18

Keely Kleven, political science major from Williston, N.D., greets students in the Philippines. Kleven and other Black Hills State University students and faculty worked with Filipino students and teachers on education issues such as bullying and study skills as part of the new International Service Learning Program at BHSU. 

BHSU students and educators traveled to the Philippines recently as part of a new International Service Learning Program at the University. The students mentored high school students at Sudlon School, the beginning of a multi-year international partnership between BHSU and the Philippines. Left to right, top row: Richard Walbe, mass communication major from Deadwood; Bryce Boser, mass communication major from Box Elder; Hugh Cook, mass communication and history major from Rozet, Wyo.; Alex Hancock, corporate communication and graphic design communication major from Spearfish; Alicia Benz, biology major from Killdeer, N.D.; Victoria Geary, mass communication major from Spearfish; bottom row: Dr. Lois Flagstad, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs; Jane Klug, dean of students; Keely Kleven, political science major from Williston, N.D.; BHSU President Tom Jackson, Jr.; Mikenzie Mikkelson, math major from Belle Fourche; Gina Gibson, chair of School of Arts and Humanities, associate professor of digital communication; Dr. Katie Wildman, director of international relations and global engagement. 

A group of eight Black Hills State University students who spent Spring Break in the Philippines shared their life-changing experience with the community recently.

Students in the new International Service Learning Program at BHSU hosted a presentation “Success in Sudlon” for fellow students, faculty, staff and family members. They shared their videos, photos and first-hand experiences noting how the experience mentoring high school students in the Philippines created life changing experiences for them as well.  

Through the Program, BHSU partnered with Sudlon School in the Philippines to provide new learning opportunities for both BHSU and the Filipino students. The BHSU students created curriculum for the   Filipino students with educational issues including bullying, self-esteem, and study skills.

Richard Walbe, mass communication major from Deadwood, said the students were amazing and eager to learn. He note the cultural exchanges that took place provided additional learning opportunities.

 “The students we worked with shared their stories, home lives, talents, fears and passions. That sharing, both from an American versus Filipino perspective, as well as simply person-to-person, had the most impact on me,” said Walbe.

Gina Gibson, chair of the School of Arts and Humanities and lead faculty on the trip, said the service learning trip was unlike any teaching and learning experience she’s ever had.

“Throughout the semester we prepared by learning about service learning and developing nations. We worked directly with the teachers and principals in the Philippines to build a curriculum responding to their needs,” said Gibson.

English is spoken in the Philippines, and Gibson said music, dance, and performance were key ways the students exchanged culture and learned from one another.

“I was amazed at how the high school students gravitated toward our BHSU students. The group dynamic grew and flourished during our days at the School,” said Gibson. “The students on both sides appeared to gain respect, honor and delighted in the exchange of culture and ideas.”

Several BHSU students in the group are also active in the University Honors Program. As a result of the experience gained from the course, the Honors students will now graduate with the distinction of International University Scholars.

The experience in the classroom combined with the field experience in the Philippines confirmed several BHSU students’ professional paths, including Walbe’s goal of becoming an international photographer.

This trip reignited in me the passion I have for travel and exploration. It reinforced my original college goal of becoming a photographer, for the sole reason of documenting and sharing the world with those who may never get the experience of travel to its more remote corners,” said Walbe.

Gibson says the partnership and education will continue with additional international service learning experiences planned.

“Our students were excellent examples of what BHSU is, a vibrant and caring place that promotes life-long learning,” said Gibson. “It was an honor and a privilege to share this experience with the students.”

A photo exhibit featuring the student’s photography while in the Philippines is on display in the BHSU Ruddell Gallery, second floor of the Student Union, for public viewing.

Students who participated in the service learning program were:

Bryce Boser, mass communication major from Box Elder

Hugh Cook, mass communication and history major from Rozet, Wyo.

Victoria Geary, mass communication major from Spearfish

Alex Hancock, corporate communication and graphic design communication major from Spearfish Alicia Benz, biology major from Killdeer, N.D.

Keely Kleven, political science major from Williston, N.D.

Mikenzie Mikkelson, math major from Belle Fourche

Richard Walbe, mass communication major from Deadwood