When you’re housed in a city with four larger institutions of higher learning and an emerging law school, it might be easy to get lost in the shuffle.
However, one of the draws for Bennett College is its robust International Program, which since 2009 has sent about 200 students to 29 countries as far away and varied as Australia, China, Costa Rica, South Africa, South Korea and Tanzania.
Moreover, Bennett has hosted 19 international students from formal government scholarship programs from countries including Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Turkmenistan.
“We’re proud to offer our students the opportunity to travel internationally,” said Bennett College President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins. “It’s one thing to read about a country online, but it’s something else altogether to visit that country. Students who enroll at Bennett College get the opportunity to do just that.”
Dawkins traveled with students to Seoul, South Korea, and Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, last year on grant-sponsored trips.
Kim Drye, director of the Leadership Development Institute for Women, led a group of eight students and two staffers to Belgium last year.
“The students and staff had the opportunity to interact with conference attendees from 70 countries and attend sessions that examined key leadership theories and practices as well as the importance of adapting to leadership across boundaries,” Drye said. “Bennett College has a long, rich legacy of preparing young women for leadership roles in a global society.”
While some Bennett students go overseas for brief trips, others like Rochelle Givens spend an entire semester studying abroad. Givens, a junior business administration major who’s double minoring in entrepreneurship and global studies, was in Cyprus during the fall of 2017.
“Bennett College puts a very strong emphasis on its International Program because the administration understands that not a lot of African-American women have the opportunity, funding and support to travel abroad,” Givens said. “The Center for Global Studies has consistently improved during my time here by providing more opportunities and making sure students have passports and are able to enhance their skills and abilities.”
Kelly Mallari, interim director of Bennett’s Center for Global Studies, said she hopes to influence more students to travel abroad.
“The International Program at Bennett is designed to provide students the unique opportunity to study abroad at institutes of higher learning in over a dozen countries worldwide,” Mallari said. “With anywhere from five to 10 students traveling to places like Cyprus, Senegal, Korea, China and Tanzania, Bennett provides a plethora of opportunities to turn Bennett Belles into Global Belles.”
According to a study released in October 2017 by the Institute of International Education, students who study abroad for any period of time develop essential skills that will positively impact their professional development.
IIE data show that “about 10% of U.S. students go abroad at some point during their undergraduate years, and about 63% of them go abroad for eight weeks or less. Only 3% of all students spend an entire academic year abroad.”
Moreover, the 2016 QS Global Employer Survey Report found that 60% of employers around the world “give extra credit for an international student experience, and more than 80% said they actively sought graduates who had studied abroad.” The survey included the views of more than 10,000 employers in 116 counties on five continents.
Mallari, who earned her undergraduate degree in English, International and Global Studies and Religious Studies from UNC Greensboro, knows firsthand the impact of studying abroad. During her junior year at UNCG, she studied at the University of Westminster in London, an experience she called life changing.
“Prior to going to London, I’d always been afraid of heights and had never flown,” Mallari said. “One of my best friends had studied abroad in Sweden and told me I’d have to learn to face my fears if I wanted to experience new things. From the moment I landed in Heathrow and walked out of the tube station, I saw a building that was 500 years old. Immediately, I felt immersed in a different world. It was amazing.”
Mallari recommends traveling abroad to all college students and is determined to help many Belles seize the opportunity. This year, plans are for Bennett students to travel to Cyprus, Rome and Cuba. Additionally, Mallari said, exchange students from Cairo, Egypt, are expected at Bennett next spring.
Bennett professors also take advantage of international study opportunities. Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson, Mott Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies and Director, Africana Women’s Studies has been awarded a residency for an intensive, two-week curriculum development program in interdisciplinary, contemporary antisemitism studies July 29-August 11 at St. John’s College in Oxford, United Kingdom She’ll use what she gleans from the intensive program to develop new course offerings for students.
“I’m well aware of the impact race and ethnicity have on behavior and the way societies are organized,” said Johnson, an anthropologist. “My aim is … to increase global awareness through revised and new courses that integrate African diaspora studies and antisemitism studies.”
Bennett College Provost Dr. Dorothy C. Browne, also the Institution’s vice president for Academic Affairs, said Johnson’s travel abroad will not only enable her to enhance Bennett’s course offerings but may also motivate more students to study abroad.
“Data on factors influencing students to study abroad, especially students from underrepresented populations, show that faculty members with study abroad experiences influenced their decisions,” Browne said.
Mallari can’t wait to see how Johnson integrates what she learns at Oxford into her Greensboro classroom.
“I’m sure Dr. V.J. is going to do an amazing job as she already incorporates global elements into her curriculum. Likewise, she does a fantastic job of reminding Belles that they’re stakeholders in their future and being a global citizen is essential to being relevant and to being heard in today’s society.”