Blog Post

Interview with Sarah Bever, IREX

1. Tell us a little about yourself and the Global Solutions program?

My name is Sarah Bever, I’m a technical advisor for the Education Practice at IREX. This year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with our excellent team to launch the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge. The challenge pairs post-secondary students in the U.S. and Jordan to work together on bi-national teams to solve sustainability challenges through the hospitality industry. It’s all about problem solving, collaboration and critically thinking about how business can solve global issues. Students will create a business prototype and solve a sustainability challenge through hospitality.

2. Describe the participants in this program.

The participants in the program are community college students throughout the U.S. and college students throughout Jordan. Most students haven’t had the opportunity to study abroad so this is an exciting opportunity to develop global competence, which is important for today’s hospitality industry!

3. The program focuses on improving global citizenship with a focus on hospitality education. Why is this important for students in Jordan and in the United States?

Well, 2017 was the International Year of Sustainable Hospitality and Tourism in support of the sustainable development goals. Tourism has a huge impact on economic, environmental and human sustainability in communities in Jordan and the U.S. Additionally, because tourism is a booming global industry, learning real-life cross-cultural collaboration through business planning makes students more competitive and prepares them to take on real business challenges. 

4. What are the interesting outcomes you are starting to see in your program?

Its exciting to see students taking ownership over sustainability issues in their community while learning about another culture. We’re seeing students taking leadership roles and directing their projects towards innovativecross-cultural solutions.  We’re also seeing teams work through the messy reality of virtual cross-cultural collaboration and technology literacy. Communicating across cultures in order to create a product is challenging, so learning flexibility, openness and patience is incredibly important. In the working world, people across industries need these skills in order to create the highest quality products and services and build respectful workplaces. Another excellent outcome is that we’ve seen students in Jordan offered hospitality jobs after working on the project!

5. What makes the Global Solutions model unique?

The model is unique because it uses design challenge thinking to support teams to investigate global issues in their local community and create innovative solutions. Faculty come together to learn and practice design challenge thinking and problem solving. Then these faculty guide their student teams through the challenge. Students start to gain more responsibility and ownership in the process. The structured model that includes coaching from IREX staff supports teams through the ups and downs of virtual collaboration and helps build important skills and competencies for success.  

6. Why is virtual exchange important for your young participants?

Virtual exchange is important for youth because it builds their global competence and technology literacy. Most students don’t have the opportunity to study abroad but they will need skills in cross cultural communication and technology to be successful in their careers. It also breaks down stereotypes that students may have about the other country through collaboration and  relationship-building. Virtual exchange can increase access to meaningful global exchange for students who can’t afford (time, money etc.) to study abroad while building 21st century readiness. Because virtual exchange is an emerging field, we are all learning how classrooms can meaningfully connect. 

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