Photo: Participants at the SST Search Conference listen during a discussion. Photo by Richard Aguirre.
September 12, 1968, marked the inception of Goshen (Indiana) College’s Study-Service Trimester (now Study-Service Term, or SST), with the first units embarking for Costa Rica, Guadeloupe and Jamaica.
Almost exactly 50 years later, 32 faculty, staff and students met Sept. 14-16 for an SST search conference at Camp Amigo with the goal of reassessing the program.
Throughout the weekend, participants tackled this question: How can we strengthen Goshen College’s international education core, including SST, to make it more effective, engaging and possible for our students in the current global context?
Under the leadership of Davydd Greenwood, retired anthropology professor and international studies professor at Cornell University and facilitator of the conference, the search conference identified strengths, named problem areas and generated possible solutions to SST and SST Alternative. The weekend concluded with the formation of six task forces focused on specific action items.
Participants agreed that SST is a distinctive aspect of a Goshen College education. The primary goal moving forward, participants said, is to remove barriers so a majority of students can once again experience the semester-long option. These barriers include scheduling conflicts (especially within athletics and large majors), a lack of funds and communication difficulties among staff, students and families. Participants also want to develop stronger alternative options for an immersive intercultural experience both at home and abroad.
“The conference was a wonderful experience of having people from across campus in many different roles engage in a collaborative process to make the International Education program better for all students,” says Jan Bender Shetler, Goshen College professor of history and coordinator of the conference. “There was so much energy and excitement in finding a shared vision and ways to work through the obstacles, even though the hard work is still ahead of us.”
Task forces will work to generate a unified program (including SST and alternative options) that has a distinctive set of desired outcomes. This proposed program is to include different pathways to the same goal, including domestic and international and short and long options.
Upcoming work will also focus on lessening financial and scheduling impediments. While SST costs are part of traditional student tuition, a proposed endowment fund for international education is one idea to alleviate the financial burden for nontraditional students and those who participate in SST during the summer. Other tasks include creating stronger country-specific SST preparation and post-SST processing, and to better equip faculty leadership.
Greenwood and Landon Weldy, a senior history major and co-facilitator, compiled a report of the conference.
“The weekend was really just a first step that depends on continued momentum to improve the SST program,” says Weldy.
A version of this article originally appeared in The Record.