International Programs expands partnerships in South America, hosts leaders from Bogotá's Universidad Externado

Ahmad Ezzeddine (left), Rebecca Pendleton, Jaclyn Assarian and Eduardo Bechara-Gomez
Ahmad Ezzeddine (left), Rebecca Pendleton,
Jaclyn Assarian and Eduardo Bechara-Gomez


As part of its strategy to expand Wayne State partnerships in South America, the Office of International Programs is launching its first initiative in Colombia, recently hosting representatives from the Universidad Externado in Bogotá to finalize the details for a reciprocal student exchange focusing on conflict and post-conflict resolution.

The social parallels between Detroit and Bogotá  will give students a unique comparative learning experience, says Rebecca Pendleton, coordinator of international relations at Externado, and Eduardo Bechara-Gomez, a faculty member with Externado’s department of finance, government and international relations.  

The June/July exchange will allow students to analyze the host country’s historical struggles, subsequent effects on the communities and efforts to rebound and rebuild.

“We want to open their minds to social sensitivities and sensibilities,” says Bechara-Gomez.

The exchange is funded by a $25,000 grant the universities received from a competition sponsored by MetLife Foundation through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, a public-private sector collaboration among the U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, corporations, foundations, regional governments and embassies.

While in Bogotá, Wayne State students will analyze the recent evolution of Colombia’s armed conflict, as well as the various peace processes and peace building experiences associated with it; the Colombian peace accords process; and the reintegration of former fighters under conditions of democracy and justice.

OIP has partnered with the Department of Political Science and the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies on the Detroit program. As part of their experience here, Colombian students will take part in the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute organized by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies.

Colombian students will learn about Detroit’s history of civic conflict resolution, civil rights, and immigrant integration in the community; interethnic challenges and successes; and problems of crime, violence and justice that are intertwined with the unique economic conditions of the city.

The Wayne State students will have a three part experience: classroom study here; travel/study in Colombia; and the study of Detroit with the visiting Colombian students. 

They will participate for credit in a special topics course led by political science Associate Professor Sharon Lean, recently named associate dean for student services in the Graduate School.  Class will meet on campus for four weeks in advance of travel to Bogotá, during which students will learn about the history of the Colombian civil war and recent peace agreement. They’ll interact with Colombian students online before travel, and participate with them when they visit Wayne State, attending lectures on conflict resolution in Detroit, visiting historical sites and museums together and developing their own comparative analysis of how peace and reconciliation can be advanced at the community level.  

“This is an incredible opportunity for our students to participate in a new type of instructional model combining classroom study, online collaboration, civic engagement and short-term study abroad,” Lean says. “We hope to provide a profound learning experience that will shape student understandings of local and global issues.”

Ahmad Ezzeddine, associate vice president of educational outreach and international programs, is working with Pendleton on a formal agreement framework to expand the partnership for additional teaching and research exchanges in the future.

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda. Follow us on Twitter @WayneOIP.

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