A couple of years ago, MSU Denver educators Carmen Sanjurjo and Myron Anderson hit upon an idea while attending an international conference at the University of Puerto Rico.
�We said, let�s see if we can set up some kind of exchange program with them,� Anderson recalls.
That conversation between Anderson, associate to the president for diversity, and Sanjurjo, assistant professor of secondary education, led to a formal agreement for a faculty exchange between Metropolitan State University of Denver and the University of Puerto Rico.
MSU Denver led off the initiative in June, sending Anderson, Sanjurjo, Peter Vigil, assistant professor of early childhood education, and Vanessa Anderson, an affiliate faculty member in the Teacher Education Department, to UPR Rio Piedras, the main campus in the university system. They led a seminar on multicultural education, diversity and related issues and began a joint research project with teacher education faculty. The seminar drew roughly 25 participants, largely faculty and K-12 teachers.
UPR�s Teacher Education Department includes some instruction on multicultural education but it isn�t a requirement as it is at MSU Denver. �They want to incorporate it into their curriculum because there is a need,� says Sanjurjo, a UPR alumnus and liaison for the exchange program. That�s because teachers in Puerto Rico confront many of the same issues�bullying, racial tension, social class�that are seen in U.S. schools, she adds.
But MSU Denver has a need UPR could meet�to expose teacher education students to instructors from a different environment and culture. That happens next summer when a delegation from UPR will come here to teach and begin a new joint-research effort.
The exchange program runs for just two weeks during the summer unlike others that can last a semester or even a year. Anderson sees the short duration as a plus. �All you have to give up is two weeks of your time. You�d be able to have this exchange, have this experience�and then get back to your normal way of life.�
Research is an important element of the initiative. A virtual classroom has been set up so faculty from both schools can develop the initial research project on technology and its impacts on the curriculum and delivery of multicultural education. More research projects between MSU Denver and UPR will follow this one.
�When it comes to our faculty contributing to the intellectual capital of teacher education and education as a whole it creates an avenue,� Anderson says. �We can both gain from this.�
Both Anderson and Sanjurjo hope the exchange program expands to other departments and eventually includes students. The sponsors plan to seek grants to support the initiative, but there is one variable that neither side can control�Puerto Rican politics.
Elections are scheduled for November in Puerto Rico, and a change in government would mean a change in the administration of the UPR, a state institution. �All the deans, all the administrators at all the campuses would have to resign,� Sanjurjo says.
She doesn�t think that would be a deal killer for the exchange program, however.
�In the long run it won�t affect it that much but it may delay things,� she says.
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