Monday, December 4, 2017

Meet Kelli Fleming: Future Generations University's new Assistant Professor and Director of Learning Management!



Having grown up in Surkhet, Nepal, Kelli has long been aware of Future Generations from its work there. She went on to pursue a Master's in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University and has held a number of different roles in higher education throughout the years with her latest being in the online distance learning world. She has focused on the pedagogical approach to this unique field, finding the best ways to teach online in an interactive and engaging manner with her global audience in mind. 
For the last 7 years, Kelli lived in New Zealand (as shown in her beautiful photos accompanying this entry) with her husband and their two young boys. There, she took on tailoring the online learning experience to fit mid-career global professionals for a program run by the University of Otago at its medical school in Wellington.
She worked with the aviation medicine program, which was fully online and taught the principles of the subject to general practitioners all over the world. Once a year, the program hosted week-long site visits to learn best practices from major airlines. The emphasis on building learning around these face-to-face interactions shares a purpose very similar to that of Future Generations residentials.
Kelli notes that although the content of her past program is very different from the Future Generations Master’s program, there are many similarities upon which she’s excited to build. Her experience with a fully online program fits very well with Future Generations move to make residentials optional, and she is already very familiar with the learning platforms used here (Moodle and Zoom). 


 “I knew nothing about aviation medicine,” Kelli says, “but a lot about teaching online isn’t necessarily in the content. Much of what makes it a fruitful platform is the scaffold around which you build the learning. And that's what I'm here to help facilitate for Future Generations.”
Kelli and her family moved back to the United States in the summer to be closer to their larger families and currently reside in Blacksburg, VA. On what appealed to her about seeking to join Future Generations, Kelli says, "I've always lived sort of an international life, so I was excited about being able to live in Blacksburg while remaining involved in the global education world. I also really like the idea of a dedicated non-profit that's doing some big things from a small place in the U.S. for other small places around the world. I'm looking forward to working with others focused on global community."
Bringing her background work to play in the Future Generations context, Kelli will be leading project management and tech support for our learning management systems, as well as working with staff on the assessment front to develop innovative learning activities to showcase in students' e-portfolios.
The removal of mandatory residentials, Kelli notes, changes where the teaching energy goes. She will help maximize online activities so that they remain inviting for students. It’s important in a blended platform like ours that someone be in place to keep that energy going. Some keys to this will be in the development of new teaching artifacts, implementation of effective online simulations, and by keeping up the engagement in online forums.  

With online learning, there is an ever-present challenge to create a learning community that keeps students involved through methods other than traditional classroom setting. However in many ways, Kelli likes to think online learning can be made to be even more advantageous than classroom learning. It leads the way to innovation and opens the opportunity to learn from others around the world.


One of the things our new Learning Management Director finds the most rewarding is supporting students that already have very busy, full lives and helping them to work their ongoing education into their life balance.

Kelli looks forward to laying a foundation with the upcoming Class 2019 that will lead to the best student experience possible and to tailoring a learning platform that doesn’t make students feel as though they’re being held back by the technology, but rather guided forward by it.  

Future Generations is very excited to be taking this step forward with Kelli leading the charge-- please join us in extending her the warmest of welcomes!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Practicing Conflict Management & More in Africa


This week on the blog, Future Generations alumnus Jonathan Tim Nshing shares with us some of the impressive work he's completed, as well as details a particular project he and another graduate undertook after winning an alumni collaboration grant from the Global Network...


Jonathan's Background with Future Generations:


Jonathan's Master's Practicum Thesis
Recently, I carried out a project with the support of Future Generations University called Promotion of Peace Awareness Among Youths in Cameroon. More information on this work can be found on the Facebook page of the Cameroon Youth Partnership (www.facebook.com-cameroon-youth-partnership). This project was funded by the Davis Projects for Peace, USA and was carried out in 2015. 

Last year 2016, I and another alumnus, Uchenna Rowland, implemented a similar project entitled: "Documenting and Analyzing Traditional Conflict Management Techniques in Africa. Case Study: Nigeria and Cameroon," which was funded by an Alumni Frant awarded annually by Future Generations Global Network. This project valorized African traditional methods and institutions of conflict management. We also came up with a procedural manual on traditional conflict management techniques in Africa.

