect on local development and their own roles in international service. The course provides an opportunity for students of diverse backgrounds and interests to learn about the dynamics of sustainable development with a focus on the Andean Region in Latin America. It situates local sustainable-development practice within its interconnection between environmental issues, economic viability, social equity and cultural identity. In addition, course is designed to help students develop knowledge and skills that enable them to reflect on local development and their own roles in international service.

appe 1

The program continues during a three-week study abroad experience in Cusco, Peru led by myself and Professor Nadia Rubaii, which this years is from May 30-June 21, 2015. While in Peru, students receive formal language instruction tailored to their individual language abilities and interests at an accredited language school in Cusco, Maximo Nivel. Native Spanish speakers have the opportunity to study Quechua, providing additional opportunities for them to more fully experience the cultural exchange and communicate with indigenous communities. Language immersion extends beyond the formal classes to include housing with host families in Cusco, Peru. Students and faculty live with families during their entire stay in Cusco. This living arrangement further facilitates a rich cultural immersion experience.

We have three service partners on the ground:

AbrePuertas. AbrePuertas (OpenDoors), was started by a SUNY alumna and is situated in the district of Coya, Peru, in the Sacred Valley outside of the city of Cusco. The organization works to improve community literacy, empower teens through leadership and public speaking trainings, engage families who may undervalue traditional education, and bolster the value of learning and art. In 2013, faculty and students on the Peru Program provided in-kind donations of project materials and worked on indoor and outdoor infrastructure improvements including: sanding, cleaning, priming, and painting. Additionally, Peru Program participants sketched a mural designed by children from the community in the organization’s common area. The participants and the children worked together to paint the mural. In 2014, Binghamton students helped to resign a youth room through painting and clean up and catalogued library books into the organization’s library system.

Corazón de Dahlia. Corazón de Dahlia (Heart of Dahlia), was started by a Binghamton University alumna. The organization provides afterschool programming for children, a bi-lingual and media library, and an educational toy and game library. In 2013, faculty and students participated in its three-year anniversary celebration. Donations of educational supplies from students were shared with the children and staff in celebration of the partnership. In 2014, Binghamton University student were integrated in the Corazón de Dahlia after school program, helping with homework.

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Municipality of Cusco. The Municipality of Cusco facilitates our work with soup kitchens: Los Comedores Populares. The organization is made up of local women and provides a source of food for families who would otherwise lack an adequate food supply. The students and faculty worked with community members to dig ditches around an adobe building to allow for better water drainage; constructed netting in order to plaster the outer wall; and plastered the inside walls of adobe building to help transition the facility to a more permanent and functional status. In 2014, Binghamton University students and faculty collaborated with a different Comedor to tear down a dilapidated adobe building which served as the kitchen for the Comedor Popular and rebuild it out of ceramic bricks.

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We look forward to the 2015 projects in June which are currently being developed! The ISL program and course will conclude with assignments and reflection once returning to the U.S. in the end of June.

[so what] This year we have 18 students from all across campus, both graduate and undergraduate students. For the next two months we will hear from the 6 CCPA graduate students in program on the CCPA blog, before leaving, during their time in Peru and once they return. My post is setting up this blog series, which promises to be reflective and stimulating!

The Peru Program brings exciting opportunities to CCPA graduate students in particular. The goal of the Peru Program is to provide international exchange and service-learning opportunities which enhance the educational experiences of students at Binghamton University and apply local sustainable-development practices on the ground in Peru with our on-site partner institutions. Sustainable development is not purely an economic or environmental concern demanding technical expertise from the science or engineering professions although those elements are vital. Sustainable development also demands sustainable management practices, and a commitment to the values of sustainability in its broadest forms—financial, environmental, and cultural. In addition to its academic objectives related to local sustainable-development practice, the Peru Program engages student and faculty in international service learning. As a class, students develop and follow standards for ethical practice in international service learning.

[now what?] As I prepare the students to go to Peru I am thinking about the important public service and ISL values of sustainability (the balance between environmental issues, economic viability, social equity and cultural identity), mutuality (a creation of a common vision among stakeholders) and reciprocity (all stakeholders realize the benefits of service). Indeed, one of the most important components to ISL programming is building group cohesion and responsible partnerships. When we take in ethical considerations, the importance of building and maintaining relationships among ourselves and with our partners is at the forefront.

My task now, as we finish the pre-departure coursework, it to make sure individually and as a group, we have built ethical considerations into the coursework to advance student learning objectives and establish the importance of our relationships with our partners. Preparation includes targeted conversations and ensuring readiness for students. Additionally, course content that that asks critical questions specific to the pedagogy of ISL is included in the program in order that students understand the implications and advance their understanding of ethics and reciprocity.

