Grand Valley Professor to Lead 15 Students to Tanzania
This spring, 15 Grand Valley students will complete their mathematics capstone experience (MTH 496) while teaching students in Arusha, Tanzania. Dr. Lisa Kasmer, a mathematics education faculty member who began working at GVSU in fall 2010, will lead this group and oversee their experiences throughout the month of May. Dr. Rebecca Walker will also be going on the trip with Dr. Kasmer and the students as a program assistant. In this role, she will help supervise students at the various schools and will help students with their lesson planning.
While in Tanzania, participants will teach students at several elementary and secondary schools (Assumption Primary, Sekei Secondary, Prime Secondary, and Beringa Primary) from 8am to 2pm each day and will have their own coursework to complete for Math 496 course in the late afternoon. Several planned weekend trips include visiting a Maasai village, hiking in the Arusha National Park, working in an orphanage, and experiencing a 4-day safari in the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park.
To prepare for the trip, Dr. Kasmer and the other participants are meeting weekly to learn about the culture of Tanzania. They are discussing readings related to the trip and are learning some Swahili from Dr. Sango Otieno, a faculty member in the GVSU Statistics Department.
This program began in May 2009, when Dr. Kasmer and a colleague from Purdue University led a group of students from Purdue University and Auburn University (where Dr. Kasmer was previously a faculty member) to Arusha, Tanzania. This year, Dr. Kasmer, Dr. Walker, and the Grand Valley students will be joined by faculty from Purdue University and 9 Purdue students.
The work Dr. Kasmer did to bring this program to Grand Valley involved creating a proposal and having it approved. The approval process necessitated multiple meetings with the Padnos International Center, getting buy-in from her departmental colleagues, recruiting students, and working with her contacts in Tanzania. Dr. Ed Aboufadel, Mathematics Department Unit Head states, “The Tanzania program is a valuable addition to our curriculum, and I am impressed with Dr. Kasmer’s initiative in establishing the program here, particularly given that this is her first year at GVSU. “
This program is designed to contribute to the Grand Valley students’ professional development by increasing their awareness of how their intended profession may be practiced differently in various cultures. It aims to increase their awareness of cultural influences on education, particularly mathematics and mathematics education, and will allow them to develop and organize a service project that will directly impact the children with whom they work in Tanzania. Dr. Kasmer states, “I believe that these opportunities can only facilitate students’ intellectual growth by exposing them to knowledge and experiences that reflect a different cultural frame of reference, and stimulate students’ interest in cross-cultural and international learning.”
GVSU student, Diana Hart is one of many students excited by this opportunity. She says, “I’m thrilled to be going to Tanzania with this program. I chose to go on this trip because of my passion for math education and my love of travel. We will return from this trip having learned about ourselves as individuals, colleagues, and teachers by taking full advantage of this opportunity.”
In addition to Diana, the students going on the Tanzania trip are Rachel Banks, Cassandra Becker, Cody Becksvoort, Jordin Billinghurst, Christina Dahlman, Daniel Ferris, Emily Groenink, Paige Laurain, Sean McCormack, Brittney Mohnke, Stephanie Petersen, Michael Reynolds, Caitlin Sternik, and Zachary Weber. Upon their return, the department looks forward to learning more about their experiences.