Traditionally, students with the opportunity to study abroad or participate in a student exchange program learn about specific and unique cultures, studying subjects different than their major focus. They explore academic and cultural topics in a different educational setting, often located in an unfamiliar setting, away from home. However, not many of them do so without leaving the United States.
Case Western Reserve University junior Camille Thornton will do just that this semester, when she travels to Nashville, Tenn., for a 15-week term at Fisk University, as part of the Case-Fisk Partnership' s student exchange program.
Thornton is the first Case Western Reserve student -- and second overall -- to participate in the program.
"This is something I was interested in very early on in my Case career," said the junior business management major. "After talking with Ami Barry, who participated in the exchange program in 2005, and hearing about her experiences, I was really excited."
Barry spent the fall 2005 semester here at Case Western Reserve, and is to this point, the only student to participate in the school exchange portion of the program. Other students have participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program for Minorities as well as research work in the labs of Case Western Reserve professors.
In November, nine Case Western Reserve students attended the Charles S. Johnson Think Tank hosted by the Fisk Race Relations Institute.
The student exchange program is the cornerstone of the Case-Fisk Partnership, allowing students from both schools the opportunity to attend the other university for a semester, enroll in dual-degree programs and participate in joint research with a national or international scope.
"Partnerships like this are wonderful, but they take time and tremendous amount of focusing," said Kathryn Karipides, associate provost and Case-Fisk Partnership Task Force member. "As we keep working on these programs, and introducing more students to programs that are unique for them and for the schools, it will develop into a really nice model of partnership between urban research universities and small colleges."
While she is actively involved both in and out of the classroom at Case, Thornton feels that spending 15 weeks at another school will allow her to not only meet new people, but to fulfill a desire she's had for a while.
"I had always wanted to go to a historically black college or university (HBCU) and when I came to Case, I wanted to minor in ethnic studies, but didn't because I wanted to really focus on my major," said Thornton, who had applied to a couple HBCU's during her college selection process. "Case is a great school and I'm getting a great education. Now, I have the opportunity to attend Fisk, which is one of the premier HBCU's and 'have my cake and eat it too', so to speak."
And while her out-of-the-classroom experiences will fill her need for anthropology and cultural experiences, her schooling at Fisk will help her with graduation requirements.
"I'm taking four elective classes during the semester; things that really interest me but aren't offered at Case," she said of her courses which include sociology, social science, political science and African American history. "I'm also hoping to use the experience for my senior capstone project next year."
Why then, choose the exchange program to Fisk and not to England, France or China?
"I was initially intrigued by the history of Fisk and the significant stories that stem from the school, and then after visiting, became enamored with the rich African American history and culture there as well as the atmosphere of the Nashville area," Thornton said.
As the first Case student to participate in the exchange program, Thornton looks at herself as a pioneer. She hopes her participation will increase interest in the partnership and encourage other students to "switch schools" for a few weeks.
"Camille is so outgoing and so open to new experiences," said Karipides. "She has this wonderful curiosity and interest. She's smart and understands the value of this kind of partnership. And, as a marketing major, I think she is going to be able to sell the program to our students when she returns."
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