The CCPA blog will provide our CCPA graduate students the opportunity to reflect on their experiences using a what, so what, now what? model[2]. They will reflect on what they are seeing and experiencing; what they bring to the situation; and how is it related to public service and ISL values.

[1]The thousands of conversations and written papers with my collaborators, Professor Nadia Rubaii and CCPA doctoral student/OIP Assistant Director for Study Abroad, Kerry Stamp, very much inform much of this blog post!!

[2] Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001). Critical Reflection in Nursing and the Helping Professions: a User’s Guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
*Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on International Service Learning. Check back for further updates and dispatches from the field throughout the summer.

Susan Appe, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Public Administration
College of Community and Public Affairs
University Downtown Center, Room 341
Binghamton University

Nathan Gismot, MSW ’12 on the Value and Versatility of Human Service

I remember a joke from my days as a master of social work (MSW) student at Binghamton University: When most people think of social workers, they think of people who take kids from their families and put them in foster care.

Most MSWs would likely recognize that joke for what it is: an intentionally ridiculous statement made for the sake of easy, if sardonic, humor among colleagues who know better. It does, however, indicate a truth: “Social work” is largely an enigma to most people outside the profession.

The MBA stands in sharp contrast. In my experience, many professional laypeople not only know what the acronym “MBA” stands for, but have at least a vague sense of what the holder of that degree may have studied in school (“business”) and what their career trajectory might be (“business leadership”).

Mention that someone else has an MSW, however, and the response will likely as not be a series of blank stares and halting questions.

“What does ‘MSW’ mean?”

“Master of Social Work.”

“Oh, okay. Uh…what’s that?”

I had an epiphany about halfway through my course of study at BU: Despite the general lack of awareness about MSWs and what they do, MSWs have the training and versatility to be of great value to any organization in any industry or sector. I decided then and there to make a point, wherever possible, of addressing that gap in understanding throughout my career.

The way I see it, MSWs are interpersonal and organizational ninjas. Kidding aside, MSWs deliver incredible—and marketable—value. We help our clients identify and achieve goals. We understand the often-challenging process of change, and we know how to manage it – from setting expectations to facilitating progress to holding clients and colleagues accountable. We are skilled in the art of organizational assessment and stewardship. We are advocates. We are solution-finders. We are emotionally intelligent, and are, therefore, able to forge authentic and honest working relationships with our clients and colleagues. We are systems thinkers, considering others’ perspectives and the interdependent nature of organizations (and sectors, communities, and societies) as we navigate difficult decisions and develop strategic plans. We are collaborators. We are champions of inclusion, equity, and social justice.

In other words, we are leaders. Moreover, we offer the sort of dynamic leadership that is so desperately needed in this time and place.

For my part, I have spent only a fraction of my career in the field MSWs are traditionally trained to go into, i.e., that which is commonly referred to as human services. But I have learned that the critical element of any business or organization is just that: human service.

And I have learned, therefore, that my MSW from Binghamton University has been the catalyst to a series of unexpected, fascinating, and deeply fulfilling career opportunities that I could never have envisioned before their occurrence. I am humbled and grateful to be building a career I enjoy and am proud of, non-traditional though it may be; and I am honored and awed to note that my MSW education from BU continues to guide me, and to inform my growth and development as a helper, as a professional, and as a person.

Nate Gismot (MSW ’12) lives in Colorado with his partner (and fellow BU MSW alumn) Kristy and their two corgis, Willow and Gus. He works for the University of Northern Colorado as the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations. You can connect with Nate on LinkedIn at


