Zambia study abroad trip recognized with innovation award

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As part of the speech-language pathology (SLP) program at Baldwin Wallace, a unique study abroad experience to Zambia will be offered each year to first-year graduate students.  

This past year, the program won the IIE Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education. This award is granted to programs that focus on removing the walls of a classroom and increasing participation in study abroad opportunities, while also promoting international teaching and learning on campuses.  

This SLP program experience started with the emergence of the Speech-Language Pathology Graduate Program. Christie Needham, department chair for Communication Sciences & Disorders, and Colleen Visconti, professor for the Communication Sciences & Disorders department, wanted to add a global component to their program in an exclusive way.  

Chisomo Selemani, assistant professor for the Communication Sciences & Disorders department, was able to help in the development of this trip because she is a native Zambian. With her goals in mind, Selemani strived to create an ongoing relationship with the community of Zambia in order to create a bidirectional program. A bidirectional program describes the flow of communication, resources, etc., between both communities, which in this case is BW’s community and Zambia.  

Last year, the SLP program’s students went on the first trip to Zambia and, because of the connections they have made with their community partners in Zambia, there are now informational websites that the students are able to access. As a way for the students to immerse themselves in this trip, they enter the sites in smaller groups so they can each have an individual experience. Another opportunity these students have is the ability to provide hearing screenings for the community of Zambia and also provide different clinical experiences that they have learned at BW. Not only are the students getting hands-on experience in their field of study and volunteering their time to helping Zambia, but they also get to see what the practice of speech therapy is like in a different country.  

“This trip came through these stepping stones of exploration, exchange, and really understanding ourselves as members of a global society, which is part of the mission of BW,” Selemani said. All of these elements pieced together created an award-winning student program. Selemani sent in the program’s nomination for the Heiskell Award and they were chosen as an honorable mention.  

“This experience allows our students to learn flexibility, empathy, and communication skills,” said Needham. 

As for the future of the study abroad program, Zambia has expanded their opportunities to BW’s media & broadcasting program, music programs, higher education programs, and various health professions.  

“There is a possibility of developing programs in other industries,” said Selemani, “because we have those connections.” 

BW is currently developing a study abroad program to Zambia in theater & broadcasting, therefore helping to broaden the opportunities for not just students in the SLP program, but for all students.