Dixie State, Utah Valley universities partner for international student-teaching program

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Dixie State University is now partnering with Utah Valley University to offer students international student-teaching experience.

Utah Valley Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeffrey Olson and Parker Fawson, dean of Utah Valley’s school of education, met March 31 with Dixie State’s Michael Lacourse, provost and vice president of academic affairs, and Brenda Sabey, dean of Dixie State’s school of education to sign memorandums of understanding and agreement for the new partnership.

Beginning immediately, the partnership will allow Dixie State education students to sign up for international student teaching and travel with Utah Valley student groups.

“I think for many of our students in the St. George area, this will be the first time they’ve maybe been out of the state of Utah,” Sabey said. “It is certainly going to broaden their perspectives and give them a chance to see multiple perspectives.”

Sabey and Fawson, who formerly worked together as first-grade teachers, came up with the idea to form a partnership to offer Dixie students the same international experiences currently available to those at Utah Valley University.

“One of the challenges (at Dixie State) would be having enough students go to make it feasible for the cost,” Fawson explained. “The collaboration flourished out of that —working together is a way to ensure that these students will have the same opportunity.”

Utah Valley typically aims to send 10 students on international student-teaching experiences. Partnering with Dixie State will help ensure the trip will have enough students to be cost-efficient for both universities.

“It’s a better use of resources,” Sabey said. “It provides the opportunity for programs that are too small to be able to do it on their own. Rather than having two separate programs, we have one and we get all the benefits.”

In addition to being cost-efficient, the partnership fosters an environment in which students learn from one another, Olson said, and having more participants enriches the education.

Different perspectives come from different education programs, so there is some benefit there as well,” he said.

L-R: Dixie State University's Dr. Brenda Sabey and Dr. Michael Lacourse, Utah Valley University's Dr. Jeffrey Olson and Dr. Parker Fawson. The group sign memoranda to partner in a joined international student teaching experience. St. George, Utah, March 31, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News
L-R: Dixie State University’s Dr. Brenda Sabey and Dr. Michael Lacourse, Utah Valley University’s Dr. Jeffrey Olson and Dr. Parker Fawson. The group sign memoranda to partner in a joined international student teaching experience. St. George, Utah, March 31, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

Lacourse, who previously worked at Sam Houston State in Texas before coming to Dixie State in February, said he is pleased to see the connectedness of universities throughout Utah.

“In the short time I have been here, there have been wide-ranging conversations to establish partnerships with universities across the state, so it seems that’s the culture here, and I think it’s a real strength of higher education in Utah,” Lacourse said.

The program has been built strategically around five languages —Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese — commonly taught in Utah’s dual-immersion programs. The locations for the student-teaching opportunities are selected to coincide with those languages.

As a pilot for the program, a Dixie State student accompanied the Utah Valley University education program to student teach in Switzerland last fall.

“The experience in general, as I watched it happen, was amazing,” Sabey said. “The way we worked it out worked perfectly, and everybody had a great experience — we’re looking forward to more.”

The experience influences students’ teaching methods after they return, Fawson said. After two years of tracking graduates who have participated in these experiences and become teachers, Utah Valley University’s preliminary data has shown that going international makes a big difference.

“We’re seeing some very dramatic ways that they work differently with kids who are not the same as what the typical student might be,” Fawson said. “They embrace that, they work with the families differently than students who don’t have this experience, so there are some pretty significant changes that occur, which are the kind of changes we’re after with the experience.”

Education students wanting to participate in the program will be able to take advantage of the opportunity after a six-week domestic student-teaching experience.

More information is available on Dixie State University’s School of Education Web page.

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