DR. Mark Mahoney Stands by a Vertical Milling Machine Used in the Technology and Applied Design Program.
Manufacturing New Ideas: Dr. Mark Mahoney on Teaching and Learning in China
Berea may be “where the mountains meet the Bluegrass,” but Bereans aren’t anchored to their desks on campus. Thanks to a number of incredible learning opportunities this year, students, faculty, and staff stamped their passports on four continents.
Dr. Mark Mahoney, chair and associate professor of the Technology and Applied Design (TAD) department, has been awarded the Core Fulbright Program Scholarship. The Fulbright is enabling him to conduct research for the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association and to teach two classes at Nanjing Normal University in China.
Mahoney expects that visiting manufacturers will aid him in constructing innovative and effective teaching methods involving alternative energies and manufacturing. China is moving away from traditional manufacturing practices and making significant changes in its energy economy, lessening its reliance on fossil fuels, and advancing quickly into areas of clean energy and automation. Mahoney is eager to experience first-hand the new methods of design and manufacturing China is embracing. “They have a huge manufacturing industry,” he said, “and from observation, I can produce real-life examples for my students.”
The TAD department at Berea prepares students for careers in a variety of occupations, especially quality control and engineering for production management. Mahoney’s courses cover materials, processes, electrical systems, mechanical systems, alternative energies, and hydraulics.
“Dr. Mahoney has been very thoughtful about technology and education in a global world and decided to enhance his perspective through a Fulbright in China,” said Dr. Chad Berry, academic vice president and dean of the faculty at Berea. “A Fulbright is an excellent use of a sabbatical.”
During his time in China, there will be several obstacles to overcome. “Teaching and researching present their own difficulties,” admits Mahoney. “The language, culture, and expectations are additional hurdles to overcome in China.” Despite these challenges, he is enthusiastic about gaining experience and contributing from his background.
China is also reinventing its educational system to utilize technology, which represents another learning opportunity for Dr. Mahoney. “I am eager to teach in China because they are aggressively developing technology education,” he said.
Berea Goes to Denmark
Berea College President Lyle Roelofs and dozens of other Bereans celebrated Independence Day in an unlikely place: the rural town of Rebild (pronounced ruh-billed) in Denmark. The town has been celebrating America’s independence since 1912, and the four-day festival, called Rebildfesten, blends Danish and American traditions—with schnapps and hot dogs, burgers, and pickled herring.
Rebild celebrates American independence because of the large number of Danes who traveled to and settled in America in the 19th century. Many of those Danish immigrants returned home later in life, bringing back some American traditions.
Berea College has had a special relationship with Danish folk educators since the 1920s, when the college set up a folk school as a way to educate Appalachians without the expectation of them leaving their home communities. It also helped preserve mountain culture.
President Roelofs was joined by many of the Berea College Country Dancers for the festivities, including Berea College students Bryce Carlberg ‘18, Yulesia Guzman ‘19, Jackson Napier ‘17, and Shelby Plas ‘19, as well as Berea’s Folk Circle Association, the Lexington Vintage Dancers, the Berea Bluegrass Ensemble, and the Berea Festival Dancers. Jennifer Rose Escobar ‘92, who also directs the Mountain Folk Festival, sang both the Danish and American national anthems during the festivities, the former in Danish! Along with other dignitaries, President Roelofs addressed the gathering using the title “Danish American friendship as a model for international relations” for his remarks.
Country Dancers Tour China
Denmark in July, China in May—the Country Dancers have been quite the globetrotters this year. A team of 14 dancers and musicians from Berea visited Yunnan Province for two weeks, sharing Appalachian music and dance through a grant from the U.S. State Department.
While there, Svetlana Dunlap ‘19 enjoyed sharing the weaving skills she developed through her labor position in the Student Crafts program with a lifelong weaving professional.
“It was amazing to meet a weaver in China and get to work on her loom,” said Dunlap, who majors in child development and Spanish. She also enjoyed dancing with children at a kindergarten, shopping in open markets, and staying in a little village at the foothills of the Himalayas.
Far Afield: Summer Sessions Go Intercontinental
Through Berea’s Francis and Louise Hutchins Center for International Education, students have many opportunities to visit and learn about other cultures in depth and in person. One of the study abroad opportunities is through the Berea International Summer Term (BIST), in which students can opt for an international experience during a four-week summer session. Two examples of BIST offerings this summer were in Italy and Ghana.
Kevin Gardner, associate professor of art, and Dr. Ashley Elston, assistant professor of art history, led students through an art history and studio art course in Italy in May and June. Students experienced Rome, Florence, Siena, and San Gimignano, and studied the cities and their histories through drawing, historical artifacts, places, and texts.
“We emphasized drawing as an important observational experience,” said Gardner, “one that helped students of all drawing levels develop a stronger understanding of people and place through careful looking and recording.”
Elston said one of the primary goals of the experience is to encourage students to become curious about the world around them. It also deepens the students’ understanding of course content while instilling confidence in their ability to thrive in unfamiliar situations.
“I was impressed by how our Berea students actively engaged with and embraced Italian culture, even when confronted with practices and attitudes that challenged what they were used to,” she said.
During the course, students enjoyed instruction at places such as Rome’s Ponte Sisto, overlooking the Tiber River toward the Vatican, and Florence’s sculpture-filled Bargello Museum.
“It’s one thing to study the Pantheon through a book or slideshow, but entirely another to be there in person and take it all in for oneself,” said Gardner.
The trip seems to have been tangibly emotional for the students. “I am not exaggerating when I say that during BIST Italy we saw some students in rapturous tears because they were looking at great works of art and architecture in person,” Gardner said.
Dr. Monica Kennison, chair of the Nursing department, and Dr. Connie Lamb, associate professor of nursing, traveled to Ghana with 15 Berea students to complete the inaugural Health Promotion course. They worked alongside Ghanaian nurses and other healthcare professionals at the Agogo Presbyterian Hospital, the Bompata Health Center, and in surrounding villages, where students were immersed in both traditional and modern Ghanaian healthcare practices.
Providing health education to school-age Ghanaians on topics such as sexually transmitted infections and self-care—topics chosen by Ghanaian community health nurses—the students learned the local customs and translated them into culturally appropriate community health education.
“Traveling abroad with a specific set of expected learning outcomes has expanded my teaching philosophy and allowed me to develop innovative hands-on teaching practices that I had not experienced before,” said Dr. Lamb. “These students now have a broader world view of both similarities and differences in the Ghanaian culture and their own.”
One student, in particular, seems to have been deeply moved by the experience. “I went to Ghana with a goal of helping people in any way I could—whether it was by showing them God’s love or even nursing them back to life,” said nursing major Brooklin Wiggins ’18. “But God didn’t take me halfway across the world to help them, he took me so they could help me.”