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Lindsay Lyons: I'm excited for you to hear from Dr. Kelly Cerialo today. She's an associate professor and program coordinator in the Business and Hospitality Department at Paul Smith's College, she is the co-chair of the Unesco Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve, New York and Vermont, a steering committee member for the US Unesco Biosphere Network, and focal point liaison for the US Biosphere Reserve Youth Network. She coordinates international student exchanges with a focus on eco-tourism in Unesco Biosphere reserves in Europe and Africa. She is the co-founder of the Adirondack to Appennino Sustainable Parks and Communities Project, an international sustainable initiative between the Appennino Tusco-Emiliano Biosphere Reserve in Italy and the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve. Dr. Cerialo is the former director of the Global Center for Rural Communities at Paul Smith's College and has over a decade of experience building international sustainable development collaborations. She received the Chamberlain Excellence in Teaching Award in 2019 and Faculty Member of the Year at Paul Smith's College in 2018. Dr. Cerialo has presented her research on sustainable tourism and youth leadership development at conferences in the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
She has a PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, a master's degree in Communication Management from the University of Southern California, master's degree in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, and a bachelor's degree in Public Relations, Mass Media Communication from the College of New Jersey. Her research interests include sustainable tourism development, the social impacts of tourism in internationally designated areas, sustainable tourism in Unesco Biosphere reserves, Unesco Biosphere reserve governance and management, recreation overuse, and youth leadership development in internationally designated areas. Let's get right to the episode. For a reference I'll tell you when this episode was recorded, which was August 9, 2021. Here we go.
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Lindsay Lyons: Hi, I'm Lindsay Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities, take brave action to make those dreams a reality, and sustain an inclusive, anti-racist culture where all students thrive.
I'm a former teacher leader-turned instructional coach, educational consultant, and leadership scholar. If you're a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal, superintendent, instructional coach, or a classroom teacher excited about school wide change like I was, you are a leader. And if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts, if you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the Time for Teachership podcast. Let's dive in.
Lindsay Lyons: Welcome Dr. Kelly Cerialo to the podcast. I'm so excited to have you here. I just read your professional bio. Is there anything you want to add to that intro?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: So Lindsay, thank you so much for having me on the show. I'm honored and it's-- I'm excited to share with you my perspectives about study abroad. So I would say that the main thing I wanted to add about this before we get started is that a lot of what I'm discussing today is a mix of my own academic research and experience. So I'm not the traditional academic. I would say I'm a more scholar practitioner and so a lot of the context of what I'm discussing is based on conducting service-learning study abroad trips for the last seven years in Italy and South Africa.
And so a lot of it again isn't just based on my scholarly research, but more my practice in the field. So I wanted to say that and I think another aspect that might be helpful to frame our conversation is to tell you a little bit about the college where I teach and the student demographics. I think that will help understand how I've learned from this study abroad approach and how I've tried to strengthen the service-learning aspect of the study abroad piece. So I teach at a very small rural private college in upstate New York, in the northern Adirondacks actually, so it's about six hours north of New York City. It's called Paul Smith's College and the whole model of learning there is focused on innovative experiential learning and so I know that a lot of programs focus on that, but it's really changed my perspective of what that can look like and more importantly, how place-based education fits into that. So in terms of the college itself and the location, it's a really interesting learning ground. We have in our school, we have programs that range from Forestry Management, where it's literally the students are barely in the classroom, they're always outside, you know, it's-- our campus is 14,000 acres so the students are outside, you know, in the field all the time learning.
And in my program I teach in the Business and Hospitality Department. So we're always quote unquote in the field too. I'm not in the forest as much, but we're always, you know, in the field meeting with, tourism operators to learn about, you know, things related to our field. So it's truly out of the classroom experiential learning. And that's-- it was interesting because that actually helped me improve my approach to study abroad because it really focused on place-based learning. And then I tried to apply that in a global setting so to improve my approach to study abroad and how I can make that more generative for the students, not only in our local community but more importantly abroad. So in terms of the student demographics that I teach, so, again it's a very small school and we have about 1000 undergraduate students, we just launched one master's program, but the bachelor's program is about 1000. And most of the students are first generation college students, low income families, most of them receive federal funding in order to supplement their tuition.
And so this isn't a traditional kind of western, extremely wealthy, you know, New York City-based college, it's-- these are certainly low income and first generation college students that in traditional academic settings may not have an opportunity to study abroad. But I'm proud that at our school we've built in funding opportunities in scholarships that allow these students to be able to go to all different locations. You know, whether it's Russia, I don't run the Russia study abroad. We have another program in Biology that does a study abroad trip to Russia, but then also in Italy, South Africa. So it's a really, I think unique, innovative and I like to think an inclusive model that our whole school is introduced. I don't think it's just me. I think the other faculty members have really wrapped their, you know, hands around and minds around creating truly innovative place-based education in our area and then abroad. So it's pretty unique in that and I'm proud to, proud to be a part of it.
