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Scholarly article leads to international partnership

Theresa Catalano (left), assistant professor of teaching, learning and teacher education, UNL; Ted Hamann, associate professor of teaching, learning and teacher education, UNL; Stephanie Burton, vice principal, University of Pretoria; and Irma Eloff, dean
Theresa Catalano (left), assistant professor of teaching, learning and teacher education, UNL; Ted Hamann, associate professor of teaching, learning and teacher education, UNL; Stephanie Burton, vice principal, University of Pretoria; and Irma Eloff, dean

An author always hopes his words have impact. Ted Hamann is seeing first-hand how a 2009 journal article he co-authored led to an educational partnership between the University of Pretoria in South Africa and UNL.

Hamann, an associate professor in the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences, was in Pretoria last week for the signing of a memorandum of understanding between UNL and the University of Pretoria.

This freshly minted partnership will provide mutual benefits for the two institutions, including collaborative research, education-abroad opportunities and comparative study of education. By example, Hamann and UNL assistant professor Theresa Catalano co-led an education abroad visit with a dozen graduate students in CEHS's Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education in July. They studied alongside South African peers, visited local schools and heritage sites and were exposed to a cross-section of South African cultures.

"This has been an intense, engaging and sometimes poignant experience," Hamann said. "It has helped our students think about education in new or additional ways. It has brought them in proximity with South African peers and raised the very real prospects of tangible collaboration with them."

Hamann and Catalano taught two weeklong seminars for Pretoria and UNL graduate students. One seminar topic was mixed methods education research and the other language policy and planning. Two UNL doctoral students -- Carolina Bustamante and Debra Miller -- had the opportunity to co-present with their professors.

That 2009 journal article Hamann co-wrote with a colleague at Mexico's Universidad de Monterrey was read by Pretoria professor Saloshna Vandeyar. The article discussed educational issues for transnational school-aged children moving between the United States and Mexico. Vandeyar reached out to Hamann with an invitation to present at a Pretoria conference. Though Hamann couldn't attend, his paper did. The connection launched a new relationship and ever since, CEHS has been involved in fostering that relationship with international seed grants and substantial scholarship support for traveling UNL graduate students.

The memorandum of understanding, signed July 19, states that the partnership will "promote international understanding, contribute to the pool of global knowledge, and advance the development of our respective countries and the world."

Hamann said he hopes study exchanges will occur every two years, alternating which country and university hosts. These trips will continue to involve faculty and students.

"I want students to think about how a country other than the U.S. chooses to teach about itself through school and heritage site curricula," Hamann said. "What do we think about that? Do we in the U.S. do similar things? How are we different? To the extent we see things we would want to imitate, how do we bring ideas and practices from South Africa to a U.S. context? To the extent we see troubling or cautionary lessons, how do we bring these back to our U.S. environments?"

Hamann has already co-authored two articles with Vandeyar and had two chapters in a book about internationally mobile students that she edited. He said he sees these as illustrative of the kinds of opportunities awaiting faculty and students at both institutions.

"I hope to collaborate on several publications with Dr. Vandeyar comparing immigrant stories in the U.S. and South Africa and connect more UNL faculty and students with University of Pretoria faculty to continue our research, teaching and learning partnership," Catalano said.

-- Brad Stauffer, College of Education and Human Sciences