Buena Vista University Pilots the First Cohort of McCorkle Student Fellows 


Photo by Valentin Antonucci from Pexels

Olivia Wieseler, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The Faculty McCorkle Fellows journeyed to their first destination in 2006. Since that first expedition to Argentina and Peru, faculty have been traveling to new exotic places every year to expand their own global education in the classroom. Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, Buena Vista University will be launching its first McCorkle Student Fellows program.  

Taking the place of the Global Fellows program which was discontinued during the 2018-2019 academic year, the McCorkle Student Fellows program was developed to provide more students with more immersive cultural and global experiences.  Dr. Brian Lenzmeier, vice president of academic affairs and provost, said BVU had been looking for a way to link the Faculty McCorkle Fellows to students. 

We have the McCorkle Fellows Program for faculty . . . and it’s meant to be educational for faculty,” said Lenzmeier. “My thought was, how can we tie this faculty experience to the students? 

Lenzmeier said his conversations with other faculty, deans, and administrators led to the idea that the Faculty McCorkle Fellows will travel to a specific destination one year and then develop a trip that will bring students to that same destination the next year. 

The first group of McCorkle Student Fellows will be traveling to Madagascar during the January 2020 interim, led by two current Faculty McCorkle Fellows: Dr. Swasti Bhattacharyya, professor of religion, and Jennifer Hecht, assistant professor of accounting. Bhattacharyya proposed the Faculty McCorkle trip to a lemur research center in Madagascar and will be leading the trip this summer. 

The title of the course the students will be taking is “Social Responsibility, Economic Development, and Environmental Sustainability.” Bhattacharyya said the trip will focus on the question “how do people develop in a way that they can make a living, while still living in an environmentally sustainable manner?” 

Bhattacharyya had already been doing a similar set up for her j-term trips.  Many of the trips she took students on during the January interim, including the past one to Rapa Nui, were first trips she led for the Faculty McCorkle Fellows. She would then use her experience with the faculty to guide her planning for the student trip. 

“It’s something I’ve already done multiple times, and so it’s not new in that sense,” said Bhattacharyya.  Combining the Faculty McCorkle [Fellows program] with student travel makes sense because you have two faculty that have already traveled there, have ideas of what to expect, have already worked together in that space. 

Hecht, who will be co-leading the McCorkle Student Fellows trip with Bhattacharyya, looks forward to sharing her perspective with the group as well as participating in the three main educational programs the research center focuses on: reforestation, biodiversity conservation, and health and hygiene.  

Being in accounting, it’s a little bit different from those major areas, but I love learning new things,” said Hecht.  

Hecht, Bhattacharyya, and Lenzmeier recognize that this experience would not be possible without Paul and Vivian McCorkle’s generosity. Hecht is particularly eager to be a part of an experience that is linked to her kindergarten teacher, Vivian McCorkle. 

The fact that Vivian McCorkle was tied to this trip just has a warm spot in my heart,” said Hecht. “They were so generous, and I want to pay it forward when people do things like that.” 

Lenzmeier and Bhattacharyya said it was the McCorkle’s vision to create educational opportunities for the BVU community to gain a better understanding of today’s global society. 

“Paul and Vivian McCorkle had such a vision for learning,” Bhattacharyya said. “I’m so grateful to them for their vision, and their support and belief in education, and their support and belief in getting out and getting different experiences.” 

Lenzmeier is excited to share with the McCorkle family what the students learn through this new program, which will encourage students to increase their global perspective. 

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what people come up with,” said Lenzmeier. “This is a window of opportunity here for people to be creative, innovative, go new places, think about new things, and really have the resources to just explore.” 

Faculty nominations of students for the McCorkle Student Fellows closed on Apr. 15, and nominated student essay submissions are due Thursday, Apr. 25.  First, second, and third year students from any discipline in good standing and a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher were eligible to be nominated.   

According to a special announcement in BVU News, accepted McCorkle Student Fellows are expected to participate in “global perspective programing.” This could include presenting at Scholars Day, participating in community programing regarding benefits of an increased global perspective, and sharing their experiences with University Seminars.