Lindsay Lyons: That's amazing and it kind of speaks-- that, that answer was kind of speaks to the next question that I'm going to ask, which is around this idea that Dr. Bettina Love talks about: freedom dreaming. She describes that, I love her description, as "Dreams grounded in the critique of injustice". And so I'd love to hear from you, you know, what is your big dream that you hold for the field of education?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: So many, right, I have a laundry list, but I think the one that's so relevant to this episode, and I say the-- I think, it's so relevant just in terms of what's going on in the world today is the idea of trying to figure out a way for educators and administrators to introduce their-- to reimagine the idea of place as pedagogy, right? So the idea of thinking about how place as pedagogy can create opportunities for students to think critically about injustice in their own towns, but also abroad. Along with that, I think what is critical is to think about how students and even faculty, I, you know, needed to reflect on this myself several times,
is thinking about how our own intersectional lenses influence the way that we see, we feel, and we think about, right? Those three aspects: seeing, feeling, and thinking about our culture and other cultures, I think, are a critical piece to place as pedagogy, right? So it's not only seeing it, but you feel a certain way when you're experiencing a place, right? When you're sensing a place. And then when you're thinking about it, sometimes your thoughts don't always align with what you're seeing. And so I think considering those three aspects is really important. So I think when I'm dreaming again about this big idea, you know, what dream do I hold for education is really how can we introduce that way of thinking about place as pedagogy to think critically, for students to think critically about injustice and in that, in that same aspect of thinking about injustice is also thinking about what opportunities in that can we create for social change, because I think that's the piece, it's not just saying there's injustice there, but we can use place as pedagogy to find opportunities for social change.
So I think it's a pretty pie in the sky, you know, dream that, I think it's possible. And I think that, yeah, it's something I'm at least striving for.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that so much, and I think that's such a great point. We don't want to just point out injustice and identify where it exists, but we want to actually advance justice and, you know, make social change. And so I love that, that piece of the dream, and I'm thinking, you know, this is, as you said, kind of pie in the sky, or maybe a deviation from, particularly when we're talking about, you know, undergraduate students and what college looks like, that has been a very specific way for a very long time in terms of the pedagogy of college and, all of that, and I mean down through K-12 as well, right, there's this traditional way of doing things. And so I'm curious to know what mindset shifts are required either for the students, for faculty, like whoever you see as really needing that mindset shift to get people to buy into that idea of place as pedagogy and moving for social change.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Yeah, so I'd say the first and I think most important shift that needs to happen is when you're thinking about place as pedagogy is that there's, [sigh] there's a danger in hierarchies
when you think about place as pedagogy, and I think when you're trying to use a place as grounds to educate, it's important to establish networks instead of reinforce hierarchies. So the idea of how do I network with the local business and the community to make sure that we are introducing ideas, you know, the student ideas for a project. One example I can think about is that my students have worked with a local organization to help them develop a self-assessment to be more sustainable in hotels. So it's for hotels and they come up with a self-assessment. And so what was interesting in that process was that, it-- instead of the hotel is looking at the students and saying, "What do they know about sustainability?" and, you know, the strict hierarchy of, "I'm older", "I've been in the field for a really long time", "You have no idea about our budget", "You have no idea about...", you know, what it takes to be sustainable. It broke that hierarchy down and it gave, it empowered the students through our network with them, in our relationship with them, to find a voice and to research what they needed to do to create the self-assessment for hotels.
So what was interesting in that process was my students were working locally with these-- it was a series of hotels in the Lake Placid area, which is a very, you know, it's Lake Placid where our- my College is about 30 minutes from Lake Placid, a 30 minute drive. And it's a popular tourist destination. It was known, they hosted the Olympics there twice in 1932 and 1980. And so it's a big tourist destination, totally for the Olympics, but it's also, outdoor recreation is really popular and hiking and so hotels are a strong economic driver in this region. So my students having the opportunity to create something that could be more sustainable for these hotels was an incredible opportunity and it couldn't have happened without that breakdown of the hierarchies and without the networking experience. And what was interesting too was that in terms of empowering the students instead of trying to control them in that process, I stepped back and I kind of, you know, it was, we were doing this, it actually happened, you know, in a semester that I was partially-- it was a hybrid of the course, we were part in person and part, you know, online and I was able to step back and let them really drive the idea.
So think about innovative ways to approach this, instead of me saying this is what we're going to do, this is, you know why this is important in this hotel and this is why the self-assessment... So they really created that project. So going back to that question, the mindset shift, I think that are required to really strengthen that place as pedagogy is to break down the hierarchies and encourage networks and then I would say empower instead of control and that again, all those, both of those concepts can mean a lot of layers, right? So it can be hierarchies within the educational framework, hierarchies within, you know, the community framework or abroad because we'll be talking about the study abroad a little bit later internationally, and then the empowering instead of controlling, you know, in my example was really about empowering the students instead of strictly saying this is what you're gonna do, and I think the other layer to that was the hotels also trusted the students enough and empowered them enough to let their voice come forward.
And so I think that was a really critical piece in place as pedagogy is allowing that empowerment to come through. So it worked, I think that, you know, it was really great and the way I, you know, know it worked was that hotels were excited to use the end product and this, again, this is a community, a local community example, but this I'll be talking about later some examples of how this can be applied internationally and you know, in the study abroad programs, but, the student and when the hotels were using this tool or thinking about this tool, you know, they were proud to say that it was a student initiative, right? It wasn't something they were saying, like "We came up this idea ourselves, we're sustainable", it was more of the students developed this locally and it just, it really strengthened a lot of ties in the community. So, and I do have to admit this was, you know, I've done several of these programs locally and not all of them are as successful or, you know, easy as this one was, I don't want to say it was easy, it was difficult for the students, but you know, I think it takes some trial and error to come to that.
And I think this one was an example of one that could work, an example of how to break down that hierarchy and empower the students, so.
