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Speaking With An Expert: Larry Braskamp Shares His Thoughts On SAS

While in transit from Japan to Vietnam, the MV Explorer was home to a well known figure in the study abroad world. Larry Braskamp, co-founder and president of the Global Perspective Institute, briefly joined the 50th Anniversary Spring voyage to see how SAS equips students to become global citizens.

Established in 2008, the Global Perspective Institute aims to promote global holistic human development, particularly among the college student population. Coming from a background in statistics and measurement of student learning and development, Braskamp co-founded the Global Perspective Inventory (GPI), which is a survey that examines the depth of an individual’s global perspective with an emphasis on the importance of cultural influences.

Universities consult with the Global Perspectives Institute to learn how they can improve their curriculum, co-curriculum and community to ensure their students are receiving a holistic education.

With a formula based on the studies of developmental psychologist Robert Keegan, the GPI measures global learning and development through both an individual’s own personal experiences as well as through the three dimensions of cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal aptitude. Or as Braskamp more simply describes it as the head, heart, and hands.

Braskamp’s goal for the GPI is to develop productive, responsible, and fully functioning global citizens. He defines a global citizen as an individual who is able to think in complex ways, have a sense of self which is unique and distinguishable from others and other cultures, and be able to relate, associate, and affiliate with others; particularly those unlike themselves.

Braskamp stresses the importance of experiences that change the way we view the world, which he terms as “encounters”. “An encounter is an active engagement,” he said. “It creates a cognitive dissonance and an illicit uneasiness which forces us to think differently of both ourselves, our views, and our relationship with others.” Braskamp believes that the best way to do this is through being challenged and taking risks.

Anytime we can be challenged, we can have discomfort, and then we can think differently.

Braskamp has been searching for tools to more effectively immerse students in and connect them with different cultures and people in study abroad programs and American universities. Through the data produced by the GPI, Braskamp has been able to consult with university programs as they work towards increasing the integration of the students’ extra-curricular activities with assignments from class to help reinforce local and cultural interactions.

Since the development of the GPI, the survey has been administered to over 5,000 college students including those from Semester at Sea. Using the GPI as both a pre-test and post-test, Braskamp reveals that the Semester at Sea participants answered more positively than other study abroad students. Now, after spending some time aboard the ship, Braskamp shares that he can see the power of community within the students and staff. “Semester at Sea is not your typical study abroad program,” he says.

[On Semester at Sea] students have the opportunity to compare and contrast multiple cultures and countries, which is a challenging endeavor but increasingly relevant.

Braskamp recognizes the three dimensions within Semester at Sea. “It’s obvious that Semester at Sea cares about the students and curriculum. The students are taking classes, experiencing numerous cultures through trips within the different countries, and engaging in a unique community that most students are not exposed to.”

Braskamp goes on to encourage the students to take the semester as one big encounter. “When I went to college one of the first tings I heard was that you get out of college what you put it into it and I think that’s extremely true today,” he said. “You want to push yourself, do the unexpected, be flexible, take advantage of new opportunities and be proactive rather than reactive or passive.”

You cannot fully experience something by simply reading about it. You have to be there to gain a better appreciation. Therefore Semester at Sea is an incredible opportunity.

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