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MSU opens Global Education Lab to aid educators, students

Addition comes as school reaches all-time high for international enrollment

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A collaborative space for teaching and becoming educated about the global community has opened on Missouri State University’s Springfield campus.

MSU’s College of Education recently launched its Global Education Lab on the fourth floor of Hill Hall, housing several resources all funded by grants, said Jennice McCafferty-Wright, an assistant professor in the College of Education. The approved grants, totaling some $368,000, according to MSU officials, include working with children and families in the community who are refugees and new to the United States and the public school system, dubbed Removing Barriers, as well as the Global Teacher Education Exchange, a program that connects educators across the world through a virtual exchange program.

“It’s primarily for faculty and students, and they use the resources in classrooms and projects in the community,” McCafferty-Wright said.

McCafferty-Wright said the lab idea was generated about a year ago as she and colleagues considered how they could better support staff work for global education. College of Education Dean Barri Tinkler was approached with the idea of a place to house resources, such as an online broadcasting area for hosting virtual sessions, along with materials such as books, maps, games, activities and crafts for adults and children.

“Within a few days, we had this room,” McCafferty-Wright said of the Hill Hall classroom that formerly was a seldom-used computer lab. “It didn’t take much longer to fill it up with resources from the grants that several of us have connected to global education. We’re putting it to better use.”

By launching the lab, the College of Education aims to support future educators teach global understanding and engagement, foster collaborative work, and fuel local and international partnerships, officials say. The lab also has a makerspace where teachers can find activities, books, globes and other materials to use in practicums.

“The projects hosted in the Global Ed Lab aren’t something extra that we just offer a handful of students,” McCafferty-Wright said. “We use the projects in this lab to mainstream global engagement.”

Enrollment rise
The Global Education Lab’s arrival comes as MSU’s international enrollment numbers reached a record-high this semester, said Brad Bodenhausen, vice president of community and global partnerships. This fall’s 1,873 international student count is up by 10 students from a year ago, he said. Of that total, 1,131 of the students are on the MSU campus in Springfield, while the other 742 are enrolled students outside the U.S., most of whom study at the university’s China campus.

International enrollment at the college has been trending up since 2020, when its numbers were negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have increased international enrollment by 25% between fall 2020 and fall 2023,” Bodenhausen said via email. “Growing and sustaining international enrollment is a key priority for Missouri State. Part of the reason for this is to help the university maintain a healthy enrollment level overall. But equally important is that having international students on campus creates opportunities for all students and the community to gain a global perspective and develop intercultural awareness, understanding and communication skills.”

MSU’s total fall enrollment is 24,224, which includes 1,886 students at the College of Education, according to its official student census data. While it’s 166 students below the school record of 24,390 set in 2018, the amount represents a 3.9% enrollment increase year over year, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Bodenhausen said the international students studying on the Springfield campus comprise 94 countries. The top five in terms of international student enrollment are India, China, Vietnam, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

Family work
Amber Howard, another assistant professor at MSU’s College of Education, said a $5,000 grant she and McCafferty-Wright earned from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation stocked many of the materials on the lab’s shelves. Additionally, a $6,000 grant Howard received from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc. for the Removing Barriers project developed a collaborative family literacy program.

“Essentially, the program was set up for our elementary education majors to learn how to work with families from diverse cultures who didn’t have fluent English skills,” Howard said. “Half of my students would teach English classes to the parents while the other half of the students worked with the children of the families.”

For the program, students work with families from countries including Columbia, El Salvador, Jamaica, Kenya and Nigeria.

McCafferty-Wright said thanks to Howard’s project, all of this year’s elementary and secondary education graduates, which consists of everyone becoming an elementary teacher from MSU, have gotten to experience working with families who are newcomers and refugees in the U.S.

“That same group of students in a separate class, all of them have spent three to four weeks in a virtual exchange as part of their coursework with peers in Morocco,” she said, adding a grant from the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. State Department, is allowing the program to expand to Libya.

Whether it’s through Removing Barriers, World Teacher Makerspace or other projects in the Global Education Lab, McCafferty-Wright said the new facility’s goals include preparing students to teach for the world in which they live.

“All possible sustainable futures require global understanding and ethical global engagement. Missouri State University really supports that,” she said. “We’re working with teachers around complex problems that are driving the future of their careers but also the world. Their careers are global.”

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