Dean’s journey to India leaves a lasting image

Jackie McLean

Arhar visited slums and orphanages on life-changing trip

Joanne Arhar speaks with a guest after her presentation about her recent trip to India on Thursday in Moulton Hall. BRITTANY ANKROM | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Joanne Arhar has traveled all over the world including places like Belgium, England, Cuba, Paris and Ireland. But it was a trip to India that changed her life.

“I can’t say it’s all pleasant – it was overwhelming with all the poverty, graft, bribery and government misuse of funds,” Arhar said. “It’s unlike anything I have ever experienced before and I’ve traveled all over the world.”

Arhar, the associate dean of Student Services and Undergraduate Education, discussed her study at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the ballroom in Moulton Hall. She wore a bright lime green sari with blue and gold trimming that she bought while in India.

Arhar was one of nine educators selected from across the United States to attend the collaborative seminar in India. The trip lasted for two weeks, and during that time she traveled from Delhi to Chennai to Calcutta and then back to Delhi.

The United States India Education Foundation sponsored and funded the trip. The organization promotes collaboration for the improvement of education in India.

“The nine of us were accepted into the program to study Indian education, not just teacher education, but the education system for students in schools,” Arhar said.

Arhar visited orphanages, universities and both public and private schools while in the country.

Arhar said her visit to Mother Teresa’s orphanage was an incredible experience.

“It was heartbreaking because we saw the slums where these children were put on the street,” Arhar said. “Some of the children were so severely disabled that you couldn’t communicate with them.”

Arhar said she saw volunteers from all over the world while on her trip.

“There were so many volunteers it was almost a one to one ratio,” Arhar said.

Arhar visited a public elementary school in Tamil Nadu, a huge state in southern India with over 40,000 schools. She said the children were sitting on the floor in the classroom, and the chalkboard was along the wall on the floor.

“The students would do their lessons individually and then work in groups to support their learning,” Arhar said. “The students would then give oral presentations about what they had learned.”

Arhar said she and the others on the trip got down on their hands and knees and spoke to these children about how they were learning.

She said India has a huge teacher shortage because the government is trying to save money, so they are promoting different programs for gaining a teaching license .

“There are alternative routes to teaching in this country,” Arhar said. “Here you have to have at least a bachelor’s degree and in India you have to have at least a high school degree.”

Arhar plans to collaborate with India to create international education opportunities for students within the college.

Arhar said she tried to establish an overseas teaching site in India but has had trouble with communication.

One idea Arhar has for a collaboration project is to create a program where the hospitality students travel to India and study their hotel service.

“It’s very important for our students here, no matter what major in this college, to understand what some of the dimensions of the curriculum of their major are,” Arhar said. “We believe in the importance of global education in this college.”

Arhar said the faculty in India are interested in developing a collaborative master’s degree program.

Marquita Rodgers, a master’s graduate student majoring in higher education administration and student personnel, attended the event after she heard her professor talking about it.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation,” Rodgers said. “It gave me and others in the higher education program a chance to learn about education in other countries.”

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Jackie McLean at [email protected]