Dr. Lubna Chaudhry, SUNY Chancellor’s Award Winner for Excellence in Teaching

If I had to pinpoint a single educational experience that became a direct path to where I am today, it would be taking Human Development (HDEV) 400: Social Justice with Dr. Lubna Chaudhry. My first experience with Dr. Chaudhry was in spring of 2011, my first semester at Binghamton University as a junior in the department of Human Development. As a non-traditional transfer student from the local community college, I was enrolled in her senior level course in Social Justice, and worked harder than I have ever worked before. EVER. The materials were challenging on many levels, and the output requirement was like nothing I had ever encountered at the community college. There was a main, theory based text that set the foundation for the supplemental readings we did throughout the semester, and it was through those scholarly works that the theories and policies we learned about were demonstrated in the lived experiences of people. It was the first time in my academic career that I had read these types of narratives of hardship, loss, and eradication of rights of people. She allowed space for reflection, as well. One of our assignments was a developed examination of our social positionality, through which I was able to contextualize myself and my relationships within and because of axes of power structures. It was through this assignment that I began to refine the critical ability to question structures of power from the intersectional perspective of a woman, a parent, and a non-traditional college student. Though the course was large, we had dynamic discussions about the meanings we were making with the presented materials, discussing ways these might impact us as future practitioners. These were both small and large group, and developed through critical questioning and engagement of the reading materials. Her instruction went beyond theory and allowed for active application in the community. Through a group project, I worked with peers on an assignment with a local shelter for battered families. This project was important to the learning process in that it encouraged active engagement with the community to become an advocate for justice, as well as to become more critical of the systems that perpetuate injustice. The depth of learning that was accomplished that semester was transformative, and laid the foundation for the educational track that I am on now.
My second semester with Dr. Chaudhry was the last semester in my graduate program. I was actively searching for PhD programs, and had sent Dr. Chaudhry an email requesting to enroll in her doctoral level seminar in Cultural Competencies and Social Justice. She was happy to register me for the course, and I am very grateful that she did. I had spent the last year and a half in a professional program that had a very specific focus, and Dr. Chaudhry’s course afforded me the opportunity to be more critical of the theories in my professional preparation, contemplating ways they were insufficient and identifying how structures and systems operate to keep people in the margins. This was done in an environment that allowed me to work through the material with her guidance as well as feedback from my peers, along with space for reflection on the material and its applicability to my own work. Unlike the undergraduate course taken with Dr. Chaudhry, this doctoral seminar was intimate, with only seven students. This gave us ample time and space to dig into the readings and discuss their relevance and applicability in our own work. Class sessions were spent actively engaging with each of the assigned readings and relating them to events taking place in society, as well as our own research interests.
Through a semester long project, I was able to explore a new research interest in a supportive environment with appropriate feedback. Dr. Chaudhry was available to me for my seemingly never ending questions, and it was this course experience that helped me visualize my own career trajectory. My experience in Dr. Chaudhry’s course was the deciding factor as to which PhD program I would matriculate into, along with what specific focus my work would take moving forward. The cohort of students that were enrolled in Dr. Chaudhry’s doctoral seminar feel very much the same way, and many of us have continued to seek out Dr. Chaudhry as a source of support and guidance even when not actively registered in a course with her. Simply put, Dr. Chaudhry is always teaching.
I am finishing my third semester with Dr. Chaudhry. I reorganized my initial schedule when it was announced that she would be teaching the qualitative research course in our doctoral program this spring (if you are unfamiliar with Dr. Chaudhry’s research in Swat Valley, Pakistan, you can read a bit about it here; she is a great instructor to learn qualitative research methodologies from). The experience has been intense, and I am a better researcher for it. I have also asked her to work with me as part of my dissertation committee and primary advisor because I know that, through her input and teaching, the learning experience this will be is invaluable to my education and my role as a practitioner.
Dr. Chaudhry has made me a better student, and she has also made me a better teacher. I teach at SUNY Broome, the institution that I came from as an overwhelmed nontraditional college student who was afraid she had bitten off more that she could chew. I now teach courses that reflect on the intersection of race, socioeconomic status, and gender and the myriad of ways these are depicted within the media. Much like Dr. Chaudhry, I begin with presenting theory based information from the main texts, along with supplemental materials that illuminate the lived experience of people. Very similar to Dr. Chaudhry’s teaching style, I present students with the information and then assist in reflection and active engagement. In order to begin to facilitate this, I assign my students a version of a social positionality paper. It is in the moments of reflection and engagement that meaning is made, and for me, Dr. Chaudhry has been essential in this.
Dr. Lubna Chaudhry has been awarded the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She received her letter Monday, right before our scheduled class meeting. In true Dr. Chaudhry fashion, she mentioned it, beamed a little, and immediately went to work, helping us individually and as a class move forward with our research. As she does. I am honored to call Dr. Chaudhry my advisor, my mentor, and my friend.

Stephanie Malmberg
Doctoral Student, College of Community and Public Affairs at Binghamton University

Co-Teaching with Bogotá: One PhD student’s experience with 21st century pedagogy

All doctoral students in the PhD program in Community and Public Affairs must spend a semester co-teaching a course with a faculty member in CCPA as a requisite for earning their degree. My experience has been pretty atypical so far, but that is part of the joy of being pioneers in an interdisciplinary doctoral program. I am also a full-time professional staff member in the Office of International Programs where I serve as a study abroad coordinator managing a portfolio of study abroad programs and assist in establishing and fostering international partnerships.

Here are the basics, this spring 2015 semester I am co-teaching a course at Binghamton University, PAFF 520. It is entitled 21st Century Governance and is a required course for the Master of Public Administration degree. The instructor of record is Professor Nadia Rubaii of the Department of Public Administration.

