It feels a bit surreal to reflect back and think that our cohort’s practicum adventure has already come to a close. Beginning in April, we met for two hours a week to prepare for our visits to other institutions in the Tampa Bay area as well as in greater London. What began with a vibrant discussion for specific issue areas related to students at these institutions grew into not only a time for academic growth and personal reflection, but also to solidify friendships and enjoy time with each other outside of our traditional campus setting.
Our trip to Tampa began with a dinner, at which we were fortunate to welcome Dr. Susan Komives, distinguished alumna and member of the LifeNet, to join us for discussion. Dr. Komives spoke candidly about some of her work in leadership studies, but also about her own practicum experience with Dr. Hardee during her time as a master’s student at Florida State University. It is so interesting to hear the impact of the FSU LifeNet and our university has had on many of the institutions we visited. Dr. Komives mentioned specifically Arland F. Christ-Janer, a pioneer within the field of higher education, and the impact he had at New College of Florida and the Ringling School of Art and Design.
While in Tampa, we had a great time visiting the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, New College of Florida, the Ringling Museum of Art, Hillsborough Community College, and the University of Tampa. We not only were able to tour these campuses, but also speak with senior student affairs officers about their institutions, job responsibilities, and career path to their current role. So much of what we discussed related back to many of the discussions we had throughout class this past year and provided great insight into our specific issue areas for our research paper as a component of the practicum course.
Of course, not all time was spent working, and we were able to enjoy a number of meals together while in Tampa. On Monday evening, we also had the chance to participate in a walking ghost tour of St. Petersburg. This was one of the best experiences I think we had as a group, having the chance to relax and enjoy time with each other before we all parted our separate ways for the summer for different NODA, ACUHO-I, or other internship opportunities.
For some of us, practicum did not end in Tampa Bay and we reconvened at the Florida State University London Study Centre, located just blocks from the British Museum in the historic neighborhood of Bloomsbury. The week we spent in the UK was not only a chance to explore the differences and unique attributes of the UK higher education system, but also immerse ourselves in a new culture and learn from the city and professionals around us.
During our time in the UK, we were able to meet with a number of professionals and visit a number of institutions. Beginning at Leighton Park School, we were provided an overview of the UK secondary education system and the unique challenges with finances and access that students face in applying for university in the UK. We also had the chance to meet with some of these students over lunch and hear more about their path to university and the differences in the application processes between the US and UK. With this background information in hand, we then visited the University of Reading, Richmond, the American University in London, the Foundation for International Education, and the University of Oxford. We also had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Paul Gentle of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education in the UK. The discussion with Dr. Gentle provided a great end to a wonderful week of visits in the UK, and gave us a number of different strategies to take back and employ in our assistantships on campus related to leadership.
Dr. Guthrie and the International Programs Team provided a number of cultural opportunities while in the UK as well, ranging from theatre tickets to see Wicked at the Apollo Victoria theatre, to a day trip to Brighton Beach where we were able to enjoy a great day filled with an unusual (but welcomed!) amount of British sunshine. Having the opportunity to integrate what we learned during the week with these cultural experiences made for an enriching trip to the UK. We were able to accomplish a great deal in only a week in London!
Having had a few weeks since practicum ending to reflect, I think that practicum was perhaps my favorite experience of my first year in the program at Florida State. I believe that my professional practice will be different now, having visited a range of other institutions both domestically and internationally. It was a great way to end an even greater first year in the master’s program. It feels a bit odd knowing that each of us are apart this summer doing our own internships and creating our own experiences, but I look forward to August when we can reconvene to share and laugh about our summers together while welcoming in the FSU HESA Class of 2016!