Beauty in Diversity: Our SUSI Story

As an exchange scholar in SUSI, I got the chance to grasp new knowledge and discover new interests. Since the first session, I started to notice my interest in political science; I have read the session material and found myself reading and searching for more. The sessions were eye-opening to me, and of course, we are fortunate to have well-established professors to deliver the sessions. The intellectual exchange between the scholars added a flavor to the discussions and questions during the sessions. Each scholar was reflecting their experience and their countries experience. One of the most memorable and enjoyable sessions is ‘Managing innovation and creativity’ by Prof. Alan Robinson. The most important takeaway of this session is ‘innovation starts from front-liners’ and ‘Bottom – Up innovation is chaotic but smart’.

Shout out to my amazing inquiry group – Cendrella, Nataliia, and Bakshillo. We had a fantastic experience when producing our podcast. I still remember Nataliia’s words describing the podcast as ‘The best challenge ever.’ I enjoyed the experience of podcasts; Therefore, I will be adopting it as an alternative method of student assessment for the undergraduate level in the next academic year.  As an educator, I believe podcasts will promote group working, IT, language, communication skills, and a deeper understanding of the content. I also had the chance to work with two amazing ladies, Amira and Joi, my blog buddies. Refer to our Quick Snap to learn more about the three of us!

Apart from sessions and groups, I met with my peer collaborator. We discussed together all common areas, we shared and exchanged our expertise, knowledge, and skills. I really appreciate his time and guidance. Cultural exchange is one of the main aspects of SUSI. I got the chance to meet amazing couples, Tim and Rina. We shared stories, daily life routines, culture, and traditions, and we did a quick virtual home tour. It was an actual two-hour window into our worlds.

I would call the SUSI experience a lifetime educational, intellectual, and cultural exchange. Thanks, ITD, and all 18 scholars, for your inspiration.

Through my participation in the SUSI program, I have improved both my personal and professional (academic and research) skills. I found amazing the idea of networking scholars from around the world with different cultures and backgrounds but sharing the same objective regarding improvement of knowledge about the economic issues in US institutions.

I believe that this exchange program could be considered as a success. First, I think that diversification-oriented activities have fostered our critical thinking and contributed a lot to our motivation and implication during the sessions. Then, the incredible efforts of the ITD staff and the professors as well as the technology support even when it comes to ask questions or to have feedback on our comments. 

All this without forgetting the input and insight of each of the scholars that participated in this great intellectual adventure.  

More specifically, I found the academic sessions very interesting. I personally learned a lot of new aspects specifically about political activities in the US. In addition, I really enjoyed the session dedicated to innovation issues as well as migration and its impact on developing countries. Attending these amazing presentations have fostered my eagerness to know more and gave me few research ideas that I might pursue in the future. The reaction of each of the professors to our questions at the end of each session and the exchange we had with them also inspired me and I think I will benefit from this experience while giving my lectures and while debating with my students.

Apart from that, all the collaborative work from the inquiry group, blogging group and also meetings with our mentors, represent great opportunities for exchange and future possible connections. Thanks to the peer collaboration initiative, for example, we came up with the idea to invite professionals to provide their testimonials on how to deal with challenges and difficulties in real business life during our academic sessions at the University. This might represent an important opportunity for our students to learn and to strengthen their practical knowledge. Moreover, through our meeting we exchanged ideas on how we can implement case studies in mathematical and/or statistical courses like the course I am teaching and more importantly how to gather interesting data to apply theoretical tools and make things more tangible for students. 

The experience I have shared with Tendai and Allieu for the podcast creation is also an amazing one! We recorded several times but from one record to another we were trying to improve our performance, to make the podcast more attractive and more interesting for the audience.

The collaboration with Hessa and Joi was also enlightening and we helped each other a lot during our discussions even regarding other activities like providing tips for the podcast creation or how to approach our peer-collaborator. I am really looking forward to meeting each of them in person.

Finally, through the window open to the world, Marguerite, who was my virtual host, shared with me her daily life, her traditions and habits. This part of the program was also very interesting even though it was held virtually, I really enjoyed sharing traditional food, personal and professional habits as well as amazing places in US to visit.

Hi! I am Joi Mamaril from the Philippines, and it’s a joy to share with you my experience as a SUSI Scholar.

The SUSI Program was conducted in a two-prong methodology: 1) a three-week virtual academic residency while in our home countries; and 2) a two-week integrated in-person experience in Massachusetts, USA. For this blog, let’s talk about the virtual academic residency.

During the synchronous academic sessions, we learned about socioeconomics using a multidisciplinary approach. The journal readings, such as those on political science and behavioural economics, were sources of rich discussion and healthy debate during our classes. As a training curriculum designer, I look forward to introducing aspects of US society, culture, and values to enhance our academy’s contents and courseware, ultimately benefiting the Filipino entrepreneurs.

Aside from meeting during the synchronous academic sessions, we also met outside class hours to develop podcasts and blogs as part of the program outputs. We acquired skills previously unfamiliar to us, such as sound recording, editing, and uploading to host sites. Simultaneously, we also acquired new friendships, which is, personally, a very valuable program outcome. As a trainer and volunteer teacher, I can’t wait to incorporate these innovative teaching and training methodologies from the Institute for Training and Development, Inc. (ITD) to enrich our programs for micro, small, and medium enterprises in the Philippines.

In addition to engaging with professors from ITD and Amherst College, we also spent time with an American family through the Windows into our Worlds: A Virtual Homestay program and with a US-based mentor through the Peer Collaboration activity. I met my host family during the 4th of July weekend, and it was a celebration of different cultures, traditions, languages, arts, food, government, and environment. I met my peer collaborator almost right after, who was so generous with his time, knowledge and expertise on entrepreneurship and sustainability. As a graduate student and researcher, they ignited my curiosity about contexts & concepts outside my own field of study and inspired me to contribute to the general body of knowledge of education and training.

As a lifelong learner, this SUSI experience of learning, re-learning, and even unlearning things I already knew is very stimulating. It reminded me that I am a student of life, for life.

Fun fact: SUSI, in the Filipino language, means “key,” and quite fittingly so when you think about it. SUSI is the key to open doors for more opportunities for cultural and educational exchanges for all of us, scholars, and our US-based Professors, peer collaborators, & virtual host families alike. We are hopeful that one of these doors would lead to us meeting each other personally in the US. I’m sure to be excited to share that with you, if ever, in the next blog. See you!