Nexus Fund builds & strengthens local
communities to help prevent mass attrocities
I completed another related project in March of 2017, entitled “Deconstructing the Terrorist Narrative among Young People in Cameroon," funded by the Nexus Fund, USA. We came out of it with findings indicative of the process of radicalization of young people in Cameroon and produced the working document “Youth De-Radicalization Compendium.” 

At the moment, we are implementing another project funded by the Future Generations Global Network on the provision of two hand pumps to the Garyea Community in Liberia and the extension of the Nboung Water Network in Nboung-Nkwen, Bamenda. 

Liberia:


Garyea Town is part of the Yelequelleh District, Gbartala, Bong County. It has been in existence as a community for more than fifty years. The community has 11 households with a population of 1350 persons. Of that number, 37% are females. The town has seven satellite villages with a population of 300 persons. Garyea geographical position has remain a challenge for the community for many years. It is located on a mountain of rocks making it difficult for the people to access water for survival. In fact like other communities where water are found in creeks and streams and serve as point for drinking, Garyea source of water comes from the rocks on the mountains which for many reasons are insufficient, dirty, and difficult to get. As the community seeks new source of water for drinking, so are they exposed to many water borne diseases.  

The project is designed to rehabilitate a damaged pump and also construct a new pump for the community.  The project will provide resources for training of pump mechanics and technicians as part of the Community WASH Committee so that maintenance will be guaranteed going forward.   The project will provide training and awareness in the areas of gender, environment, disabilities, and WASH. The project is inclusive of water and sanitation awareness for the community. The project will work with existing leadership on the grounds like the CWC to provide leadership for project implementation.  The project is expected to last for one year to be turned over to the community. The project will be implemented using a tripartite memorandum of understanding between DCS, local community and the Bong County WASH Office.

Cameroon:

Nboung village is one of the neighborhoods or villages located in the Bamenda III Sub-Division in Mezam Division of the North West Region. It is about 15 minutes drive from Bamenda City, situated along the road from Bambui Four Corners to Nforya in Bafut SubDivision. It has an estimated population of 1000 inhabitants. The village has never had pipe-borne water. The villagers trek for as much as 2 kilometres to access water from open streams and sometimes they rely on wells that are hardly treated and not safe for drinking, as such they are exposed to water- borne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera among others.

This project aims at supporting the extension of the Nboung Water Project Piping network in Nkwen Bamenda. This village does not have pipe borne water but have succeeded to build their catchment and a water storage tank. What is left is the extension of the piping network from the catchment area to the village square over a distance of 1.5 kilometres. The inhabitants of the village will then be able to connect the water from the main water network or grid into their homes. The village water committee will thereafter construct seven stand taps around the village

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The following  are photos of the project that we are currently doing with funding from Future Generations Global Network, which includes the construction of two hand pumps in Garyea County, Liberia and extension of water supply in Nboung, Cameroon:
Hand pump construction in Garyea County, Liberia
Water supply extension in Nboung, Cameroon

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This week's blog was contributed by Jonathan Tim Nshing, a member of Future Generations University's Class of 2015. As a school counselor by training, Jonathan has over thirteen years of service, having worked with schools, youth groups and local communities in the North West Region of Cameroon. It is also important to note that Jonathan is the founder of the Cameroon Youth Partnership. Cameroon Youth Partnership is a community-based organization aimed at the empowerment of young people through offering them information and counseling on youth related issues such as jobs, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, peace advocacy, and fighting violence in all its forms.  

CONTACT INFORMATION

If you wish to support the work of the Cameroon Youth Partnership, please contact: cayopnet@yahoo.com or jnshing@future.edu. You may also contact Future Generations on our behalf. If you wish to specifically support the water projects in Liberia and/or Cameroon, contact Future Generations or Future Generations Global Network.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Graduation Reflections



Today on the blog, our Chief Academic Officer, Christie Hand, takes the time to share with us just how special the last residential and Commencement were for the Class of 2017...


