The new site director for the Trinidad and Tobago study away program, faculty member Daniel Heath, visited the country for the first time during an orientation trip last month.
He was joined by program director and faculty member Barbara Temple-Thurston and Vice President for Admissions and Student Life Laura Majovski. Heath will direct the 12th semester away in the country.
Site directors for the Trinidad and Tobago study away program rotate fairly regularly. It gives faculty members with an interest and some expertise in Caribbean studies the chance to further their knowledge, and spending time away from campus with students is richly rewarding, Temple-Thurston said. The orientation trip introduced Heath to the culture and people with whom he’ll be working closely, she explained.
“It’s so they’ll have a sense of familiarity with the place and the culture before the program begins,” Temple-Thurston said.
During the Trinidad and Tobago study away program, which includes J-term and spring semester, students take classes at the University of the West Indies, as well as courses and excursions specifically designed for our students. Each year, three Trinidadian students involved in their country’s Best Village Competition are selected to participate in the program, Temple-Thurston said.
“Our students live alongside and build friendships with these local students who are great resources for them,” she said. “The (Trinidadian) students that come into our program are astounded at what they learn about their own culture.”
The Trinidadian government and PLU formed a partnership to provide annual scholarships for these Trinidadian students. They must have good grades and represent the best of Trinidadian culture to be selected for PLU’s program.
In the past, the Trinidadian students were chosen based solely on their written applications. However, on last month’s excursion, Temple-Thurston, Heath and Majovski interviewed the 12 applicants as part of the selection process for the first time.
Majovski’s experience interviewing and reading applications for top merit scholarships was extremely helpful, Temple-Thurston said. Additionally, the interviews allowed them to gauge a student’s interest in and likely commitment to the program, Heath said.
“There were a few of the applicants who looked really good on paper, but when we interviewed them, they were wishy-washy,” Heath said. “There were others who looked ok on paper, but when we interviewed them, they were really sharp, really knew how to communicate. They were solid in their commitment and what they wanted to bring to and take out of the program.”
The Trinidadian students who participate in the study away program are provisionally admitted to PLU, Temple-Thurston said. At the end of the program, the most promising students receive a four-year scholarship, funded jointly by Trindad’s government and PLU, to attend PLU. Those not selected receive government support to attend a Trinidadian university. PLU now has four students from Trinidad and Tobago on our campus.
Temple-Thurston stressed the importance of including Majovski and the student life office in the selection process. Since the office is responsible for guiding the Trinidadian students who come to campus, it’s invaluable to have the office involved from the beginning, she said.
Majovski also delivered invitations to Trinidadian dignitaries to attend the Wang Center’s “World Conversations: Voices from Around the Globe” two-day seminar in February.
It will be the first time the dignitaries have visited the campus, and they plan to bring a group of musicians and performers to present an evening of culture, Temple-Thurston said. There will also be academic presentations exploring the roots and complexity of Trinidad and Tobago’s diverse society.
“President Anderson, who visited the Trinidad program in 2004, has invited our longtime Trinidadian colleagues to honor their fruitful partnership with us,” she said.
To learn more about the Trinidad and Tobago study away program, click here.
For more information about “World Conversations,” click here.