New Mexico State University's College of Education continues to work globally, with educators having recently returned from a trip overseas during which they attended and spoke at an international conference and met with counterparts from Mongolian State University of Education.
Held in Ulaanbaator, Mongolia, the conference was focused on teacher education reform and child development and socialization.
In 2011, NMSU and MSUE signed a Memorandum of Understanding, based on the extensive work of Candace Kaye, an NMSU associate professor in curriculum and instruction and 2010-2011 Fulbright Teaching and Research Scholar.
The MOU is focused on "initiating a change in Mongolia from a teacher-centered to a student-centered approach to education, while providing an introduction to Western thoughts and ideas."
"Our learning so far indicates a concentrated focus on educational knowledge, reform and building a model of collaboration structured from ongoing discussions of MSUE's specific selection of needed areas," Kaye said. "Our learning continues to be linked with understanding the historical sociology and cultural anthropology of Mongolia that emphasizes the difference between a surface Westernization for an institution and an honored commitment for persisting culturally-specific patterns of meaning.
"As foreigners, we must continue to struggle with the notion of being looked upon as all-knowing experts and holders of all knowledge. We are offering no 'truths,' but rather, providing a banquet for discourse and are open to our colleagues in Mongolia to do the same."
Kaye and College of Education Dean Michael Morehead served as keynote speakers at the conference. The two were accompanied on the trip by Adelina Rodriguez, student program coordinator; Marlene Salas-Provance, special education and communication disorders department head; Jeanette Haynes Writer, department head of curriculum and instruction; Mary Prentice, educational management and development department head; and Julia Parra, assistant professor in curriculum and instruction.
The faculty also gave presentations based on their research interests.
Along with attending the conference, the NMSU group presented to Mongolian higher education students at the U.S. Embassy American Corner on perspectives of U.S. higher education.
The American Corners Program is a United States Department of State-sponsored initiative inaugurated worldwide. American Corners serve as regional resource centers for information and programs highlighting American culture, history, current events and government.
"Students had the opportunity to ask questions of all the presenters in their area of expertise," Rodriguez said. "It was an enriching experience, as there are so many students interested in furthering their education in the United States. The level of fluency of the English language from these students was amazing. In addition, we visited the College of Preschool Education and sat in on faculty presentations of their work in action research, which has been led by Dr. Kaye since 2010."
After initial visits between the two universities in November 2012 and May 2013, the partnering educators will examine an action plan that includes developing a webpage, summer 2014 student/faculty study tours to MSUE and a monthly online chat group for MSUE and NMSU students and faculty to discuss specific topics.
"For example," Kaye said, "the Mongolian colleagues suggested that the first topic be 'What is good teaching?'"
NMSU is the first university in the world to collaborate with MSUE through a formalized MOU.
"Our relationship with MSUE is very unique," Morehead said. "At this time we are developing the action plan to include collaborative research, partnerships with program development, coordination of professional development in special education and other high-need areas. Mongolia has a rich history, and can offer us a lot of opportunities to become more aware of current global issues."
The MOU highlights certain areas of collaboration, including:
• exchange of students, faculty and administrative staff;
• collaborative research projects, lectures, symposia, seminars and workshops; and
• exchange of academic information and materials.
The signed agreement will last through 2016 and will be automatically renewed by mutual agreement for another five years.