      There is nothing quite like the privilege of spending two intense weeks with Future Generations University students on one of their field residentials.  I just returned from the Philippines where nineteen students in the Class of 2017 – from the three regional cohorts of Africa, Himalaya, and Appalachia - gathered for their Term IV residential and for the celebration of Commencement.  The setting was perfect – the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction’s beautiful James Yen Center in Silang, Cavite, just south of Manila.  Dr. James Yen, the founder of IIRR, was passionate about participatory and people-centered development.   Likewise, Future Generations students are passionate about making a positive impact in their communities.

      The residential began with four days of instruction and practice in Building Bridges through Intergroup Dialogue, facilitated by U.S. Institute of Peace instructors, Dr. Alison Milofsky and Ariana Barth.  Students worked on skills in active listening, examining beliefs and assumptions, and negotiating identity as they prepared to facilitate their own dialogue.  Building on the trust developed over their past two years together, they were able to navigate sensitive issues which often involved sharing on a deep personal level.


      Following the dialogue course, students enjoyed a two-day field visit to Taal Lake and Volcano Protected Area, meeting with the NGO Pusod, which has ambitious goals of ensuring a pollutant-free and sustainable ecosystem of Taal Lake and a disaster preparedness plan for the people on and around Volcano Island.  Pusod is run by a small, and very capable, team under the leadership of Executive Director Ann Hazel.  One of the highlights was crossing by boat to Volcano Island where we hiked or road on horseback (some of us did both!) up to the crater.  Steam escaping from vents at the top reminded us that it is still an active volcano, and is eventually due for an eruption.


      Back in the classroom at the Yen Center, students enjoyed four days of Strategic Leadership instruction with Dr. Ben Lozare, Director for Training and Capacity Building at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Communications Programs.  Ben has been co-teaching the leadership course with Dr. Henry Mosely since Future Generation’s first Master’s cohort. Henry, unfortunately, could not make it to the Philippines, but Ben had no problem engaging students the whole time with his passion, his stories, and wisdom gained over many years of experience in international development.  Particularly appropriate was the recounting of his involvement in the nonviolent People’s Power Movement in the Philippines during the 1980’s, which led to the departure of President Marcos, and laid the foundation to the leadership and communications principles which Ben ascribes to and teaches.  Students came away from the course with a deeper understanding of shared vision and the role that socially accepted fiction plays in their community work.


       Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction was the final course of the residential, taught by IIRR President Isaac Bekalo and trainer Wilson Barbon.  As this is an area of expertise for IIRR, they were able to share frameworks for assessing hazard prevention and mitigation as well as analyzing community vulnerability and disaster risk.  A half-day field visit to Rosaria, on Manila Bay, helped students to put the principles in context as this area is in particular danger from typhoons. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers are trained to respond to typhoon warnings, mobilizing the community and ensuring prompt evacuation to higher ground. They also train youth in disaster preparedness skills and strategies.


      And the climax of the residential?  Celebrating the graduation of students who, after 20 months of hard work, earned their MA in Applied Community Change.  In a ceremony highlighting student diversity and unity, each of the regional cohorts chose a speaker and a song to share.  Zerihun Damenu, Director of IIRR’s Ethiopia country program, spoke for the Africa Cohort followed by the song Africa Unity presented by all 12 students representing Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, and Ghana.  Mone Gurung, Program Coordinator for Future Generations Arunachal, spoke for the Himalayan Cohort, followed by the Nepali song Hami Bikaska Sahajkarta Haun (We are development facilitators) powerfully led by Bhim Nepali and accompanied by other Indian (from Arunachal Pradesh) and Nepali students.  Ashley Akers of West Virginia represented the Appalachian Cohort with her speech and signing of a portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “moving forward” speech:  “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  Country Roads was appropriately chosen as the Appalachian student song but was given an international flair with students and faculty from around the globe joining in.

      As students crossed the stage to receive their Master’s hood (green and blue lining for the school colors with citron for the field of social work), their diploma, and to shake hands with Future Generations University President Daniel Taylor and IIRR President Isaac Bekalo, we realized that this was not a completion as much as a commencement, or even a continuation.  They were recruited into the program as community change agents and they would continue to facilitate transformation in their communities, equipped now with tools and skills that they didn’t have before.  As alumni of Future Generations University, they join a Global Network of alumni and community practitioners, who will continue to challenge and encourage them.


