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Locally grown, globally engaged

| Eric Torres, education studies

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is working vigorously to define what we mean by global learning and to craft a curricular framework in liberal education and majors that brings forward students' learning and responsibility in a global society. Contributing to the internationalization and global engagement of our university, the Department of Education Studies is also working to create new spheres for global learning for education majors — tangible and virtual, near and far, curricular and co-curricular. When coherently designed, “global learning provides opportunities for all student to think critically about complex, interdependent systems — natural, physical, social, cultural, economic, and political; and to engage in the histories and possible future of these systems, says the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Global learning “should bolster students to question and mesh gears with the world’s most pressing problems and to measure the impact of their actions (or lack thereof) on the common good of both local and global communities,” said Dr. Eric D. Torres, Assistant Professor of Education, who provided leadership to the International Fellows Project: “Building Global Competencies and Global Capacities in two Teacher Education Programs through International Collaboration." This initiative brought four UWEC student researchers to Peru to work with their peers from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú during the summer of 2016.



Dr. Eric Torres and student researchers surveying the geographical, environmental and historical contexts of Machi Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Many Peruvian students with whom they worked are native to this rain forest area.

As we know, not all global learners will share the same set of literacies after they complete their career. For that reason, our Teacher Education Program has started to make essential questions in order to identify the details that will make the difference in our Teacher Education students: What makes global education global? What is a global educator? What can she do? Obviously, for critical, active learning taking place in a global scenario, we needed a global partner from and with whom to begin to learn. For that reason, in order to facilitate scholarly collaboration and promote mutual understanding, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú established in February of 2015 a framework for educational and scientific cooperation in global learning to benefit all members of our academic communities. “We are learning that building relationships at the faculty and departmental level creates opportunities for meaningful collaboration that serve our students and the university exceptionally well, and with attention to our specific and mutual needs and desires.  This agreement with PUCP has been crafted to support just such relationships. We look forward to the possibilities,” said Dr. Paul Kaldjian, chair of the Council for Internationalization and Global Engagement upon the signature of the MOU.

Almost three semesters later and after careful planning, we see those possibilities begin to come true, said Dr. Torres: “We already have a rubric for global learning, but what about a global learner profile? I felt we needed to contribute that piece to the conversation in Eau Claire. Our research project was designed to ask precisely that question: what counts as knowledge? That is, what is significant in the learning process for both students and teachers in the context of two very successful experiences of global learning in Peru?” The findings are still being systematized for presentation in the Spring of 2017, but for the moment, our student researchers are persuaded that one main characteristic of a global learner is to embody an ability to initiate significant interactions with people from other cultures in the context of a complex problem or opportunity.

While it is true that one of the ultimate goals of this project is to enhance the pedagogy of existing experiences at UWEC and develop new high impact global learning experiences specific for aspiring educators in both institutions, one of the most important outcomes, according to student participants, was a more sophisticated understanding of K-22 schooling as an identity-shaping process and its challenge to nurture an empowering sense of agency and interdependence in service of global citizenship. 


After completing the research fieldwork, Latin American Studies Minor Nathan Holtz had the opportunity of an extended stay in Peru through a voluntary internship at the acclaimed Colegio Fe y Algeria # 17 in Villa El Salvador.

Vested with a strong sense of humility, senior Nate Holtz said: “Little did I know, that this would be one of the most difficult and challenging experiences of my life. I would spend several weeks working in highly acclaimed school systems. I would visit museums with the world’s most diverse and largest collections of indigenous artifacts. I would explore the world’s most fascinating pre-Incan and Incan archaeological sites and eat one of the world’s finest cuisine. Finally, and most importantly, I would learn a lot about myself, others, and my role as a future educator and global citizen.” And as he grappled with his new level of consciousness he added: “I will allow others to experience learning from different viewpoints than their own, I will go beyond providing superficial multicultural content for my students and I will provide real world global learning experiences.”


Maggie St. Ores' technological skills were a great asset to the research process, but as an aspiring social studies teacher she found that the human connection and the willingness to join in a thoughtful conversation were irreplaceable.

For junior Maggie St. Ores the experience was a bit different since it was her first globally-minded project and her first international academic experience. “I was very nervous going into this trip that I wouldn’t be able to grasp the language, or produce anything valuable as far as the research goes. Thanks to Dr. Torres, I quickly became comfortable and understood more about what was happening around me. Now we are off on a new adventure!” For Maggie that new adventure has to do with her determination to grasp with words what a thought cannot think: “For the students and most people of Peru, dance is a way of connecting and communicating with the body. Dancing is not a chore, and in general, people are not reluctant to participate. Because of the more positive views towards dance, people are generally better connected with their bodies.” And also an increased awareness about the need to take informed and responsible action to address ethical, social, and environmental challenges. As a Broadfield Social Studies educator “learning about ancestral foods of Peru through the students helped me to better understand the diversity within Peru because, there, food is literally a window into the culture. Through food, you can see what kind of relationship people have with their environment. You can also better understand various cultural values, like the value of having no waste."


Jenna Gasner demonstrated the entreprenurial skills and social consciousness of a teacher advocate. Literate in two languages and always ready to carefully listen, Jenna's engagement was authentically honest.

Senior Jenna Gasner was very excited about being part of an international research team but, even more, about the opportunity to learn by doing. For her, it is very clear that a global learner should be able to integrate and apply knowledge and skills gained through general education, the major, and all curricular and co-curricular experiences to address complex, contemporary global issues. Equipped with strong writing skills, Jenna was able to capture sophisticated textual images of her experience: “My experience at Colegio Mayor was meaningful in so many ways because of the interactions with the students. Probably one of my favorite classes in which I took part was dance class, which all students have during the year. I found this class to be extremely important because not only was it an outlet for physical activity, but the students learned about the cultural diversity throughout Peru through dance. Each region in Peru has many typical dances that are performed for various reasons. Thus, in this class, the students learn the movements and the stories behind the dances. In addition, I loved watching how dedicated many male students were to learning traditional Peruvian dances, especially because men dancing often has a negative connotation in the United States. However, dancing is something to value and enjoy for many people in Peru, no matter if you are a girl or a boy.  I had the opportunity to teach some dance moves from my dance background in the United states, which was an incredible moment of cultural exchange on the trip!”


