World views

St. Catherine's pledge to internationalize its curriculum has resulted in growing global ties.

By Elizabeth Larsen

However enticing it may sound to spend a semester in Paris studying at the Sorbonne, there’s more to international education these days — more diversity, more emphasis on non-Western cultures, a greater focus on being more participant than tourist.

And a greater focus on bringing a spirit of internationalism into the classroom back home.

St. Catherine is a recognized leader in promoting intercultural knowledge throughout the curriculum, and at all degree levels. “The world our students come from is global,” says Catherine Spaeth, director of the University’s Office of Global Studies. “International experiences must no longer be add-ons to what happens in the classroom. Rather, they need to be an integral part of the curriculum.”

A key component of the University’s internationalization plan is to develop and deepen its partnerships with educational institutions across the world.

Although these partnerships include study abroad components, their scope extends as well to visiting scholar arrangements, research collaborations, and even international volunteer and internship opportunities for students.

Unidad Académica Campensina

KNOWN FOR: Poverty eradication programs, including public health and food sustainability

Illustration of Bolivia

A satellite campus of the Catholic University of Bolivia, UAC–Carmen Pampa was founded in 1993 by Damon Nolan, MFIC, an American Franciscan with ties to Minnesota. It offers undergraduate degrees to rural men and women that develop their skills to lead sustainable development efforts while respecting and preserving their native cultures.

With a shared commitment to Catholic teachings and social responsibility, St. Kate’s and UAC–Carmen Pampa enjoy a partnership — established in 2001 — to conduct research and develop curricula in biological sciences, human nutrition and rural public health. St. Kate’s students are also eligible to travel to Bolivia to intern (for credit if they choose) or volunteer by teaching English. UAC–Carmen Pampa enrolls 750 students.

“Public health is so foundational to everything in Carmen Pampa,” says Mary Hearst, associate professor and director of the public health program at St. Kate’s. “The community is located in an area with poverty and deals with social issues, including an oppressed indigenous population.”

Last June, Hearst and two faculty members traveled to Carmen Pampa — three hours northeast of La Paz in the Andes highlands — to set up a course in global health that will be offered to St. Catherine students over spring break 2014.

With a less established or formalized healthcare system — and a host of tropical diseases not found in Minnesota — Bolivia offers students at St. Kate’s the chance to see healthcare from a different perspective. “They will learn about world health practices that lead to good or poor health outcomes,” says Hearst. “They will get to reflect on and think about how public healthcare is provided not only in Bolivia but also the United States. It’s a rich opportunity to learn about complex issues.”

In spring 2013, Khaonou Vang SP’13 and Hearst created a database for UAC–Carmen Pampa’s nursing students to survey the rate of tuberculosis and leishmaniasis (which is transmitted by sand flies). Both diseases are common and could lead to potentially fatal public health outbreaks in the area.

The Bolivian university has also worked closely with faculty and staff from St. Kate’s Master of Library and Information Science. Professor Emerita Mary Wagner first visited UAC in March 2001 to improve its library facilities and offerings.


KNOWN FOR: Liberal arts, in a country with deep allegiance to rote memorization

Illustration of China

When UIC opened in spring 2006, it was the first fully sanctioned liberal arts college to be created in China in more than 50 years. That makes it a perfect fit with St. Catherine and the other members of the Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC) that are part of the partnership.

“Based on China’s one-child policy, Chinese businesses are finding that younger employees need support with working in teams, problem solving and critical thinking,” says Catherine Spaeth, St. Kate’s director of global studies. “That was an impetus behind opening a liberal arts college. It’s an incredible opportunity to be a part of China’s educational evolution into liberal arts teaching and learning.”

The partnership, which started in 2007, includes semester- or year-long exchanges in which Minnesota students from all member institutions can study alongside Chinese students at UIC, which enrolls 4,400 students. All courses are taught in English. Additionally, students earn credits toward their degree. The partnership offers opportunities as well for Minnesota-based students to gain experience as teaching assistants, and for faculty to serve as visiting scholars.

“The size of China’s economy and population means that a lot of people who graduate from college are going to work or engage with Chinese people who are living in China or the United States,” says Jennifer Downs, an associate professor and chair of the Department of History, Geography and Political Science at St. Kate’s.

In July, Downs participated in a faculty-development seminar on the University’s St. Paul campus that involved 17 professors from UIC and the MPCC. The faculty shared expertise about teaching the liberal arts. In summer 2014, the seminar will continue on the UIC campus, located in the southeastern part of China, near Macao and Hong Kong.

“Many humanities faculty in the United States feel they need to defend why students would study liberal arts,” Spaeth says.

“Yet here we have an economic powerhouse saying, ‘We need the knowledge and skills
of a liberal arts education.’”

Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalaya

KNOWN FOR: Information and emerging technologies; educating rural girls and women


India’s first government-funded women’s university, BPS started in 2007 as a one-room elementary-education system with the mission to empower women through education. Today it has 5,000 students — all required to become fluent in English — and offers degrees in subjects such as law, engineering, library science and communications.

That commitment to women’s education was a natural fit with St. Catherine University, according to Deep Shikha, a professor of economics and director of St. Kate’s new Master of Business Administration program. “It is not feasible for most of the students in rural India to come here,” says Shikha, who was born in Delhi, India. “But we can go there and interact with them so they can touch, see, smell and talk with us, and see that people in the United States aren’t that different.”

This past January, Shikha and Director of Global Studies Catherine Spaeth led a group of nine faculty members — with specialties that include English, social work, nursing and fashion merchandising — to BPS. They visited several nonprofit organizations in the area that are also working toward social change.

St. Kate’s hopes to grow the program to include student exchanges — including opportunities for students to teach English as a second language. The first step is collaboration among the faculty of both universities on research projects and teaching. “We have an opportunity to bring a different dimension to our teaching that is more contemporary and international,” says Shikha. “Our students will learn to engage in conversations in a new way.”

"The world our students come from is global. International experiences need to be an integral part of the curriculum."

— CATHERINE SPAETH, director, Office of Global Studies

Choral Society