      So thank you to the Future Generations students for the privilege of working with you, and thank you to the community members, family members, and faculty who have inspired each of our students.  A special shout out also to the Regional Academic Directors, Nawang Gurung (Nepal), Firew Kefyalew (Ethiopia), and Luke Taylor-Ide (West Virginia) for guiding and mentoring the Class of 2017 throughout the full two years. May we all continue to move forward in the work to which we are called.
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Christie is committed to ensuring that higher education is relevant and accessible to all. The benefits and opportunities available through education should not be for a select few. Towards this end, she is enthusiastic about trying new models and approaches which help to increase the reach of higher education and enable greater success. Her style is that of facilitation, empowering students to take responsibility for their own learning, and becoming life-long learners. Christie has been working at Future Generations University since 2007.


Monday, October 30, 2017

The Future and the Appalachians

For the Central Appalachians, including our home state of West Virginia, the future needs to look very different from the past. The region’s historic reliance on the coal industry to support family livelihoods, and to support government services, no longer works.   The future demands a new economic model, but where do you get one? Professor Mike Rechlin weighs in on an innovative way he's led Future Generations in approaching this task...

Class members on the first day of the Sap Collection Residential

You can start by looking at what works, and build on that success.  You can replace the energy found in coal with the human energy to innovate.    You can develop partnerships between not-for-profits, government and people eager to see change.  If that sounds like part of the mantra of Future Generations University; well, that’s because it is.   And maybe that’s why West Virginia’s newest University just might be in the “sweet spot” when it comes to the future and the Appalachians.

Participant Karen Milnes measuring trees
with a diameter tape
When Future Generations Graduate School Dean Mike Rechlin retired from his duties on North Mountain, he planned on moving on up to his home in New York State.  Instead he moved his activity up to the backside of Spruce Knob to help establish the Dry Fork Maple Works.  Seeing the potential for growth of a new industry in the State, one that sustainably used a renewable forest resource, Mike help organize the West Virginia Maple Syrup Producers Association (WVMSPA).  Fast forward 2 years, and applying that mantra of build on success, rely on human energy, and develop partnerships, he is now helping the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) to develop this growing sector of the State’s economy.  It’s also why Future Generations University is partnering with the WVDA and it’s Warriors and Veterans in Agriculture program to offer a course titled Maple Sap Collection and Syrup Processing. 


This past September, Mike crisscrossed the State offering seven Maple Syrup Production seminars to over 75 interested participants.  Through partnerships developed by Future Generations University with the WVDA, the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance, the WVMSPA, and West Virginia University, those interested in moving into this industry are now enrolled in the Maple Sap Collection and Syrup Processing Course.  Completing this course will require participants to enter into a mentoring relationship with a syrup producer already successfully established within the State.  The seminars, the course, and the WVMSPA are all driven by a palpable sense of human energy eager to see change.  

As course participant and army veteran Jeremy Ray said last weekend at the courses first residential, “nothing is happening in Nicholas County, where I live (and whose property butts up against a closed coal mine). I just want to get something going, to make it better.”

Crew members recording plot data

When Mike Rechlin told the University's Director of Research, Mieke Schleiff, about this growing relationship between Future Generations and this maple syrup business, he let her know that the focus of his course was on tree biology, evaporator chemistry, ecology, and math, not SEED/SCALE.  Fair enough, but stepping back a bit to look at the big picture, it kind of looks like it is.  And, it just might be that “sweet spot” where Future Generations University can apply its unique perspective to the future of the Appalachians.

Alisha and Baby Oriana making use of a Biltmore Stick

Interested in this unique learning and entrepreneurship opportunity? Visit https://learn.future.edu/local/staticpage/view.php?page=maple_cert or call the office at 304-358-2000 to find out more pricing and enrollment options!


