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Resident Director Profile: Steven Moeller

Resident director Steven Moeller

Program: Exotic Animal Behavior and Welfare - South Africa; Human and Animal Interactions - Ireland
Location: South Africa; Ireland
Year as Resident Director: Since 2008
Affiliated Department: College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

What inspired you to develop and/or lead this study abroad program?

"I am fortunate to work in a department and area that has allowed me to travel the world, doing what I know and like. The opportunity to lead a study abroad came about fortuitously for me, as timing of another faculty member's sabbatical pre-clouded their direct involvement, allowing me to assist in the development of a new study abroad focusing on human and animal interactions and the role of animals in cultures and society. Having traveled to a variety of different cultures myself and working directly with animals in these cultures, I was able to bring my experiences to use in helping our team of instructors develop the domestic and study abroad portions of the course. Diversity in experiences, knowledge, and perspectives of our instructor team has enhanced the effectiveness of our interactions with students and opened their minds to the vast diversity one experiences in life.

It is important that I acknowledge Kelly George, my co-instructor, in both study abroad courses. She has been involved in these programs jointly since their inception. We have large groups, about 40 to 80, in the Human and Animal Interactions and we teach a pre-requisite course that occurs autumn semester prior to travel over winter break. For the Exotic Animal Behavior and Welfare course, Kelly and I each lead an individual group of nine students over successive 17 day journeys in May and early summer semester."

What did you enjoy, or was most memorable, about being a Resident Director for study abroad?

"Some of the most enjoyable memories come from just seeing the faces of students react to new situations. Knowing that each student comes to study abroad with variation in experience outside of the country (or even the state), as an instructor it is exciting to see a student experience something for the first time and to see students smile, inquire, and react to the locations and people that we visit. There is a lot of maturation that takes place in a study abroad, and seeing this change take place is enjoyable to me."

Steven Moeller at Bunratty CastleWhy do you think it is important for faculty to develop and/or lead study abroad programs?

"Developing and leading a study abroad program is/can be time consuming and at times what seems to be an arduous task. For some in the faculty ranks, there is a perception that study abroad is a ‘vacation’ for the ‘chosen few.’ From my experiences, the time invested in study abroad is well worth the considerable effort required to make the program ‘right.’ I have learned that teamwork is essential, and I am fortunate to have a great colleague in Kelly George, my co-instructor, providing her talents to the programs we offer. Study abroad experiences add significantly to my understanding of the student population, their learning needs and focus, and how they perceive the ‘world’ around them. I am continually learning new things as well through these experiences. I use this feedback to continually modify or change both on-campus and study abroad teaching approaches and content. Study abroad is not for everyone, but for those with an interest, the professional growth and development that comes through the program can be tremendous. We have tremendous resources at Ohio State to assist with the study abroad programming efforts."

How does your study abroad program raise student awareness of what it means to be a global citizen and to have global perspectives?

"Some participants in study abroad may be leaving the state or country for the first time. In these specific cases, exposure to a new culture is an enlightening, and often a bit scary, part of their lives. Seeing them overcome the apprehension is very enjoyable. For the more ‘seasoned’ travelers (i.e. vacation in a foreign land), applying an academic requirement makes them take notice quickly that the trip is not just a vacation. Across all of the students, a key learning opportunity comes about when they are challenged to think and express their thoughts on the subject areas covered in the course. Setting expectations upfront and having students reflect on their experiences following the study abroad program has provided me with encouragement that the students have indeed gained a greater understanding of each other, differing cultures and societal issues."