Lindsay Lyons: It sounds too like you're kind of talking about finding the right partners as well. Like, so not necessarily shifting mindsets, although I think there probably is a requirement to kind of shift people along that continuum, but people who are already at the point where they're like, "Yeah, we're willing to work with students, we're excited to say this was student created", like that's a particular type of partner. It sounds like that you'd want to establish in that network versus to try to convert someone who is very hierarchical, very "I don't want to work with students". It sounds like it's better to partner with the right people right off the bat.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Absolutely. And it takes-- it's a lot of vetting that goes through that and it took me quite some time to figure out how to do that, you know, and it's a lot of times it doesn't come to the surface, you know, in terms of what their expectations are with the students. And one thing for me is that you also, in finding that right partner, a lot of times people would be like, "Oh, free help", you know, "A student project, that sounds great", and I have to be really mindful of protecting the students from that, you know, making sure that from a learning perspective that our course objectives are met, that they are empowered in a way that's, you know, from start to finish throughout the class, not just for one week of the class that they have say, but that model stays, you know, throughout the whole semester, So I think you're exactly right.
I think the partner in this is critical, again, not just on the community level, but more thinking of finding partners, for a study abroad experience for place as pedagogy. It's equally, if not more important, so absolutely.
Lindsay Lyons: Awesome. And yeah, let's talk about study abroad a little bit. So I think one of the things that I think is really critical is taking brave action and developing, you know, programs and structures and practices just like you've been talking about and I know you've done that for a study abroad program. So I don't know if you want to give us an overview of that program or talk about kind of an overview of those brave actions that required to kind of set it all up and then we can go into, you know, what are the challenges and all of that. But I'd love to just get you to introduce that for our listeners to see the great stuff you're doing.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Sure. So the program that I should say this and I think this was a critical part for myself in this process is that I co-- I'm the co-founder, I don't do this alone, you know, I think that would be extra for myself. I need, you know, a partner in this because I think so much of place as pedagogy and especially study abroad is important to self reflect on what's going on, not only for the students, but also for the faculty.
And so, I have a partner, Dr. Eric Holmlund who also works at Paul Smith's College, that I've built the Adirondack to Appenninos Sustainable Parks and Communities Project. That's the name of the project, the study abroad. And it was interesting how this program came to be. So it's a, without speaking for three hours, I'll cut to the chase about it, but it was in 2013 my Chair at the time had said, "Would you be interested in taking students on a study abroad trip to Italy? We have a partner that's looking for a faculty member to go". And I was like, "Who wouldn't want to go on a study abroad trip to Italy? Yes." And so what was interesting, long story short, I was going with another faculty member who fortunately had led several study abroads, so I absolutely, he was a mentor and I learned from Dr. Holmlund through this process. So I went on the trip, I'll start this. So the program itself was designed with the idea of looking at the impacts of sustainable tourism on protected areas. So looking at the social impacts, economic, and environmental. We've used a lot of the United Nations sustainable development goals as a framework. Later on in the program, when we started this, it was in 2013,
so those goals came out later. but the initial program was really focusing on how looking at the impacts of tourism in these protected areas. And so Dr. Holmlund and I were trying to figure out when we're creating this program, how can we make sure this is a generative experience for the students that it's something that we are actually making a difference in the country that we're working with, but not determining what we should be doing that's good for us based on our learning objectives, but more importantly, and you know, kind of equally balancing our learning objectives with the needs of the local community. So, we were very fortunate in identifying administrators from a Unesco site, it's a Unesco biosphere reserve, so it's a protected landscape that has, it's extremely biodiverse. It's incredible hiking areas, really great for outdoor recreation. So the idea was how can we work with these local partners to identify, you know, learning experience for the students that gave back to the local community but was also meeting our learning objectives.
So, that was the bit the framework for this project, the whole project. So what happened over the years as Dr. Holmlund and I had worked on this project, we were trying to figure out as the-- when we started, we knew that this was going to be multi-year engagement, multi-year partnership. And the idea behind that was that finding an in-country partner that communicated clearly about what the community's needs for, that understood our purpose, right? So like, I think a lot of the mistakes in study abroads, I know that when I was first thinking about study abroad, a lot of the mistakes were, you know, you're going, it's-- the idea was you're going as a vacation, right? This isn't tourism, you know, in terms of the study abroad experience, it's not a vacation for students, it's education and so how can we make sure that this multi-year relationship is focused on education, is meeting the community needs, and also understanding that in terms of giving back to our school that we-- Eric and I, the-- professor Holmlund and I designed the program that if either one of us left that the program could continue with our school.
So like if for some reason, you know, that one of the faculty members changed, that another faculty member could pick this up and continue. So I think that it was, that was really important to us. So in any event that was the project, the Adirondack Appennino Sustainable Parks and Community Project. So when we first developed this and you start-- first started running the trip we, you know, Eric fortunately was again, he had a lot more experience than I did in study abroads. I had never run a study abroad and so I was not prepared for students being afraid on the plane. Students, you know had, you know, having withdrawal from their cell phones, you know, students, you know..., you name it, I was completely unprepared. And so what was great was that we had the opportunity in our school to do pre-trip. The way we run it is we run a full semester before of pre-trip coursework preparation, cultural preparation, some basic language preparation, some, you know, some context about the political, social, economic context in the area,
environmental, you know, and we used the Adirondacks, like where our school is based as a point of differentiation, so again that place as pedagogy, the Adirondacks was used as a comparison to, in this case we were looking at Unesco site in Italy. And so what was beneficial is that the students knew the Adirondacks and then when we would eventually get on the ground in Italy they'd be like, "Oh, this is what's similar, this is what's different" culturally, socially, economically from our areas. So we used that full semester to kind of build that up. When we first started it I don't know if it was as productive but as we went through the seven years we saw what was really important right? So beginning that self reflective piece, thinking about again how your intersectional lens of how you experience your own culture, you know, your own perceptions of race, your own perceptions of religion before you go, not just waiting 'til you're on the ground there. So we started to build in that self reflection piece even, you know, when we were still in the US. And so I think over the years we've-- that was one piece that we strengthened considerably.