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 Mike Rechlin has practiced sustainable foresty and protected areas management in the United States, Nepal, India, and Tibet for thirty years. He has extensive teaching experience and has designed educational programs for many international groups visiting the Adirondack Park of New York State. Presently retired, Mike has held academic appointments at Principia College, Paul Smith's College, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He served as the dean of Future Generations Graduate School from 2010 to 2013. He presently resides, and makes maple syrup, in Franklin, WV.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Alumni Feature: Meaghan Gruber


Today on the blog, we hear from Meaghan Gruber, an alumna of the Class of 2014. Meaghan discusses how her Future Generations education has aided her work in her field and how it still comes into play in her current role with Cacao&Terra Nicaragua. Meaghan has also been the recipient of two Alumni Collaboration Grants from the Global Network. Read on to find out more!


Meaghan credits her education with Future Generations University for challenging her to think outside the box in her work. When she started her Master’s, she was working with an NGO that worked towards development across several different sectors. Future Generations’ inherently multi-sectoral approach allowed her to apply what she was learning directly to her work, team, and community, thereby enhancing her success in her work and enabling her team to more effectively evaluate their next steps. The most beneficial aspect of the program for her was the diversity of her fellow Master’s students. She says that this led to thinking about new ideas in different ways, creatively collaborating across the world, and understanding similarities in challenges and how those challenges may be addressed.  Most importantly, Meaghan says, “They taught me new ways to see the world—for that, I am forever indebted.”

She again applied this basis to her action research Practicum, which looked at community voice within a proposed health clinic plan in a rural community. Applying her knowledge of the three-way partnership, she provided invaluable research on behalf of her NGO, which was then able to work successfully with the community, other NGOs, Ministry of Health, and government to launch the project. Meaghan says that it’s given her a great sense of pride to know that her practicum work wasn’t just another proposed development project pushed onto a community, but rather a collaborative effort based on community energy.

Most recently, she’s been working on a social enterprise called Cacao&Terra Nicaragua that focuses on reforestation via the planting of cacao, as well as produces value-added fine-quality chocolate. This is completed in partnership with communities, cooperatives, and government. Says Meaghan, “I’m constantly inspired by the organization, determination, and creativity that I witness on a daily basis in my work.”



Of SEED-SCALE, Meaghan makes frequent use in her work, as she feels that many parts of this theory are essential for positive and sustainable community change. In her work, the principles of working with human energy, building from success, and using three-way partnerships are always used. Meaghan had observed that often NGOs or individuals work alone in communities or without fully involving the community or other actors, leading to failed projects. She asserts that working collaboratively with all actors represented ensures a much more sustainable future for the projects and the communities that make use of this approach.

Building from success and learning from the successes of others has enabled Meaghan to take informed next steps that have brought her work to SCALE. From having applied SEED-SCALE in their work with cacao plantations and chocolate making, her team is now working in collaboration with new associations and co-operatives that are working together in chocolate-making and sustainable livelihood alternatives.


One of the most rewarding parts of this process for Meaghan has been seeing how her work has sparked behavior change using SEED-SCALE. By focusing on community change via the planting of cacao and chocolate making in the northern region of Nicaragua and with the award of a Future Generations Alumni Collaboration Grant, Meaghan’s work has not only aided in reforestation efforts, but has also evolved into making value-added products with cacao. The progression towards chocolate-making has given Meaghan the opportunity to work closely with young people from Waslala, Nicaragua, as well as different actors in the area. Meaghan’s position of being from the United States but having been settled in Nicaragua for the last 10 years has also allowed her to aid the company in forging connections, improving communications, and product distribution, thereby further bringing this project to SCALE. 



 To learn more about Cacao&Terra Nicaragua, please visit: https://chocolatenicaragua.com/
Or check them out and follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catenicsa
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Meaghan was first drawn to community change work when she travelled to the northern mountains of Nicaragua in the early 2000s. It was here that she began to question how lives could improve in areas such as the one she was visiting; areas that are poor in resources, but infinitely rich in the quality of its people and their collective capabilities.  After dedicating her university years to studying the socio-economic and historical contexts that had given rise to the conditions present in rural Nicaragua, she returned and began working with NGOs that were focused on water access, school building, scholarship programs, and alternative income programs. Throughout, she remained the most inspired by the people she encountered in her work and the communities that were working together to improve life for their children. This prompted her to begin her journey with Future Generations. We're proud to have such an exemplary individual among our alumni and continue to be inspired by her scaling up of her work.