Bascom Brings Latin America to BC
Bluefield College professor Dr. Cindy Bascom knows there is no better way to learn about different cultures or to develop a global perspective than to actually live and study among the natives of a foreign country.
July 18, 2012
Bluefield College professor Dr. Cindy Bascom (back row, fifth from left) on a Latin American Professional Development Tour to explore the possibility of a new study abroad program for BC students.
That’s why the BC professor of communication applied for and received a Latin American Studies Professional Development grant to immerse herself into the cultures of Costa Rica and Cuba, all for the purpose of potentially developing a Latin American study abroad program for Bluefield College students.
“I’m excited about the potential of this program,” said Dr. Bascom. “I hope we can find a way to send students to study in Latin America. This is an important area of the world -- politically, economically, and culturally.”
As part of its mission to prepare innovative learners and transformational leaders, who are compassionate, globally-minded citizens ready to change the world, Bluefield College offers in addition to its global education classes and activities on campus two study abroad programs with the Jiangsu Institute of Education in China and Mahidol University in Thailand.
With the hope of opening up another door of opportunity for BC students to study abroad, Dr. Bascom traveled May 18-28 to Costa Rica and Cuba to participate in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ (CCCU) Latin American Professional Development Tour.
“International study is a central component of the Bluefield College mission,” said Dr. Bascom. “This is certainly being achieved with the inclusion of global education within our classroom curriculum, but the most intensive emersion, and perhaps the most influential multicultural experience, comes from actually studying in another country. Living with a host family, working alongside natives of that country in a practicum, touring places of cultural significance, and learning from experts on Latin American politics, economics, religion, and culture in seminars can be an important catalyst for students’ personal growth and transformation.”
One of just seven college professors selected by the CCCU for the exclusive Latin American Tour, Dr. Bascom took part in more than a week of experiential learning of the political, economic, social, and religions realities of Latin America. Through field trips, home stays, community immersion, and other cross-cultural educational ventures, she learned just how beneficial the CCCU’s Latin American Studies Program (LASP) would be for Bluefield College students.
“Experiences like this give me a great appreciation for first-person pedagogy,” said Dr. Bascom. “Hearing about people’s experiences and thoughts from their own lips makes learning so compelling.”
In Costa Rica, Dr. Bascom took part in cultural excursions exposing her to native music and dancing. She visited culturally important places of worship and student practicum sights, such as an organic coffee farm. She also participated in “lively discussions” with experts in the fields of Latin American politics, economics, religion, and social activism.
“The quality of these speakers was exceptional,” said Dr. Bascom about the discussions with Latin American leaders, including Luis Guillermo Solis, a potential Costa Rican presidential candidate, and Silvia Regina, a liberation theologian. “These speakers raised issues that are sure to challenge and engage students.”
In Cuba, Dr. Bascom shared discourse with additional community and political leaders, including a chief advisor to Raul Castro. She visited churches, a hospital, a day-care center, a middle school, and small private businesses to better understand the values of the Cuban society.
Her experience was much like the one offered to students who participate in the CCCU’s Latin American Studies Program (LASP), which is designed to encourage students to critically examine and respond to global challenges. In fact, through the LASP students learn the Spanish language, as well as the fundamentals of Latin American politics, economics, religion, history, ecology and culture. While living with host families, the students not only share life with Latin Americans, but also take part in hands-on practicum/field studies and participate in trips through Central American countries to discover the rich and diverse culture and people.
“International study experiences can have a long-term impact on students,” said Dr. Bascom. “They may become more critical of U.S. foreign policy and more discerning consumers of mass media. They may recognize the value of seeing things from other’s point of view. They may become more empathetic and develop a deeper commitment to social justice. They might come to a better understanding of how Christians should interact with people different from themselves and feel inspired to be better stewards of God’s blessings. They might value the importance of listening before forming an opinion. They might even come to the realization that one life well lived can be a compelling force for change in the world.”