The other thing that we did very intentionally was we always had an interdisciplinary team. It was never just one major and I did that because I was also, I introduced this and was pretty strict about this because I saw the benefit in all of, I teach a lot of communication courses too at the school. And so I see the benefit of having interdisciplinary teams together, especially in communication courses, but the study abroad course, I really wanted to see the different perspectives and avoid groupthink and I also think it challenges students to learn and appreciate and see things outside of their own field, right? So we have some biology students that go, we have culinary students, we have sustainability students, we have hospitality students, we have recreation. And so I think, this is just my opinion, I'd be interested to hear my partner's opinion on this, but the most successful trips are really with the students that have a wide range of perspectives and experiences within their field.
You know, I had taken-- Eric wasn't able to come one year, so I had taken a professor, her background is in Biology and she also is in, I know, has studied a variety of different aspects of biology and seeing and experiencing Italy, the same territory that I've been traveling to, through her eyes changed my perspective, right? And so in turn, you know, in years following that it absolutely shifted the way that I approached the course because it was, it made me more sensitive to other disciplines and so with that I think the students also bring the different disciplines is really rich in terms of diversity and perspectives. So that's a little bit about the program that we've developed. And I think it also gives the actions that our, our school trusted us to develop this. So when we first started, I think that was when we were talking about, like, brave actions are required. I think what was brave and what our university did or our college did was that they trusted Eric and I to build this program to set up scholarship opportunities.
We didn't set that up. The school had that built in: international study abroad scholarship opportunities. But they would carve out, you know, it was a significant amount of money that students can get up to $1,000 per trip. And so I think that's a significant opportunity. And then, so in terms of the brave actions, having that funding opportunity and then also I think the other brave action our administration took was that in times that our school financially, you know, couldn't afford to pay us, meaning the instructors, as an overload, to go, they figured out ways to fold the study abroad experience like into our normal course work. So it was, they were taking risks. They were thinking outside of the box in terms of, they knew the value of this. We showed them the value of what the effect this had on the students, the place as pedagogy specifically in this case, in terms of study abroad. So they continued to support that and I think that it, without our administration's support and them seeing, figuring out ways to make sure that we can continue the trip, to continue our relationship with our Unesco partners, you know, in Italy,
and then eventually we did the trip in South Africa too and I'll speak to that later. I think that the trust of the administration, the flexibility, the innovativeness, they were, they were always open to us trying this. And I think what was also interesting on our partners on the ground, we made sure that, you know, it wasn't, you know, I think that my-- I cringe when I think about this idea of, you know, the white savior-ism specifically and I-- and our trip to, you know, South Africa prepping the students of why that is, you know, it's-- we need to be thinking about this on a deep level. And so what I think was important in our context and our, you know, preparation for these programs (I'm rambling a bit...) [inaudible] for these programs was that they--, our administration really believed in what we were doing and tried innovative ways to continue supporting it after we showed them the benefits. And so we wanted to make sure that what we were doing for the local communities in Italy and South Africa lasted, it wasn't something that would just go away when we left after the two or three weeks when we were there, it was something that they can continue to integrate and so we set it up that the projects would last long term and it didn't require extra resources that were unreasonable, it didn't require you know additional things that they didn't have.
So I think that was, that was a key part to it.
Lindsay Lyons: That's so helpful that you highlighted, I think you threw out some challenges there, you threw out some brave actions there. That was so helpful to kind of hear how this is all coming together and the focus for you as a co-creator of this program in terms of what you wanted to have happen and I think as we continue the conversation I think that will come out more and more in terms of the choices that you made or the experiences and specific anecdotes that kind of highlight how that focus has become even more precise. I know you threw out some challenges but were there other challenges that you wanted to share around, you know, developing curriculum or setting all this up in terms of the city abroad program really being what you wanted it to be?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Yeah, so I'll share kind of two aspects of this. So I think in terms of the biggest challenges with curriculum development for study abroad programs, there's a lot in the literature about this, right? So if there's a lot of information about study abroad, like how to, how to develop the curriculum correctly and then, you know, what challenges are in terms of actually executing it on the ground.
So I think what with some of the challenges, especially with the service learning focused ones are that I mentioned this earlier that a lot of, for cost reasons and for time reasons, I shouldn't say a lot, but certain study abroad programs are contracted out to third party vendors, so when you're coming up and developing a curriculum for study abroad and a third party vendor is actually the one that's executing it or private businesses actually executing it and you, as the faculty member have less control over it. That certainly changes the outcomes. In my opinion, my experience, it changed the outcome. The other aspect, I did touch on this briefly, but the idea of when you're developing a curriculum, it in some circumstances, fortunately we tried to avoid this, but in some circumstances, the idea, especially when you're contracting sometimes and I shouldn't say all third party vendors are not terrible and all private businesses for study abroads are not terrible. I think they're actually excellent. There are really strong ones.
