From teaching a class in the Middle East and offering funding for study abroad to service projects with an international twist – West Virginia University’s Leadership Studies Program is helping students to engage with other cultures.
“It is critically important for students in Leadership Studies and other programs at WVU to engage with the international community,” said Lisa DeFrank-Cole, director of the program. “Students need to learn how to interact and understand the similarities and differences of other cultures. They need to learn how to work together because cultural awareness will foster mutual understanding, enable smooth transitions in the workplace and aid with international travel, for example. We will all work with someone from another country in the future.”
DeFrank-Cole has been working with the Royal University for Women in the Kingdom of Bahrain in the Middle East, which was created by a WVU alumnus, to organize a leadership exchange.
For three weeks in June, DeFrank-Cole will travel to Bahrain. While there, she will teach a course similar to one offered at WVU – called the Honors Leadership Academy – at the Royal University for Women. Several female students from WVU will accompany her and take the four-credit class.
Other students will have a chance to interact with several students from the Royal University for Women in July when they come to WVU. The students will spend three weeks taking Leadership 201 during WVU’s Honors Leadership Academy.
“We take for granted that we are part of a global community,” said Whitney Rae Peters, a graduate student in health care administration at WVU. “Creating a global environment and global commitment is so important. We need to understand what is going on internationally and that the decisions we make here can affect people halfway across the world. This program has really helped to open my eyes to that,”
Peters, of Madison, graduated with a minor in leadership studies when completing her undergraduate degree. She now assists with the program and will be traveling to Bahrain to serve as a teaching assistant and residential advisor.
There is also some funding available through WVU’s Leadership Studies Program for students who are pursuing the minor and want to study abroad or participate in other leadership-related projects. The students can apply for funding through the program’s Emma Noe Scholarship.
But, not being able to study abroad is no excuse for not interacting with the international community, DeFrank-Cole said.
“Not every student can study abroad, but there is no reason they cannot still experience other cultures. There are more than 1,400 international students on WVU’s campus from over 100 countries,” DeFrank-Cole said.
To make sure that students work with the international community, all students in her capstone course are required to complete a service-learning project with an international component.
In the past, students have volunteered at international festivals, soccer tournaments and created displays for WVU’s Diversity Week, among other things.
“The goal is for the students to engage with someone that they may not have engaged with before,” she said.
DeFrank-Cole, who has only been in her position as director of the Leadership Studies Program since July 2009, is always thinking of new ways to internationalize the program. In November, a student in the program traveled to Prague, Czech Republic to present at a leadership conference.
“I am always encouraging students to join the University’s International Student Organization and to engage in any way they can,” she said.
For more information on WVU’s Leadership Studies program, visit
To learn more about WVU’s international community, visit the Office of International Students and Scholars Web site at http://oiss.wvu.edu/ .
By Colleen DeHart
WVU News & Information Services
CONTACT: Lisa DeFrank-Cole, Leadership Studies