International students creating international experiences

The Main Gallery of the CMU Museum of Cultural and Natural History has been transformed into a classroom to accommodate more students during the COVID-19 pandemic amongst limits on maximum occupancy per classroom.

The museum department at Central Michigan University, located in Rowe Hall on north campus, is not a highly trafficked area. Inside, however, department director Jay Martin is leading the construction of a new program series. 

The program series is designed to employ international students, who can then create educational programs based on their unique cultures and experiences to share with the public. 

Martin’s goals for the program series can be broken down into three points:

  • To support CMU international students
  • Increase the cultural and geographic diversity of the museum's educational programs
  • And involve students majoring in museum studies to help them develop rich educational programming

Martin said he’s already seeing a lot of potential from the program.

“We’ve had really good results from the programs that have been delivered, so I have a very, very high expectation of success,” Martin said. 

Currently, there are students from eight different countries employed by the museum department, and they’re looking for more. Martin said there is a job announcement on the student job board for other international students interested in participating in this program. 

This semester, the program is entering what Martin described as an experimental phase. 

”This academic year my expectation is we’ll run this trial and then we’ll decide from there whether or not it’s something we can continue to do,” Martin said. 

Rebecca Petrone is the Educator-Technologist at the museum, and an instructor for the museum studies program. She coordinates the programs put together by students with a website called the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC).

The CILC allows learners of all ages to access programs from CMU and other sources. 

Most recently, three public school classrooms, totaling about 90 students, from New York booked a virtual field trip through CILC. They accessed a program put together by CMU international students called “New Year’s Traditions Around the World”.

Petrone said they’re hoping to make enough money in commissions with CILC to sustain the program series’ production. 

“We were able to make a small, modest profit last semester, so we’re hoping to build that with our program,” Petrone said. 

Andrei Smoler Coelho is an international student from Brazil working on a master’s degree in film production. He was part of the group that put together the “New Year’s Traditions Around the World” event. 

Now, Smoler is putting together a program focusing on biodiversity in Brazil. He said people often focus on the Amazon as part of the country, but there’s more to it than that. 

“There’s the Amazon there, but the Amazon is not the whole country,” Smoler said. “There’s other biomes that people don’t talk a lot about, but they’re very interesting. 

Smoler said he found the job opportunity through the international engagement office, and saw it as an opportunity to share his background and knowledge. 

“(I can) spread awareness of international cultures and stuff like that to people who might not have an opportunity to go abroad,” Smoler said. 

Anupama, a CMU student from India, recently put together a program about the ancient art form, “Rangoli” and already has another in the works.

“I’m working on a program for students who are coming from India and what they should be taking care of,” Anupama said. 

With this program, Anupama said she wants to help other international students from India understand the technical aspects of attending CMU and moving to the United States. 

Anupama said her programs, like the one about rangoli, are open to everyone, but the way the program is presented changes to fit the learning needs of people of different age groups.