I think there are-- the ones that are focused on the service learning and really creating those generative experience, not, you know, focused on tourism, but more education I think is what's key. So I think the idea of, when you're fine-- if you are choosing to develop a curriculum and you choose a third party or private business to execute that, it's important to select something or an organization that is prioritizing the educational piece and not just taking them around to the pretty sights and you know, kind of skimming the surface of what's actually happening. The other aspect of curriculum development for study abroad programs and I think the biggest challenge and something to be aware of, especially when you're going in non-Western cultures or you know, it's critically important is that being aware of the use of colonialist language that you're talking about, in the way that you're framing this with the students because I think a lot of it is from a Western perspective and when you're going to a country, you know that say you're going to Uganda or in my case we've taken students South Africa, it's recognizing the language that you're using in the curriculum and how you're introducing different sources, you know, not just using Western sources. I think, you know, it's-- with me, I was very, you know, I had taken a different professor than Eric on this.
I was working with a cultural anthropologist that went with me to South Africa and it was incredible because he was an excellent resource. It was Professor Joe Henderson, also at Paul Smith's College, he was an incredible resource at helping find and source, you know, Native South African, you know, speakers and Native South african written books and videos and podcasts, right? And so we would use that as a pre-trip resource to compare and contrast, so use-- developing that curriculum that integrated cultural relevant pedagogy and then also being mindful and then really intentional about finding thing-- resources from the country that you're visiting and not just from a Western perspective and what we did was we challenged the students to compare and contrast it and man, that was a pretty intense, you know, class conversation that we enjoyed and I think it was great even before we were on the ground and yeah, we used that throughout the trip. So I think in terms of curriculum development it's, you know, there's several challenges I think, you know, just to highlight it's really... when you're developing the curriculum, be cognizant if you are using a third party to make sure that the third party or private business is, you know, prioritizing educational piece over the tourism piece, being cognizant of the language that you're using, you know, that it's not the colonialist language that, you know, you're introducing into the curriculum.
And then also, you know, thinking about... thinking about ways to introduce resources that are not just from the Western perspective, you know, when you're developing the curriculum. So yeah.
Lindsay Lyons: Those are great suggestions and I was just thinking of the colonialist language, I mean that comes out in a lot of different ways. One specific example, I was-- we were talking before we started recording that I was able to do some study abroad trips and one of the ones that resonates with me is in the north of Ireland and I say the north of Ireland very precisely because I learned in that pre-trip phase in the course that we had leading up to it, that choosing to say, you know, Northern Ireland is like a particular frame, like you're supporting the imperialism of Northern Ireland by England and so the north of Ireland is cognizant of Ireland as a republic. And so just that little tiny shift, I mean, things like that are so nuanced and if we didn't study it ahead of time, I never would have realized in speaking to different people that that nuance is present in language that people who are living there speaking and that I am coming off in certain ways to certain people.
And so I think that's just one tiny example, but I think that's so powerful, but you're naming all of those things. And actually, if I can continue just with that vein of study abroad trips in my personal experience, I have had so many, Nicaragua, Ireland, South Africa, Mauritius, I mean just so many different places that I've been able to go and study and I felt great about myself in the moment, like "Yes, I'm doing this really cool work" and looking back really what the experiences are with the lens that I have now, they really felt in many cases more like what has been called poverty tourism or white savior-ism and they weren't super generative. I wasn't really working with an organization on the ground to have that sustainable impact like you're talking about. I wasn't always challenging my ways of thinking and so I think that's such a challenge, you know, within country partners and having a study abroad experience. So how do you really set the stage? And I think you kind of talked about this a little bit already, but how do you set the stage with that specifically in mind, that we don't want to just be taken to sites that are looking at economic poverty or other situations and feeling like we're not contributing and just kind of looking at people's hardship and almost like, you know, trauma and seeing that as the purpose of the trip, is to bear witness to trauma.
I think that's such a challenging line to walk in terms of recognizing what is happening and also being generative in partnering with people. So I'm so curious to know any other tips that you have for people or experiences that you've had that we're learning moments, or kind of recognizing what you wanted the program to really be in evolution there.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Yeah, so I would say in terms of how to-- how I tried to set the stage with in-country partners and with the students before they leave so they have more generative experience. And first I just, I admire how many places you went to and I would love to, in another conversation, hear about all that because I think so much of what I've, you know, done and learned through this study abroad experience is also hearing about other study abroad trips of how I can improve and tweak mine and getting feedback on it. So that's incredible that you had that opportunity and I think it's so valuable. So I think in terms of how I try to set the stage and again this came from trial and error and learning myself, I want to be super, you know, transparent about this. I was very naive when I first started doing the study abroad experiences and reflecting back on it, you know, it's just-- it took me experiencing and admittedly messing up, right, you know, not understanding the impacts of that white savior-ism and poverty tourism and all of those things.
So I think I want to just put that out there and admit, you know, I absolutely, you know, learned from that myself. So it's something that, it didn't just happen, you know, this isn't perfect, it was, you know, learned over time. So the things that I try to do now after learning from that, in terms of setting the stage with in-country partners and the students before they leave, I think, there's a tool I'm sure you're familiar with. So Geert Hofstede came up with this idea of the cultural dimensions. So these cultural dimensions, what-- it's cool about them and I think there is some, I tell students to take it with a grain of salt, what they do is they introduce different lenses of looking at cultural. So for instance, they look at is the culture, you know, based on his dimensions. And again, this is a very specific framework so you have to take with a grain of salt, but does it tend to be a more collectivist or individualistic society? Is it more feminine or masculine? Is it more, you know, where they, I can't think of the word for it, but are they more in terms of showing wealth, you know, how-- what is their likely propensity to showing wealth?
