RIC Faculty Travel to Israel to Help Foster International Collaboration 

Rhode Island College faculty members recently traveled to Israel to develop collaborative activities to strengthen ties between faculty and students from across the world.

Nine faculty members from Rhode Island College’s Feinstein School of Education and Human Development (FSEHD) visited Israel last month, where they met with colleagues from Beit Berl and Oranim Academic colleges to organize collaborative activities to strengthen ties between faculty and students from across the world.

Ezra Stieglitz, professor of elementary education, organized the event in response to RIC President Nancy Carriuolo’s request to develop ties with both colleges after her economic mission there in November 2011. (See story http://www.ric.edu/whatsnews/details.php?News_ID=1588).

“The basic goal was to come up with a variety of collaborative activities between RIC and the two institutions of higher education in Israel,” said Stieglitz.

Other faculty involved in the trip were Karen Castagno, associate dean of FSEHD; Marie Lynch, chair/associate professor of special education; Ellen Bigler, professor of educational studies; Prachi Kene, assistant professor of counseling; Andres Ramirez, assistant professor of educational studies; and Mary Ellen McGuire-Schwartz, Elizabeth Henshaw and Maria Lawrence, all associate professors of elementary education.

Stieglitz previously had traveled to Israel in January 2012 to see if faculty from Beit Berl and Oranim were interested in collaborating with RIC. When he traveled there again in June of last year, they began to discuss ways in which collaboration could take place in the form of research, faculty exchanges and/or student interaction in coursework.

“We feel that now is the time to have our faculty interact with theirs,” said Stieglitz, who left for Israel on Christmas day, more than two weeks before the rest of RIC’s faculty.

There was a lot of prep work involved to ensure the trip would be both productive and successful, he said. Faculties from the institutions collaborated on an itinerary and schedule for the trip, and were then divided into areas of interest such as early childhood and special education & psychology subgroups. They used email and other forms of social interactive media, such as Skype, to collaborate from opposite sides of the world.

Stieglitz, who teaches a core four course called The Holocaust and Other Genocides (GEN 263), worked with colleagues from each of the institutions to help further develop that course to benefit future RIC students.

Associate Dean Castagno plans to collaborate with faculty at Beit Berl and Oranim to further develop the FSEHD’s “Worldviews on Education Lecture Series,” developed to broaden students’ world views about education and wellness by communicating through Skype with diverse professionals across the world.

In the fall, the plan is to offer this lecture in “real-time” with professors from Israel. This will allow FSEHD students to learn about effective teaching and clinical practices, Castagno said.

Lynch says she was most excited to learn about Israel’s special education practices in addition to identifying the similarities and differences about responsiveness to individuals who have disabilities.

“I got to explore a part of the world that I have never been to, yet have heard and read so much about over the years,” said Lynch.

When RIC faculty members weren’t collaborating with colleagues from Beit Berl or Oranim, they were able to tour the two colleges and visit a public school to see how learning takes place in an Israeli elementary school.

Stieglitz also led RIC faculty on a tour of the community of Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam (NS-WAS, which means “oasis of peace”), where he spent time on his visit to Israel in June. He wrote an article about his observations and experiences at Neve Shalom, which was originally published in The Jewish Voice & Herald, and re-posted on RIC’s website. ((http://www.ric.edu/whatsnews/details.php?News_ID=1861).

Neve Shalom, a cooperative community in Jerusalem where Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs live side by side-by-side in peace, also offers a bi-cultural, bi-national, bilingual school for children from three months through sixth grade.

“We got to see a lot of things in the short time that we were there,” said Stieglitz. “We were able to mix business with some sightseeing.”

Of the nine faculty who traveled to Israel, Stieglitz is the only one who ever visited before. Since his son lives in Jerusalem, he has travelled back and forth many times, which is how he initially made contacts at Beit Berl and Oranim.

As a followup, faculty from these institutions were invited to visit RIC in the fall to continue discussions about developing collaborative activities.

“The best is yet to come,” Stieglitz said.

For more information, contact Ezra Stieglitz at (401) 456-8560 or estieglitz@ric.edu.