What does tissue regeneration have to do with study abroad?
Stumped? Let me back up a minute to explain why I pose this question.
I recently attended a TEDx event at Wake Forest University. Chris Bashinelli, a Melibee speaker was serving as the emcee and presenting also, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to hear him and other inspiring speakers.
The morning schedule was dedicated to innovation in science. As science is not my passion, I thought I’d simply manage through the morning until the “good stuff” started in the afternoon.
Except, somehow, the science kept triggering thoughts and connections about study abroad.
The morning began with Dr. Anthony Atala’s presentation on tissue regeneration. He described how using the body’s own cells, tissues can be regenerated to bridge the gap as needed.
Bride the Gap? How odd that he used those words, as they are the name of Chris Bashinelli’s organization that fosters intercultural dialogue by highlighting stories of everyday life from the around the world on film.
Next up was Dr. Paul Pauca, a brilliant man who created a smartphone app to help his son who was unable to communicate his needs because of a rare genetic disorder. The tool, called “Verbal Victor” after his young boy, allows Victor to tap on an image to hear a statement that expresses his need at that moment. Verbal Victor was designed to help Dr. Pauca’s son – but I kept thinking, couldn’t this tool easily be used for those of us learning another language too? It is customizable, so you or your language teacher can load your own voice and statements as needed.
Dr. Charles Pell took the stage to share a new medical device that is being designed for heart surgery. He explained that surgeons are still using a medical device that is seventy five years old to help open up the chest cavity to access the heart. Apparently, no one ever redesigned it because it works, despite causing harm (it works, but it will break your ribs). It made me wonder, with all of the growth and urgent pace of study abroad, are we ignoring the need to update very basic tools that we use to do our jobs in study abroad too? Every day, are we spitting out the same program – again and again – and possibly causing harm in our attempt to “do good”? (This will be further elaborated on in a future post.)
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons of the TEDx event, for me, what listening to a very authentic and humble man named Dennis Quaintance. He talked about the power of a process outset vs. outcome mindset. He cited the example of how he was once working on an environmentally friendly restaurant called the Print Works Bistro in Greensboro, North Carolina (US). During the design process, he kept asking new questions about how it could be more green, beyond what is “normally” done. Reflecting upon the experience, he described that while he may not have known exactly where the team was going, he did feel strongly that they were on the right path. All of this, in his case, led to the first LEED certified restaurant in the US! This once again brought me back to study abroad. If we ignored resource limitations and simply did what felt exploratory in our program design, where could we go? How many organizations have really spent time with a dedicated team asking more in depth questions about WHY we are setting up a program and what could we do differently by taking the time to probe deep instead of racing to get the work done? Would we have programs that result in more meaningful learning and perhaps more creativity, something that is often stifled by overly structured academic environments?
Chris Bashinelli, a Melibee speaker, is who brought me to this wonderful TEDx event. His presentation touched on finding the deeper meaning in our lives and never stopping to fulfill the search for what moves us to action. In his case, his desire to learn about the world developed into a fun, educational TV series about the diverse people in our world and led to several speaking engagements at the United Nations. For me, all of the speakers at TEDx have found what drives them to jump out of bed every day to pursue their passions. Their inspiring work became my classroom for the day. So next time you think you are going to have to grin and bear it through the science – or whatever discipline may not be your forte – open your heart and allow yourself to be surprised at all that you will learn AND how it unexpectedly can have a very direct impact on the work that YOU do every day.