After spending nearly four days on Western Carolina University’s Cullowhee campus, professor Mo Mo Thant was able to take valuable information back to her native country of Myanmar as it undergoes a massive education reform.
Thant arrived in Cullowhee late afternoon on Monday, June 5, and departed Thursday, June 8, after meeting with Ling LeBeau, WCU’s director of international programs and services. Through the Institute of International Education’s Myanmar Higher Education Initiative, LeBeau has been serving as Thant’s mentor.
The initiative trains Myanmar Ministry of Education officials and university representatives how to create and manage an effective international relations office. Through the initiative, Thant has been participating in “Connecting with the World,” a training course for international professionals coordinated by the IIE.
The course contains two levels, each with 20 lessons, aimed at giving participants the tools to develop and manage an international office. The 20-week course contains instruction on topics such as hosting a foreign delegation, facilitating student and faculty exchange, developing institutional agreements, and the basic role of the international relations office within a university.
Thant, who was one of two people from Myanmar selected to visit U.S. institutions, was matched with LeBeau, who applied to be a volunteer mentor.
“After each lesson, there’s an assignment,” LeBeau said. “They follow the schedule every week, doing readings and projects, and then Mo Mo sends her assignment to me and I review it and provide feedback.”
Thant said the experience has been invaluable as her university, Yangon University of Distance Education, prepares to set up its international relations office. While at WCU, LeBeau provided Thant with insight on how to run an international office.
“All of the topics, I had not learned before, so now I can learn about what we should do in the future in the higher education sector,” Thant said.
Thant also met with other staff members in the Office of International Programs and Services. LeBeau said the experience also has been beneficial to WCU.
“(Thant) can spread words about Western to her colleagues and students in Myanmar,” LeBeau said. “Western has never had a partnership with Myanmar. We hope that we can continue with the professional relationship after this project. We also look forward to future collaborations with Myanmar education institutions.”