Graduate School

COS-Sponsored Panel Discusses International Education

Posted by Claire Daniel on December 20, 2011

On the afternoon of Wednesday, December 14, nearly two dozen Bank Street Graduate Students sat down with faculty members Virginia Casper (left) and Roberta Altman (right) to glean insight into their personal perspectives on the importance of international education today.

International Experiences, Invaluable Insights

Council of Students Representative Emily Soong (center) moderated the panel, and her own experiences studying abroad informed her contributions. Last summer, a collaboration with Casper and others took her to Mangaung Township in the Free State Province of South Africa, where she helped to pilot a new assessment tool that measures quality in early childhood care facilities operating in conditions very different from those in much of the U.S. 

In their remarks, Altman and Casper shared tales of their many years of work abroad. For Altman, it was a Peace Corp stint in rural India that first ignited her interest in International Education. Today she continues work there with various professional development projects and a Liberty LEADS artwork exchange. Casper brought to the panel her fifteen years’ experience in South Africa, where she worked with the Developing Families Project and in local communities.

Both agreed that their time abroad was a transformational experience, professionally as well as personally. “It was the most challenging and rewarding time of my career,” said Casper, who wrote of it in Bank Street’s Occasional Papers Series #9, Letters from Abroad.

Before breaking into an informal Q&A session, Altman and Casper shared invaluable tips, resources, and bibliographies with the students (PDF).

The event was an opportunity for students thinking about working abroad to explore some of the challenges in teaching in unfamiliar settings. One student asked about the challenges in connecting with curriculum as non-native language speakers, and others investigated the impact of different physical environments in education.

Getting Involved

Clearly, student interest in education at Bank Street extends beyond American borders. Fortunately, there are opportunities at the College for those wishing to pursue international education further. 

For one, Altman is offering the Integrative Masters ProjectCollaborative Student-Faculty Inquiry on International Issues and Practices in Education

Continuing Professional Studies (CPS) also features three study abroad programs to Costa Rica, Uganda, and Morocco, for which Bank Streeters and working educators are encouraged to apply. Echoing many of the themes explored at the panel discussion, CPS Director Joy Lundeen Ellebanne noted how much educators gain through even short trips abroad. “You can get a glimpse of another world and another culture that can impact your life and your teaching,” she said.


This conversation was part of an ongoing series of panels sponsored by the Council of Students aimed at producing educational events focused on real world issues. The last panel, which met just after Thanksgiving, brought together leading education reporters, bloggers, and authors to discuss how the media covers teachers and education. Catch the start of that panel over on YouTube, where discussion began with teacher self-perception in a time of negative media coverage surrounding collective bargaining rights.