Behind trans­for­ma­tive study-​​abroad expe­ri­ences so impor­tant in shaping a North­eastern student’s edu­ca­tion— in Egypt, India, Ire­land, Thai­land and myriad other locales— is a core of fac­ulty who awake in the wee hours to board planes with stu­dents, shep­herding as many as 20 at a time across the world. That’s the easy part.

The harder but far more rewarding part is cre­ating stellar pro­gram­ming that allows stu­dents to fully immerse them­selves in other cultures—often with life-​​altering results. Mis­sion accom­plished at North­eastern, with offer­ings that go well beyond ‘aca­d­emic tourism.’

The fac­ulty working behind the scenes on behalf of inter­na­tional study pro­grams are absolute stars,” said Ketty Rosen­feld, Northeastern’s director of inter­na­tional co-​​op. “They’re totally driven to broaden the per­spec­tives of our stu­dents, and to show them worlds and oppor­tu­ni­ties they might oth­er­wise never have found.”

Northeastern’s con­tin­gent of true believers in inter­na­tional study, who were at the fore­front of shaping the university’s inter­na­tional pro­gram­ming, include:

• Denis Sul­livan, director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Cul­ture and Devel­op­ment, director of the inter­na­tional affairs pro­gram and an early devel­oper of the study-​​abroad pro­gram Dia­logues of Civ­i­liza­tion
• Denise Horn, inter­na­tional affairs pro­fessor, who has led training in grass­roots orga­nizing and orga­ni­za­tional devel­op­ment in Brazil, India and Thai­land
• Gor­dana Rabren­ovic, asso­ciate director of the Brud­nick Center on Vio­lence and Con­flict, who finds the per­fect second class­room in Belfast, Ire­land
• Lorna Hay­ward, asso­ciate pro­fessor of phys­ical therapy, who accom­pa­nies stu­dents to Ecuador and Mexico to treat chil­dren needing phys­ical therapy

A model Mideast pro­gram
Denis Sul­livan still can’t believe how interest has blos­somed in both the Middle East and his once-​​modest Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions trips to Egypt, since he arrived on campus in 1987 as a Mideast policy expert.
What began as a trip to Egypt in 1993 to observe the Model Arab League is now a pop­ular study-​​abroad pro­gram in approx­i­mately 25 loca­tions around the globe. Stu­dents spend five weeks in rig­orous aca­d­emic pur­suits, inter­acting with thought leaders and other com­mu­nity mem­bers and par­tic­i­pating in cul­tural excursions.

Our suc­cess in Egypt opened the door to a pro­gram that has really taken off,” Sul­livan said, noting that the goal of the pro­gram is to con­nect North­eastern stu­dents with their peers in dif­ferent national, cul­tural, polit­ical and social environments.

Grass­roots change
Denise Horn has led three trips to Brazil, India and Thailand.

Horn, an inter­na­tional affairs pro­fessor with exper­tise in grass­roots activism, exposes stu­dents to the work of non­govern­mental orga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) in the face of con­di­tions over­seas that some­times shock but always enlighten the stu­dents. In 2007, on a trip to Thai­land, stu­dents chan­neled their reac­tions to human traf­ficking into pro­duc­tion of a doc­u­men­tary film, which was screened at North­eastern to edu­cate others.
Horn has always had an affinity for Thai­land. She hopes by exposing stu­dents to both the “land of smiles” and the harsher aspects of life there, she will inspire them to work for the greater good.

I see such amazing changes in the stu­dents who travel abroad with me,” she said. “They grow intel­lec­tu­ally, and they learn how to bring about change. I have seen stu­dents who ini­tially had little interest grow into amazing leaders on campus after dis­cov­ering what a dif­fer­ence one person can make.”

She added, “The wider point in all that we do is to help stu­dents realize that they can have a global impact, simply by working locally.”

Waging peace
Gor­dana Rabren­ovic is asso­ciate director of the Brud­nick Center on Vio­lence and Con­flict. Three years ago, she began a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram in Belfast, Ire­land. It was a per­fect place to study the peace effort, she said.

In Belfast, you can see the devel­op­ment of con­flict res­o­lu­tion up close. Although they’ve had peace there for 10 years, there are still so many issues to study … but it’s all so hopeful. It shows the stu­dents that peace is pos­sible anywhere.”

Stu­dents live at Queens Col­lege in Belfast, par­tic­i­pating in intern­ships in a variety of areas, from Par­lia­ment to law firms and the local news­paper, she said.

Two years ago, we had stu­dents working in Belfast during the Omagh bombing trial,” she says, “wit­nessing his­tory being made.” Stu­dents were in the court­room to see defen­dant Sean Hoey face 56 counts related to bomb­ings of police and mil­i­tary instal­la­tions. Other stu­dents worked in Par­lia­ment, riding ele­va­tors and speaking with key elected fig­ures, whom they watched in action on the floor of Parliament.

Becoming PT pro­fes­sionals
Lorna Hay­ward, asso­ciate pro­fessor of phys­ical therapy, has taken as many as 14 stu­dents at a time to an orphanage in Ecuador for an inten­sive, nine-​​day expe­ri­ence, working with young chil­dren with mul­tiple phys­ical therapy needs.

Before they arrive, her stu­dents research the diag­noses of their intended patients and pack nec­es­sary treat­ment sup­plies, which they later donate to the orphanage.

This is where my stu­dents develop into pro­fes­sionals,” Hay­ward said. “They’re not just going down and painting garages; they’re applying real skills in phys­ical therapy to cases they’ve pre­pared for, to treat chil­dren with diag­noses they’ve researched. They’ve ordered sup­plies, and they’re very prepared.”

Hay­ward has been taking stu­dents to the For His Chil­dren Orphanage, which she dis­cov­ered through her church, for sev­eral years, and is now branching out to Mexico. In early August, she took 23 stu­dents for an inten­sive, three-​​week pro­gram that incor­po­rates lan­guage study, cul­tural expo­sure and work in a long-​​term care facility.

Hayward’s will­ing­ness, and that of her other col­leagues, to explore and expe­ri­ence the world with stu­dents is what makes Northeastern’s inter­na­tional edu­ca­tion pro­gram so strong, Rosen­feld said.

These pro­fes­sors are on the front lines. Because of their hard work, so many of our stu­dents go on to pursue longer term inter­na­tional co-​​op oppor­tu­ni­ties [six-​​month com­mit­ments],” she said. “It’s amazing how they spark inter­na­tional interest among our students.”