Faculty returns from Australia

by Shara Tibken

On a blustery December day, five Simpson College faculty membersboarded a plane for a very long flight. They were not flying intothe complete unknown, but they were flying to a place almost aworld away. Three days later, they reached their finaldestination-Australia.

Those faculty members had been selected to visit CurtinUniversity, a place that may soon be a semester abroad studylocation for Simpson students.

Simpson College has been in the planning stages for a semesterexchange program with the university for several months.

In order to determine whether Simpson students would benefitfrom an exchange program with the larger university, the fivefaculty members spent four days at Curtin University. Curtin islocated in the city of Perth on the western coast of Australia.

“We were sent to Australia to investigate the viability ofsetting up an international program for our students at CurtinUniversity in Perth,” said Nancy St. Clair, professor of English.”While there we toured the school, which is very beautiful, and metwith administrators, professors and students from Kalamazoo Collegein Michigan who are doing a semester abroad there.”

The faculty members left for Australia on Dec. 12 and returnedon Dec. 22.

The professors were chosen from various areas of study in orderfor the college to get a better idea of what Curtin University hasto offer students from Simpson.

Faculty members attending included Lora Friedrich, head of thedepartment of social science; Tom Schmidt, head of the departmentof accounting, economics, management and marketing; St. Clair, headof the department of English; Brian Steffen, head of the departmentof communication studies; and Ronald Warnet, chair of the divisionof natural science.

While in Australia, the members of the Simpson faculty met withcounterparts at Curtin to discuss academics in specificdepartments.

“I looked at [science] courses and final exams,” said Warnet.”[The Curtin faculty members] are very knowledgeable about teachingmethods and do excellent science.”

Overall, the Simpson college faculty members said they wereimpressed with the academics at Curtin University.

“Specifically, I met with professors in their equivalent of theEnglish Department, and we talked about their curriculum and how itdiffered from ours,” said St. Clair. “I was very impressed with theprofessors I met and think it would be a great experience forEnglish majors to study with them. Their curriculum is quitecutting edge and would be especially beneficial for Englishstudents hoping to go on to graduate school.”

Since the students attending Curtin University were currently onsummer vacation, the faculty members were unable to sit in onclasses, although they were able to meet some Curtin Universityinternational students from the United States.

Ten students from Kalamazoo College were currently studying atCurtin University. They were all biology majors, according toWarnet.

“All were very enthusiastic about their experiences in Australiaand encouraged Simpson students to attend,” said St. Clair.

Curtin University is much larger than Simpson.

“Classes are very student centered and they were focused ongroup work and really strong current pedagogy kind of ideas,” saidFriedrich. “Curtin has strong academics, and every faculty memberthat I met was published.”

If students are able to study at Curtin University in thefuture, that semester abroad would be different from the othersemesters offered at Simpson because students would be able to takeclasses for their major, not just cornerstones.

“This is the best of the overseas studies for science majors,”said Warnet. “Students can take lab courses to count towards theirmajor.”

Students would also have the opportunity to take electiveclasses not offered at Simpson.

“One thing we discussed was that every student who went would berequired to take a course in aboriginal studies,” said Friedrich.It could be sociology, literature, science or any other disciplinebase, but it would be looking at aboriginal people.”

Curtin University’s impression on the faculty members definitelywas favorable.

“I loved Australia and would go back in a heartbeat,” said St.Clair.

The five faculty members will be meeting with John Bolen, theregistrar and associate academic dean, to discuss the experiencesthe professors had in Australia.

No decisions as to whether or not Simpson students will be ableto study in Australia for a semester will be made at that time.