Heather Stark, MD, completed the Fall 2023 International Virtual Exchange (VE) Training

Could you share some insights into the process of collaborating with professors from partner institutions abroad, particularly Dr. Etienne Nsereko and Dr. Tara Wilfong?

Global public health is very collaborative and interdisciplinary in nature. Over the past ten years, I have developed relationships with colleagues that I work with on research projects in Africa. Partnering with these international colleagues allows me to extend our research into the classroom and exchange knowledge regarding public health among our UF students and students abroad. The virtual exchange experience also allows students from different universities to connect and have a better understanding of studying public health issues from a global perspective.

In what specific ways do you believe the VE project will enhance students’ learning experiences and contribute to their global perspectives? Can you provide some details about the tools and resources you accessed during the training to enhance your teaching skills?

Virtual exchange provides students who may not otherwise be able to travel to different regions of the world the opportunity to interact with students from different countries, exposing them to different cultural and social beliefs and practices. A goal of these virtual exchanges is to increase students’ intercultural competency and their awareness of being a global citizen as they progress through their degrees and professions.

With technology such as Zoom and WhatsApp, students can connect from different regions of the world to exchange experiences and knowledge. This past semester, students from UF, The University of Rwanda, and Haramaya University in Ethiopia met on Zoom to share what it was like to be a university student in each country, as well as public health issues they thought were important.

How do you plan to utilize the $500 award in professional development funding you received?

The stipend I received will be used towards professional development for conferences focusing on global public health and internationalizing the classroom.

What advice would you give to other faculty members interested in incorporating virtual exchange projects into their courses?

The UF International Center offers several opportunities for faculty to internationalize their classrooms and research, such as the Global Learning Institute and Virtual Exchange program. In addition to providing faculty the opportunity to collaborate with international partners, the center also fosters an environment for UF faculty to share resources and tools to support global learning