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Purple Media Network

What is NSU’s international student leadership program?

Naomi Adams
This year NSU President Marcus Jones took selected students for the international student leadership program to Angers, France.

Each school year, select students at Northwestern State University of Louisiana are specifically chosen by President Marcus Jones, Dean of Students Reatha Cox and Director of Fraternal Leadership and Civic Engagement Mary-Katherine Maggio to attend an international trip.

President Jones and Cox work together in selecting students, typically choosing an equal number. President Jones said that students are usually selected based on their leadership experience at NSU.

“Generally, students are selected because of their past leadership, leadership on campus, and that can be in a student organization or President’s Leadership Program, as well as a couple of other criteria,” Jones said.

Maggio explained that student leaders are chosen so that they can be given the opportunity to lead in new ways.

“It’s a capstone leadership experience, so for these students who go, it’s a culmination of their leadership journey here, getting to see them go on this trip you get to watch them lead in a different country,” Maggio said.

Since 2013, President Jones has taken students abroad to places like Colombia, Cuba and France with a goal to create cultural awareness.

“The primary purpose is to create cultural awareness and foster cultural competency in the student body,” Jones said. “We try to select students who have never been abroad in hopes that this opportunity to travel internationally will foster a desire to do more of it.”

Though students are chosen specifically, President Jones said he tries to give equal opportunity to all students.

“I try to keep a balanced group of select students who aren’t necessarily on the radar of Reatha and may be just a quiet unassuming student that just needs to be pulled out of their shell,” he said. “I try to find those students and mix them in with our student leaders to give them an opportunity to participate in an international student exchange.”

Once students are selected, they enroll in a Capstone Leadership Course in order to attend the international trip. Within the course, students prepare a presentation on a topic chosen by President Jones.

“The students are registered in a research course, they are assigned a topic, and they spend the semester, or bulk of the semester, doing the research then present the findings at one of our partner institutions abroad,” Jones said.

Linzi Lampert, a junior majoring in health and exercise science, was selected by Cox to attend the 2023 international trip to the University of D’Angers in Angers, France. Lampert said that this year’s presentation covered Artificial Intelligence in higher education.

“We covered a lot of different topics, the benefits, how it could be efficient, the downsides, how it could potentially be very dangerous, and how it’s an ethical issue so we brought up how to use it for the better,” Lampert said. “We mentioned even as simple as the little AI chat on Snapchat, Duolingo, things that tailor learning to your progress and we even used it to create our introductions.”

Maggio shared that she was very fascinated by this year’s AI presentation, as well as the students at the University of D’Angers.

“It was really interesting, and I got to watch their presentation, for them to do all this research and present it all back to the French students and they were just so fascinated that that’s the kind of stuff they would get to study in the US,” Maggio said.

Not only the overall cultural difference, but the academic difference truly stuck out to Maggio during her travels this year.

“You realize how different higher education is for them versus here where we’re hosting five events a day at Northwestern, but for them, they’re going to class and work,” Maggio said. “They are truly there for school whereas a lot of students come here for school and extracurriculars, so for me it’s the immersiveness in that culture and being able to experience that for one week, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

While the presentation to partner universities is the focal point of the trip, President Jones has a special way to test students’ learning.

“The benchmark I use to determine whether or not the trip was a success, aside from just the actual presentation, is how well the group learns to navigate the subway system and I know that sounds trivial, but it’s something that in years past has challenged students so it just tests how well they’ve paid attention and how much they’ve learned.”

President Jones stressed that academic aspects of the international trip are just as important as learning about culture.

“So you have the academic piece where they have to present, but you also have the cultural piece that they’re learning to navigate a new culture, a new city that is decidedly different from Natchitoches,” Jones said. “Just watching them learn and take it all in is just truly a sign of the success of the trip itself.”

Kacy Young, junior history major, was selected by Cox to attend the 2022 international trip to the University of D’Angers. Young viewed her travels as a learning opportunity more so than anything else.

“We did a lot of talking about the difference in culture and what travel means and how it changes you and what we were getting out of the experience in a business sense, like yes we enjoyed it, but it really was a learning opportunity,” Young said.

Young enjoyed learning the cultural history of France.

“It was groundbreaking for me, especially as a history major, I was just jaw dropped the entire time with the history of where we were at,” Young said. “I just felt my head spinning as we were walking, just immersing yourself in the culture, being a small part of it while everything else is moving around you, it was so special,” Young said.

Similar to Young, Maggio believes immersing yourself in the culture is the most important part of traveling internationally.

“Being able to see a different culture and being able to immerse yourself in it, I remember my first time traveling with a student group, I was able to experience the student perspective, you don’t realize how many things are different and you also don’t realize how many things are the same,” Maggio said.

Zoe Johnson, senior business administration major, was selected by Maggio to attend this year’s international trip.

“The opportunity to attend the trip came about when Mary-Katherine Maggio came up to me and said ‘Hey, would you like to go to France?’ and I was taken aback because I knew about the trip but never thought that I would have gotten the opportunity to attend it,” Johnson said.

This year’s trip to Angers, France was Johnson’s first international trip, and she expressed her gratitude to NSU for the opportunity.

“It was a blessing, I feel blessed to have been able to go on the trip,” Johnson said. “I was able to see things that I have studied and eyed over my whole life, and I can’t thank NSU enough for giving me this opportunity.”

Natalie Mangandi, senior psychology major, was selected by Cox while volunteering as a Freshman Connector in summer 2023. Mangandi was grateful for the chance to share her love for NSU.

“I was extremely thankful and grateful to be chosen to go because I love this university so much and just to be able to spread that love and that opportunity of this university in a different country is insane to me,” Magandi said.

Scott Fowler, a senior majoring in business administration, also felt blessed to be chosen for international travel with NSU this year. He plans on traveling internationally in the future for his career because he was given this opportunity.

“It really opened my eyes to further my career goals,” Fowler said. “Even today I’m starting to apply for international business and it’s because I went to France that I’m more comfortable to do that now, it really just helped me put the foundation of what I want to do after college.”

President Jones hopes for all students of NSU to grow a desire to be like Fowler and take the opportunity to travel internationally.

“In general, we have 20 or so international partners that we work with, and we always have a large number of students that are interested in coming to Northwestern to study abroad, but we don’t have a lot of students that really get the importance of going abroad, so I encourage students to look at that option.”


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Nina Ovalle
Nina Ovalle, Current Sauce - News Editor
Nina Ovalle is a junior hospitality management and tourism major. This is her third year in The Current Sauce, and second year as News editor. She hopes to bring important campus information to light and make students aware of everything that goes on around them.

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