Webster University Honored for Innovative Study Abroad Program

Ecuador Study Abroad ProgramWebster University earned a GoAbroad Innovation Award on Thursday, June 2, for the “Indigenous Rights and the Rights of Nature in Ecuador” study abroad program launched this year.

The award was announced at GoAbroad Reception at the  NAFSA: Association of International Educators Annual Conference in Denver. NAFSA is a nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange, working to advance policies and practices that build global citizens with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in today's interconnected world.

"Webster's global capacity, with dedicated campuses and partners on five continents, provides rich opportunity for students to engage the world's most pressing issues,” said Webster University Chancellor Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble. “This award recognizes the innovative ways faculty and staff design distinctive study abroad programs to equip our students as global citizens. I congratulate those who created this impressive program."

Indigenous Rights and the Rights of Nature was offered in Spring 2022, as an online course with an in-person component in Ecuador over Spring Break. The course explores the relationship between the rights of nature and the rights of indigenous peoples in the fight against climate change.

Webster’s signature global experiences enrich the curriculum and take learning to new dimensions beyond the classroom. - President Julian Schuster

“Webster’s signature global experiences enrich the curriculum and take learning to new dimensions beyond the classroom,” said Webster University President Julian Schuster.  “The pandemic interrupted the opportunity for true, immersive international programs, but it did not dampen the spirit of our students and faculty for these experiences.  We are glad to be back – stronger than ever – to offering innovative, transformative global experiences for our students.” 

Ecuador ProgramThe majority of the time in Ecuador was spent in the community of Cuyacocha in the Amazon jungle, one of many communities of the Sapara nationality, who claim fewer than 600 members. Webster students studied Ecuador’s history and its relationship to indigenous nationalities online and then, in a 10-day immersion experience that included travel to the Amazon, engaged with national-level experts and community leaders to deepen their understanding of the indigenous concepts of nature. Students also studied how the indigenous cosmovision (worldview) was essential in creating Ecuador's 2008 constitution, which is the first in the world to include the rights of nature. They also learned from the leaders/speakers that Ecuador is a pluri-national state, and how that is essential to the rights of indigenous peoples and nature. 

Led by Dana Hill, a Webster faculty member based in Quito who teaches in the new College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the program was a collaborative effort of the University’s Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies, Global Program Development and the Office of Study Abroad. 

Eleven students and one staff co-leader, Study Abroad Coordinator Tyler Worlund, visited Ecuador. During the trip, they met with Sapara leaders and allies, took guided walks through the jungle, learned Sapara games, made pottery and shared dreams and traditional dream-interpretation. Overall, the students earned life-changing connections with the community and gained a deeper understanding of the relationships between the Sapara, the Amazon and other people. 

Ecuador“The success of our short-term, faculty-led study abroad programs is built on the passion of faculty members who want to share their expertise in other cultures and languages with students,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Nancy Hellerud.  “When you add staff expertise in all aspects of developing high-quality programs, plus donor-funded scholarships and travel awards for students, it’s a recipe for success.  We are very glad to receive this external recognition for one of our newest faculty-led global programs.”

The GoAbroad Innovation Awards were established in 1997 to showcase the best in innovation, originality, creativity and exceptional ideas in international education. The winners are selected by a prestigious and selective group of international educators known as the Innovation Awards Academy. These awards acknowledge institutions, organizations and individuals moving the field forward, and commend leaders in the community for their efforts to go beyond the conventional.

Learn more about the GoAbroad award here. 

Ecuador Program

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