And so I use that as a basis for discussion because the tool is actually incredible. They allow you to compare it to other countries. So I'll have the students as an activity before we leave, look at that. So look at first as a comparison to America because that's what their context is and what they know the best. I'll have them compare it to another country that they're also interested in. So say for instance, if we were taking the students to Italy, I'd have them compare it first, you know, using Hofstede cultural dimensions, looking at how does Italy approach? Are they more of an individualistic society or collectivist in comparison to America? And then I'll have them look at, say, students very interested in japanese culture. So I'll have them compare Italy to Japan in terms of the range of collectivist versus individual. And then we have a discussion about it, right? We reflect on it, what surprised them, what, you know, did they expect that and how I have them try to think about how they will see this playing out on the ground when we're there, like thinking about now that we've talked about this, like how could this look like. And then when we're in country I pull that back in and I'll say, "Remember when we were looking at that? Was that accurate?" and sometimes it's not.
And I think that's equally as valuable as a learning tool when it's not. We can say, "That's cool, Hofstede. We got that.", that is, you know, very-- that-- insightful that we saw that. But we also noticed this. And I think what's interesting is that when you use any of these tools it's not specific to Hofstede is that the students and from your experience, you know, this was developed during a certain time period, right? So we're in, you know, 2021 2022 and so this can change, you know, these like, the countries evolve and experiences evolve, economic, political situations change. So when this tool was developed, the dimensions can also change with that. And so I think that that's also a valuable learning opportunity. So in terms of pre-trip preparation, I do an extensive amount. We try to do it for a semester long, so it'll run for, you know, three-- around three months, you know, to prepare them to think critically about this and not just--, I don't do, you know, it's-- yes, I'll have some power point slides but so much of it is discussion based, I avoid, like I-- it's not-- you're--, they're not, they're not learning anything by me just talking about, "Here's what you're gonna see in Italy." It's more of like, let's look at these dimensions, let's think critically about what this is gonna look like and then have them, you know, reflect about how they think about this on the ground, how they're feeling about this and what they're actually seeing on the ground through those dimensions.
And so that's one of many tools that we kind of integrate. Another piece that I've used in this experience too is a lot of-- our school offers a pretty interesting recreation-- outdoor recreation program and there's a lot of leadership development and that goes into these outdoor recreations. So in terms of like, you know, the-- just group dynamics and understanding like how groups function, you know, and the idea of when you're experiencing a foreign culture, the idea that, you know the norming storming, you know, the, you know in terms of group dynamics, understanding how your experience of a place and learning about this place changes based on your group dynamics. So if one person, one student or one faculty member in the group is having a very, you know, strong opinion about x, you know, maybe it's about the food, "I hate the taste of this food," or "I love the sound of this language," or you know, "This is beautiful," it shifts and it can, you know, depending on the group dynamic change the way that you experience that.
So in the pre-trip planning, we also discussed that: looking at the group dynamics, getting to know each other in the context. So I have them do activities about you know, it's a five finger... I can't remember off the top my head, but it's like, "What am I going to bring to this? What do I fear most about it? What's something somebody wouldn't know about me? What's...", you know, those type of like team building activities that help them understand that because we're going in a group, it's-- you're not just experiencing this thing on your own, this is an educational aspect and you're experiencing an-- another culture with other people through your own lens but also understanding that their lenses could affect your experience too. And my lens as an instructor can affect your experience. And I own that, that was something I never did in the beginning, but I've learned especially from the study abroad trip I ran in South Africa, the way that I framed South Africa before for them was very different of how they experienced it on the ground. And the students were very vocal about that and I appreciated it so much. Because I had introduced, I had lived in South Africa for three months working on a Unesco project.
And so I had, I mean, I had very, you know, deep feelings and beliefs and you know, thoughts on South Africa that I wanted to communicate to them and I tried to do it as broad a way as possible. But I realized in the pre-trip planning, the way that I framed it my lenses, you know, influenced the way that, you know, they-- that they were perceiving different aspects of apartheid or they were perceiving different aspects of the socioeconomic situation. And so what was great, and I think that because I just did the trip with them in 2020 and right before the pandemic in January 2020. So I just did the trip with them was that we used that as a learning opportunity, they were great and they were, I felt encouraged that they were empowered enough to say that, you know what we were-- when we were doing the self reflections in the country, they were saying, you know, "Remember in class, when you were telling us about...", we'll say Winnie Mandela, right? So I was giving, you know, I'd given them, you know, a discussion about Winnie Mandela, and they said, you know, "We were expecting her to be this great freedom fighter, but we learned on the ground here that there's a lot of other layers that people view her here.
They, you know, she's not, you know, and so it was through our interviews and in-country experiences, it introduced different complexities to perceptions that were not introduced them before. So I think what was, it's valuable to leave space for that and try to, you know, I think the one thing I learned was that, and I always say this and that I prepare them by saying, "It's never gonna go as you planned. Our study abroad trip is never going to go as you plan. Poop is gonna hit the fan. We're gonna have to like rethink things, it's not going to be what you think". And I think allowing myself to pivot and learn from those moments where I could have been better in terms of the pre-trip prep or thought about introducing different resources to use that and allow them to have a voice, or empower them enough to have a voice in their self reflection too, about it. And so, so yeah, I think that's one of the critical pieces. The other, in terms of the other ways I set the stage for in-country, you know, the in-country partners and with the students is that I do try as much as I can to think about de-centering the american perspective and the western perspective.
I mentioned that before, but I think that is a really important piece coming from New York, coming from America. How can we make sure that these students, especially students that haven't traveled before, start to think about, you know, we're not the only perspective and where we're going, you know, when we go to Italy, you know, there's a lot of, you know similarities that we can find in our own cultures with Italian cultures in terms of economics, in terms of environmental approaches. When you go to South Africa, it's a different ballgame and so understanding and starting to introduce those resources to the students before we get there is important. Again, as I mentioned, different books, different videos from Native South Africans, is a really important piece. So the last thing I want to say is that it's-- in terms of the prep and how to stage it is that in terms of-- with partners, I-- we mentioned this or you and I mentioned this earlier is that the partners are the critical piece, right? So with the strong partner, they help you set this all up.
