This past fall, UTC was chosen as one of only three host universities in the U.S. for the Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders from Europe. The five-week, academic intensive program is funded by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and administered by nonprofit FHI 360.
Earlier this month, 22 students representing 15 countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Italy, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom, and Ukraine) landed in Chattanooga to launch their studies and broaden their knowledge of social entrepreneurship as they gain insight from University faculty, work closely with area businesses and nonprofits, and explore the community.
Dr. Robert Dooley, Dean, College of Business, addressed the students at a welcome reception on campus where he expressed his hopes and excitement for what this opportunity means to campus and the students visiting.
“Understanding the refugee crisis, understanding global challenges, requires interactive learning and shared experiences. That’s what really gives the meaning to awareness is having that shared understanding” Dooley said.
Dooley continued, “That is why these opportunities, SUSI and FHI 360, are so important. They provide opportunities not just for you, but for our students as well. To see through your eyes over the next weeks as you engage with people in the community and at the same time provide you with perspective that we have in Chattanooga and in this region as well. It’s through those shared experiences that I think you’re really going to come up with ideas and solutions to the challenges and problems that you will be working on while here.”
Ahmed Kerwan finished up his second year of medical school at King’s College, London, before beginning the program. For Kerwan, this experience will help him approach his profession in ways that he believes the medical field is lacking.
“As a medical student I feel that our curriculum globally is very focused on the biomedical, and in general if you go to these traditional universities they only approach problems from one angle. And social entrepreneurship and social justice is very intertwined with health. We need to view things wholistically and that’s exactly what I feel these five weeks will give me” Kerwan, United Kingdom, explained.
Kerwan echoed Dooley with emphasizing the importance of understanding.
“You need a global view to understand the global community. I can’t connect with somebody that’s from Brazil or South Africa or Australia if I don’t understand where they’re coming from.”
Kerwan continued, “So I think if we just have a conversation with somebody we will realize and better understand . And essentially, it means coexistence, which is something I think we should all be working towards.”
The students’ schedules are packed over the next few weeks with lectures, projects, and many off campus experiences including a “Chattanooga Social Justice Bus Ride” where they will tour the city via bus with UTC social work students as their tour guides. They will also explore our region’s culture with day trips to Atlanta, Huntsville, and Nashville where they will tour the Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry.
The community of Chattanooga has stepped-up to partner with the program as leaders in innovation and social entrepreneurship like the Chamber of Commerce, EPB, Causeway, and Habitat for Humanity offer their expertise and a unique Chattanooga perspective on social entrepreneurship.
SUSI Program Director, Lindsey Lanier worked with Takeo Suzuki, Executive Director of International Programs to bring this program to UTC and strategize academic and cultural experiences for the international students.
“I hope they learn about the spirit of social entrepreneurship. It’s not necessarily that you learn exact skills that you can take home and apply, but it’s a mindset. It’s a feeling about what they want to do with their communities and how they want to see the future and the world that they build as young people that will become the future world leaders even. I just want them to have a nice mind set and a little bit of skills to help them better their communities” Lanier said.
Just as Lanier hopes, Katya Ivleva, Russia, plans to take the momentum and inspiration from this experience home with her as fuel.
As she explained, “[I hope to gain] New ideas and new ways to solve these problems in our countries and also I think new emotions. Emotions are so important in our lives and they will make me move faster to achieve my goals.”
Burak Doluay, Cyprus, concluded,
“I want to make good connections. I want to meet with other professionals so that they can give me the information about how they did it here in Chattanooga, from becoming a really polluted city to becoming one of the best environments and cities in the States. And I want to know how they started, how they encouraged people to work together. The spirit of working together, I want to bring that back to my country.”
Check out SUSI’s student-written blog, where the students share their experiences and perspectives as the program progresses.
Students in the SUSI program are also studying environmental issues at the University of Oregon and civic engagement at the University of South Carolina. As their in-residence programs come to a close, the three cohorts of students will all gather in Washington D.C. to connect at a closing conference and share their freshly gained knowledge and experiences.