Students learn about global leadership during trip to Spain

Students tour Plaza de Espana on rented bikes. “It means Spain Square, in English,” said Mike Corelli, associate director for campus activities. “It’s a plaza in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), in Seville, Spain, built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.”

Students tour Plaza de Espana on rented bikes. “It means Spain Square, in English,” said Mike Corelli, associate director for campus activities. “It’s a plaza in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), in Seville, Spain, built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.”

For four years, Mike Corelli, Western Carolina University’s associate director for the Department of Campus Activities, wanted to expand the leadership experience of the minor in leadership program by taking an overseas trip.

That goal finally came to fruition in May when 15 students from his LEAD 294 class, “International Perspectives on Leadership,” spent 15 days in Spain. The course focused on several aspects of the global perspective of leadership, which included the cultural, economic and religious aspects, as well as governance, Corelli said.

“We basically kind of exposed the students to learning a little bit more of all of those elements,” Corelli said. “Groups of students each took one of those topics and researched it and presented to the class throughout the semester to expose them to how Spain was, and how it differed and compared to the United States in each of those aspects.”

Prior to making the trip, Corelli invited several guests to speak to his class. Lane Perry, director of WCU’s Center for Service Learning, talked to the students about civic engagement and service leaderships. Jennifer Schiff, director of WCU’s International Studies program, spoke from the political science aspect.

The team pauses at the Arcos de la Frontera. “It is a historic city in the province of Cadiz in southern Spain,” Corelli said. “It is located on the northern, western and southern banks of the Guadalete River, which flows around three sides of the city under towering vertical cliffs, to Jerez and on to the Bay of Cadiz.”

The team pauses at the Arcos de la Frontera. “It is a historic city in the province of Cadiz in southern Spain,” Corelli said. “It is located on the northern, western and southern banks of the Guadalete River, which flows around three sides of the city under towering vertical cliffs, to Jerez and on to the Bay of Cadiz.”

The trip took place from May 16 to May 31. Most of the students’ time was spent in Seville, Spain, but they also visited Madrid, Cordova and Granada, Corelli said.

“A lot of the students said they were able to, from a cultural perspective, grow from it, to learn a little bit more about who they were, what they represented and how they could be a part of this global citizenship,” Corelli said.

“Many of the students had never experienced some of the things that they experienced, whether it be from food and trying new things, to being somewhere where there was a language barrier, he said. It was an opportunity for them to overcome those challenges and obstacles and to critically think about how they would overcome them, and to challenge themselves to be leaders. “Those experiential learning components helped them grow,” Corelli said.

Each student paid for his or her own trip, while the Department of Campus Activities provided some funding for miscellaneous costs. Corelli said Spain was chosen as the destination because of its economic perspective and affordability for the students.

With the help of the Council on International Educational Exchange, the students stayed with host families, an experience that enhanced their learning.

“That was one of the biggest highlights of the trip,” Corelli said. “Some of the host families really helped to teach them a lot of things about the culture and some of the things that we would have not been able to hit if we had stayed at a hotel. The students were really able to get some new approaches to what students and families are like in Spain.”

The LEAD 294 course is part of WCU’s 18-credit-hour minor in leadership and is available to students in any major. The program focuses on providing in-depth instruction on desired qualities of leaders and the application of those qualities.

Corelli said the program is entering its 12th year. It is offered through the College of Education and Allied Professions in the Human Services Department. There are currently just over 100 students who have declared a minor in leadership, he said.

For more information on the minor in leadership program, contact Corelli at corelli@wcu.edu or 828-227-3618.

An aerial shot overlooking Spain.

An aerial shot overlooking Spain.