Right? So it's something that I feel very fortunate in the partners that we've had in South Africa and also in Italy and that we've kept for a long time. They understand that what our goals are and that we're looking to create experiences that aren't just riding in a bus, finger pointing, and trying to understand a culture from a bus window, but instead on the ground to see like what, you know, again, a lot of our projects focus on tourism, looking at sustainable models of tourism. And so in South Africa, not just going looking from a bus window and driving through Soweto, which, you know, it's in terms of looking at the townships of-- that were created from the apartheid, like understanding Soweto, not just as an economically depressed area and an area that is, you know, again, as you mentioned earlier, looking at poverty tourism and driving through and saying, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe people live in these conditions," but instead looking at other models of tourism that for instance, we work with a company called Dreamcatcher South Africa
that's created a program called Wasteland Graceland. And so what it was was that it was a township that was built outside, it was built during apartheid era. And so the blacks were moved from the main cities to this community and it was right near a waste dump. And so over the years, the waste dump had polluted their water. It's created several health issues over the years for the local community. So over time this Dreamcatcher has helped develop a project, not only to clean up the waste site in order to clean the water and reduce the health issues, but they also started a program that to use the waste from that site to train the local community members and teach them how to make jewelry, how to make products for the home out of the waist. They got funding from the local government to create, like the-- to buy machines that actually make jewelry and can create home goods and so now they sell them to tourists. And so now that area is not just driving through a bus, like pointing there, but instead telling the story of Wasteland Graceland, how that became to be, like what that waste site looked like, how long term as a tourism model
this works, like how this is, you know, empowered the local community and you know, again over time, this is giving back in so many ways instead of again just riding through on a bus and saying, you know, this is, you know where Nelson Mandela once lived and then, you know, passing through Soweto. So I think that, you know, showing different models and understanding that white savior-ism in study abroad trips is real. And so the idea of how can you create and find a partner that will help with de-centering the american perspective and not having it as a white savior, but instead as an educational experience that also can give back to the local community in some way and it's not easy and it's-- I think it changes based on the country that you're working with, based on the community that you are working with within that country and just truly listening and giving. The other thing I recognize is that oftentimes when you first meet a partner, it takes several conversations to identify the true community needs because I think at first it's-- "Well what are your objectives for the class?"
And so I tell them that, but then it takes continual converse-- "Well what can we really do to help?" and like, to give back and you know, with that program, the Wasteland Graceland, what was really-- what they needed was a perspective of how to improve it from tourists. So we gave them that, we had said, you know, "This is what we really liked about the students did a survey," and like said, "This is what we really liked about it. This is what, from a tourism perspective could make it really interesting, and here's what we think that could do to help however, this is from our perspective," and I-- we had them recognize this is from an american perspective. We talked about how different cultures, different South African cultures could experience that differently. And so how that could be, you know, more inclusive to not just white tourists from America, but how this can, you know, entice you know different communities and other members of the South African community to enjoy what they have and to see all of the cool things that they're doing. So again, I think that's-- the pre-trip prep is critical across the board and understanding that if you can figure out a way to de-center the american perspective, that's I think a huge step in the battle with this and I don't want to say battle, but the huge step in terms of creating a really interesting and generative study abroad experience.
Lindsay Lyons: So I love all the things that you have shared so far. There's so much to consider. If there is a person listening who either is teaching at the undergrad level or even, I'm even thinking like some high school teachers who might be interested in a short term study abroad or something. What advice do you have for any educator who might be interested in developing a study abroad program like yours, one that's focused on service learning, that's focused on advancing justice, de-centering whiteness and de-centering, you know, American-ness. And you know that could be a range of things and then I usually ask a final, like call-to-action question of "What is one thing?", right? There might be, like five things they could do, but what is one thing that they could do if they're just getting started with developing? What's that, that kind of first thing they could do?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: So I think in terms of the "What advice for the educators", is that, you know, in terms of-- as you're developing this, considering what a more inclusive and reflective, I think those two words, you know, it's I think again that inclusive, you know, it can be so many things, but figuring out a way to introduce a more inclusive, reflective approach to place-based pedagogy.
So I mentioned the beginning of our discussion about how I did that on the local level with the class within our own community, but also abroad. Right? So how can you figure out a way to make the experience not only beneficial for the students in terms of achieving your learning objectives, but more importantly, how is this helping the community needs with avoiding that white savior-ism right? Especially, you know, in, you know, abroad context. So I think reflective-- reflecting critically first before you design anything. Right? So I think a lot of it what I've learned and my growth in this has been through self reflection and how-- what should that look like and start to do some research in the literature that's out there and talking to others, you know, I think that's-- it's a very, you know, based start, you know, in terms of finding that. In terms of the second piece of advice I would give is finding, and we talked about how important this is, finding a strong in-country partner that can help you see that vision and understand how you want to use this experiential learning opportunity that-- it isn't, you know, just poverty tourism that you're looking for, that you're looking for the service learning focus project that's generative to students but also can benefit the local community, you know abroad in some way.