Joel Newman was always on the move. As an aspiring Spanish teacher and teacher of English to speakers of other languages, Joel demonstrated a deep capacity for empathy and the power of making oneself vulnerable.

Senior Joel Newman had many “Aha!” moments during the summer: “I’m confident that I’ll be a better teacher because of what I saw, experienced, and learned in Peru.” With a strong and well developed sense of respect for difference, Newman now clearly understands that a global learner is able to connect his or her own values in the context of personal identities and both recognizes and anticipates diverse and potentially conflicting positions in the context of social and civic problems: “I now recognize that making generalizations about culture at the national level creates limitations, and thinking about the concept of ‘national cultures’ has led me to believe that culture does not necessarily adhere to international boundaries, which are really just arbitrary lines drawn by governments.” His re-entry experience was also very powerful learning experience: “So, in response to whether I felt safe in Peru, I would tell people that before I had even completed my first week abroad, a mass shooting occurred. I would then point out that this shooting did not, however, occur in Peru, but rather in Orlando, Florida. Likewise, I would mention that our return flight from Lima included a brief layover in Dallas, Texas, a city in uproar, just two days removed from a deadly protest that resulted in the killing of five police officers.”

As lead researcher and a facilitator, Dr. Torres was elated with the mental acuity of his students and very pleased with the effort that his research assistants put in preparation for the fieldwork. “During the preparation phase in the Spring I could see that each of them could develop an area of expertise; and during the field trip I saw them working twice as much in their reflection and analysis, staying until very late almost every night in collaborative work and savoring with anticipation the next morning. During the day, they actively participated in the learning environments prepared by their Peruvian cooperating teachers, providing leadership in activities that were presented to them as challenges and taking initiative in those in which they found themselves ready to lead. They were able to successfully adapt, create new spaces, negotiate meaning, and generate trust and rapport with all their global partners to the point where formal invitations and expectations for the next few years were generated.” Their visit and performance was featured on local television (


The research project included two PUCP Teacher Education majors, Juali Gonzales (first left) and Sofia Gonzales (first right), who collaborated in the fieldwork phase and assumed the role of cultural interpreters, which was key to the project's success.

But the culminating experience was the forum that the PUCP School of Education and UWEC College of Education and Human Sciences were able to put together to share the experience. “My six research assistants presented their preliminary findings to an auditorium of about 100 PUCP students and faculty. And they did it with much professionalism: they properly explained their methodological approach, engaged in competent dialogue with a Spanish speaking Peruvian audience, responded to complex questions about intercultural, global learning, received thorough feedback from three PUCP faculty who acted as contestants, and readily received suggestions and critique to improve and enrich their research from the audience,” said Dr. Torres with a strong feeling of satisfaction. For a full-length video of the forum please click here. A research paper containing suggestions about global learning to the Teacher Education programs in both universities will be presented in CERCA during the Spring of 2017.

“I am looking forward to further developing this experience to include other areas of specialization and integrate colleagues from multiple areas. In the meantime, we are working together with PUCP in the development of a global learning joint certificate to be offered to our education majors in Lima and Eau Claire,” said Dr. Torres. The geographical, cultural and historical landscapes of Peru and the hospitality of PUCP have offered a unique scenario for our students to become more aware of their roles and responsibilities as global citizens in more local scenarios and helped them imagine their potential professional roles at a global scale. And precisely that is what we need to do: create opportunities for them to explore and shape their own global landscapes of consciousness.


See a collection of the students' favorite photos from their experience here

Caption for top image:

UWEC Teacher Education students (from left) Nathan Holtz, Middle Childhood/Early Adolescence Major
Spanish Liberal Arts Major, Latin American Studies Minor (Owen, WI); Maggie St. Ores, Broadfield Social Studies Teaching Major, Geography-History Minor (Rosemount, MN); Jenna Gasner, Spanish Education Major, History Minor (Eden Prairie, MN); and Joel Newman, Spanish Education Major, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Minor (Red Wing, MN), survey the historical and cultural context of Plaza Mayor in Lima, Peru as part of an International Fellows Project focused on global learning.

Caption for bottom image:

Representatives from UWEC and PUCP gathered in Eau Claire campus on February 25, 2015 for the culmination of a two-year long negotiation process to establish an MOU designed to generate knowledge and global competencies that will allow students and faculty from both institutions to participate in high impact global learning experiences. Pictured in the back row, from left to right are: Dr. Alan Rieck, Chair of the Department of Music and Theater; Dr. Mike Carney, Associate Vice Chancellor ; Dr. Jim Schmidt, Chancellor; Dr. Paul Kaldjian, Chair of the Council for Internationalization and Global Engagement; Dr. David Leaman, Dean of the College of Arts and Science; Dr. Carmen Manning, Dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences. First row: Dr. rose Battalion, Chair of Education Studies Department; Dr. Eric Torres, Assistant Professor of Education Studies; Dr. Luis Peirano, PUCP Dean of the School of Music and Scenic Arts, Dr. Hildegardo Cordova, Executive Director of PUCP Applied Geography Research Center, Elizabeth Flores, PUCP School of Education Associate Professor; Dr. Patricia Kleine, Provost; and Dr. Carmen Coloma, Dean of PUCP School of Education.