Then things get interesting, Professor Rubaii decided to link up with a former classmate of mine and alumnus of our MPA program, Sebastián Líppez De Castro and his course Tecnologías y Procesos Gubernamentales at La Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Sebastián is the director of the political science major in the Department of Political Science and International Relations. This course meets in both Binghamton and Bogota on Monday mornings and it is completely integrated from the same syllabus to synchronous class meetings to group projects with participants from both universities on the same team (more on this below).

This co-teaching as an outgrowth of a shared research interest discussed between myself and Nadia to begin researching the potential for this course, building a syllabus and course content with our associate in Bogota. We have been working on bringing these ideas to fruition since the early start of the fall 2014 semester. The goal of the course involves the interrelation of three broad 21st century themes: technology, globalization, and diversity. The course taught in Bogota and the course taught in Binghamton are not necessarily the same, but relate to one another through these three themes. From a research perspective, in addition to identifying the similarities and differences demonstrated through course engagement and creative problem solving, a course like this can provide an opportunity for myself as an emerging scholar to create an educational environment where teaching intercultural effectiveness can be viewed as it unfolds in real time.

The course experience itself is truly integrative. Students in both Bogota and Binghamton are using the same syllabus, and all students have access to learn from each instructor as co-instructors. Students at each school have time to meet with their specific instructors regarding campus specific issues at the start of class, and then the classes and instructors come together to provide content and engage students in both locations, with a focus on solving problems through their cultural specific lenses. One of the ways that this is an enriching experience for me as an emerging scholar is that I am able to see the frustrations and questions from the students regarding the breadth of information that they are being exposed to, leading to intellectual growth and an enhanced transnational lens. We as public administrators in the United States approach issues differently than those of other countries, and exposure to this type of critical thinking and problem solving will produce problem solvers who can analyze and create policy for this rapidly interconnected world we live in.

One of the key goals of this course, which will last far longer than a semester, is that the students are learning to manage interpersonal relationships in the development of a collaborative project with people who live in another country. This develops skills of collaborative leadership that will serve them long after they graduate from Binghamton University and La Javeriana. As a somewhat intended consequence of this course students are being tested with regards to how they handle collaborative efforts with people who may not have the same command of the languages of one another or who grew up with different legal structures and frameworks or who may see the world we live in as fundamentally different. The true beauty of international partnerships is that we learn through our differences how similar we are as human beings.

There have been challenges and opportunities throughout the seven weeks that this course has met, and I am taking it all in along the way. One of these challenges is associated with learning new technology and deciding on the best way to deliver content, along with negotiating bandwidth issues that maintain both the audio and the video elements of the lecture. From a technological perspective, new enhancements in the dissemination of information in a collaborative environment is what has made this course a possibility. Cisco WebEx, an interface recommended by the Center for Teaching and Learning, enables us to meet in a virtual meeting room that becomes the classroom environment. Students can videoconference into the WebEx technology, and once everyone is in virtual meeting room, all of the students can access the lecturer and any PowerPoints that might be being used. We make a slight variation and just have the professors conference into this virtual meeting room with cameras on the students and classroom itself. This recreates, virtually, a single classroom environment. We are one of the first groups of people on the campus to have access to a license, which has been a wonderful opportunity for us as teachers and professionals. It has also helped us gain competencies that will inevitably assist our work as scholars in CCPA and International Affairs. Expansion of its use will make opportunities for increased collaboration an option for any program that would benefit from learning from a transnational and multicultural perspective.

We utilize open source technology for posting course information so that both campuses have equal access to the readings. All of the materials must be able to be accessed by students from both campuses so that there is equal opportunity for both classes to experience the course materials, preferably in both Spanish and English. In addition, the CLT helped us with a list of open source technologies for the students to use for their transnational group work. Another goal of this course/project is to work with the students on their digital fluency. As with any new technology there are some bumps along the way, but I am a firm believer in growth through trial.

As the semester rolls ahead, we will be constantly reflecting on this experience and learning from our students about the direction of these types of international collaborations in the future. Nadia, Sebastian, and I will be presenting at the CLAC (Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum) conference at Denison University this April on our experiences integrating this collaborative online international learning experience with a perspective of cultures and languages on course content. We look forward to looking at the various outcomes of this experience as we move forward in enhancing international partnerships. This has also not only been an amazing teaching opportunity, but will also produce sound and practical research. Most importantly, the essence of this collaborative life experience is the one that no metric can truly measure.

Stephen Louis Capobianco, BA ’11, MPA ’12

Study Abroad Coordinator

Office of International Programs

PhD Student, Community and Public Affairs

College of Community and Public Affairs

Binghamton University