So, and then I would say the third and this is something again, it's-- I just have seen the benefits, consider introducing an interdisciplinary team. I think that not only in terms of the faculty that you are considering bringing on the trip, you know, if it's one or two. But you know, having somebody for instance, my background, you know, I majored in communications and you know, my research focuses in terms of the social impacts of tourism, but my partners that I've taken on the study abroad trips, my-- Eric Holmlund that I referenced in the beginning, his background's in environmental science, the professor that I went to South Africa with, he's a cultural anthropologist. So I think that the diversity and disciplines really enriches the experience for the faculty and also for the students and it brings a diversity of perspectives to the host community that you're working with. So, and it certainly avoids groupthink. It's challenging, I do have to say, you know, when you're developing curriculum for an interdisciplinary team and a study abroad. It's hard, right?
So, you know, when I'm working with just communication students or you know, and just, we'll say tourism and hospitality students, you know, it's a bit easier to think about what's going to resonate with them, but when you have an interdisciplinary team, it's challenging to say, you know, "I don't know a lot of things about biology", right? So, you know, and how do you speak to them? And I think that, but in the end, I think that what I found is that when you have that interdisciplinary team, it gives... it gives so much back not only to the students and it introduces a degree of tolerance, I think also between disciplines, right? So there's tolerance and in terms of, you know, their silos in schools, right? So I know in our school it's like the hospitality kids hang out with hospitality kids, the forestry kids hang out with the forestry, you know, biology hangs out with biology, sustainability. And so this helps them develop teams and understand and appreciate not only the benefit of diversity in terms of race, religion, you know, cultural, but also in terms of the benefits of diversity and disciplines and how to work with that.
You know, it's-- in the beginning, you know, when I would have, you know, the students together, I didn't-- I wasn't completely sure of how to best integrate that, but then over time we figured out models of how to do that. And that's really about you, in terms of the discussions, encouraging their voices, "What does this look like from your field?", "How does this look like in your field?" and "What could this mean for say, your field?" You know, for instance, what does this look like from a, you know, environmental science perspective? Okay, so how would that influence, like from a tourism perspective? So connecting those, taking it as an opportunity for connection. And so yeah, that's-- I think that's the main three pieces of advice. So I'd say first, again thinking about that more inclusive and reflective approach that place-based pedagogy. The second being researching and finding a strong in-country partner. Usually they come not through a basic internet search. I want to say ours came from, like our in-country partnerships came from our professional and personal networks. It wasn't just like this general, like broad google search. It was like, "Hey do you happen to know somebody that lives here?"
And then it was like connect, connect, connect, you know, and you end up with a really strong partner. And then lastly, that considering forming that interdisciplinary team of students and faculties, I think it's really, you know, that diversity of fields introduces a diversity of perspective and also a degree of understanding and tolerance and reflectiveness that doesn't happen if it's just, you know, the same field and the same, you know, students and faculty.
Lindsay Lyons: I love that idea of expanding, you know, the notion of diversity beyond like our typical, you know, identities that we hold to something like discipline or even if people are-- haven't defined, you know, their major yet or something just like the way someone is thinking or their passions, it's so helpful to be able to add that dimension into thinking about intersectionally who we are. So that's super cool, thank you for that. And one of the final questions I'd like to ask just for fun is what is something that you have been learning about lately.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: So the, as you know, and I think the-- our PhD program that we were both in encourages this, so absolutely lifelong leaders.
So right now I'm focusing on, I'm looking at responsible, inclusive leadership in affecting or mitigating the social impacts of tourism. So, you know, typically those two topics: responsible inclusive leadership and like the social impacts of tourism have been two totally separate fields and there's a really, you know, extensive body of literature about both. And I'm trying to figure out how they come together. And so I've been looking specifically at Dr. Lize Booysen who, you know of, a professor in our PhD program, her work on responsible inclusive leadership. And then recently, Anna Spenceley had published a-- it's basically a handbook for sustainable tourism for practitioners and a discussion about leadership in different context within sustainable tourism. So, I've been trying to look at both of those together and figuring out how responsible inclusive leadership can potentially help to mitigate the social impacts of tourism.
So that's something I've been nerding out on recently.
Lindsay Lyons: It's awesome. And I love how this episode has basically just been a testament to those days, kind of emerging. Like, this study abroad program is a perfect example of how those things come together, so super cool.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Thanks. Thank you.
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah. And finally, where can listeners learn more about you or connect with you online?
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Yeah. So, on instagram, my instagram is @kcerialo. So it's K C E R I A L O. And then I'm also on LinkedIn. It's just my first and last name. Again it's Kelly, and then it's-- K E L L Y and my last name is C E R I A L O. And yes, I'm happy to hear from any listeners if you are interested in developing a study abroad program. I am more than happy to speak with you., I'm certainly open and transparent about my experiences. Like I said from the beginning, I've learned through trial and error and I think I've grown from this process and continue to learn each time. And I think again, it's-- I'm happy to help anyone that's interested and I'm very interested also to hear about others' experiences.
So if you've had other experiences and study abroad and whether it's good or bad, I would love to hear because I also learn from that. So I would welcome and you sharing any experiences and certainly, you know, happy to share some tips and some lessons that I've learned through not so great experiences too, you know, that I'm happy to share with others. But I'd love to hear, you know, some of your experiences too.
Lindsay Lyons: Awesome. And I encourage people to reach out and chat about that because I think that's where the really cool stuff happens, where we innovate together and think about new possibilities. So that's awesome. Dr. Kelly Cerialo, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Dr. Kelly Cerialo: Thank you so much Lindsay. This was incredible. I'm honored to be your guest and I look forward to continuing to talk about study abroad with you and other interesting Teachership opportunities. So keep up the great work and thank you again.
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.