Brenau students, faculty explore educational opportunities abroad

Brenau students and faculty hold a school pennant in front of a mountain in Costa Rica.
Students and faculty visited Costa Rica this summer to study biodiversity.

The Miller Institute for Global Education at Brenau University supported some 20 students, faculty and staff members this summer as they ventured on educational opportunities abroad.

Two of the trips were to Panama, including the return to a school that student ambassadors visited last year, and the other as part of the IFARHU Mobility Arts Exchange Program. 

Brenau students with Loma Bonita students outside of the school in Panama.

Julie Carbaugh, Ph.D., assistant professor of education, two undergraduates and one graduate student visited Loma Bonita in mid-June. Cassidy Hunter, Brandyn Peterson and Jordan Hunnicut had the opportunity to practice their teaching skills and methods, improve cultural competency through an exchange of cultures, and share the benefits of higher education with the Panamanian students. 

Hunter, a senior elementary education major, said working with the students in Panama was an eye-opening experience that taught her about gratitude. Since she did not speak fluent Spanish, sometimes she struggled to join in with the students due to the language barrier.

“I was able to imagine what it would be like for a student to come over to the U.S. with everyone speaking English and the child speaking only Spanish, having no clue what anyone is saying,” Hunter said. “It really showed me how I can expand my knowledge to help kids in the future.”

Another Brenau program at the end of July sent three students to Panama City, Panama, through an arts exchange program with the Universidad de Panamá. Center for Art and Design Chair Claudia Wilburn led Emma Rose Moore, Juliana Cifuentes and Nickolas Gonzalez as they experienced arts and culture in Panama, including historic architecture, nature, performances and art courses.

“I was selected to be a part of a short play titled The Blind while at the University of Panama,” Gonzalez, a theater major, said. “Being able to collaborate with artists of different backgrounds are moments I will forever cherish. It shows how important the arts are across the world.”

Students and faculty in Panama City at a theatre as part of the arts exchange program.

This spring, 25 students and one chaperone from Universidad de Panama spent three weeks at Brenau to experience courses in visual arts, music, dance and theater, and cultural exchanges and activities.

In June, three undergraduate biology students took a science-focused trip to Costa Rica. The students, alongside Jessi Shrout, Ph.D., department chair and assistant professor of biology, and Miller Institute Executive Director Rosi Ponce, studied biodiversity in the country. It was the first trip of its kind for Brenau students in Costa Rica.

Throughout the year, 17 students have been sponsored by the Miller Institute for study abroad programs. Some of those students include Laila Glover, a senior dance major who traveled to France this summer through FS International, and Jessa Driscoll, a musical theater senior who visited Italy as part of the Trentino Festival Program.

In September, the Miller Institute hosted a luncheon with students and Pete Miller, a longtime Brenau supporter who, along with his wife, Cathy, gave a gift in 2022 that created the Miller Institute. The luncheon connected Miller with students and faculty who had studied abroad, allowing them to share their stories and how the gift had impacted their studies.