WHEN IT COMES TO ADVANCING TEACHING AND LEARNING AT TEXAS A&M, DRS. MIKE AND JUDY SANDLIN HAVE CREATED A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP.
Mike is a health education professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology while Judy is a professor of human resource development in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development. Despite their affiliations with different departments, the Sandlins come together on one common goal – providing the best experiences for their students.
Their collaborations in global education have given dozens of students the chance to expand their learning opportunities. Those students also experience an environment most others do not – a husband and wife duo with a passion for their students and a passion for enriching their student’s lives.
The Sandlins’ passion for global education started three years ago after meetings were held in each department in the college. Faculty talked about opportunities to give undergraduates more global experiences and the possible funding available for those opportunities. Three weeks later, Judy took a trip to Italy with her sister’s high school study abroad students.
“As soon as I got back, I knew we had to do this. That next spring break we took 51 students to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland,” explained Judy.
Together, the Sandlins lead an online summer global education course that ends with a trip to Italy.
The course is actually two courses: HLTH 236 and EHRD 408. Students enroll in the courses separately and complete them as they would any other online course. Mike and Judy combine the classes before the trip by creating team building activities and discussions to help students establish a bond similar to the bond students that meet face- to-face have before the trip overseas.
Many of these activities involve discussions on world views, values, and how students feel about other people and other cultures. “When you force them to write out their feelings and their experiences, they learn from each other and learn a lot about themselves,” said Judy.
Because the students come from such different disciplines, Mike and Judy include lectures and activities before the trip related to both health and human resource development to expose all of their students to the current issues and unique challenges of each field. During the trip, they plan excursions around these topics to further expose the students to issues including hospital administration and working conditions in the countries they visit.
“Interestingly, throughout the trips we’ve taken, we’ve had health students come to my department to start master’s degrees in human resource development and human resource development students go to Mike’s department to pursue degrees in health care administration,” notes Judy.
After three years and multiple global education trips, the Sandlins have no plans to stop. For them, the opportunities for their students are well worth the work.
“There are times we ask ourselves if we’re going to keep doing this because it’s a lot of work. But then, we see their faces and how much they’ve changed after experiencing other cultures. Interacting with other people in these other countries totally changes their world view,” explained Mike.
“These experiences have made our students more open to challenging themselves to get out of their comfort zone and go places they wouldn’t have before,” said Judy.
“One of the things I emphasize in my classes is to become a lifelong learner. I can’t teach them everything they need to know. I can give them tools, but, once they are working somewhere, they’re going to have to learn things on their own,” Judy added.
“Most of the time I go in and have a lot of energy and try to ask them questions. I tell them that I come in every day expecting to learn something from them just like they expect to learn something from me,” said Mike.