Limitless opportunities for the Georgia College community to experience the world

Border-Free GC logo amid misty mountain backdrop

Limitless opportunities for the Georgia College community to experience the world

B order-Free GC leverages the global reach of technology to put the world at the finger-tips of students, faculty and staff.  With endless possibilities, they have the opportunity to engage with individuals across the globe, without the barriers associated with physical travel.

The International Education Center (IEC) has teamed with GC faculty and universities and other entities worldwide to create border-free study abroad programs, classrooms and academic programming, plus student development, staff and professional development. 

Marie Fidele Tuyisenge of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund presents to Dr. Melanie Devore’s Biology-4580 class.
Marie Fidele Tuyisenge of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund presents to Dr. Melanie Devore’s Biology-4580 class.

Border-Free GC is a powerful concept, with “border” understood here not only in the sense of a boundary separating geographical entities, but also in the sense of a barrier to be surpassed or, ideally eliminated. 

“Border-Free GC is designed to provide access to international experiences and opportunities to all, and especially to those who can benefit most,” said Dr. James Callaghan, senior international officer, assistant vice-president for international education and director of the International Education Center. 

“Access is freed from barriers of all sorts whether actual—such as, financial, disabilities/physical mobility or time and responsibility constraints—or perceived,” he said. “Additionally, as a framework for internationalization embracing fully six categories of participation, and not just study abroad—and which makes it, therefore, utterly unique to my knowledge—it makes the goal of every GC student having an international experience before they graduate fully achievable.”

Although he had been working towards border-free since the 1990s, what crystalized the full concept for Callaghan was the period in 2020 when the pandemic was putting a crushing grip on things, forcing study abroad programs to shut down. 

“The IEC will not only help you secure funding but will work with any faculty interested in developing a truly border-free experience in their classroom. GC’s IEC is a leader in this mode of instruction and the only organization, to my knowledge, openly building a border-free program of this scope.” 
– Dr. Melanie DeVore

“At that very same time, our international students were literally running for planes to get home before everything closed,” he said. “In our highly-mobile world, borders are often just dotted lines on paper, no?  That week, impenetrable 40,000-foot-tall dotted lines were suddenly everywhere. One student’s home nation border closed right away, and she could not go home. I thought to myself, ‘What if she had never had to leave home?’”

That’s when International realized that not only could mobility no longer be taken for granted, but that through now matured technologies, an opportunity existed to create and expand international opportunities of all sorts—and offer them to more diverse populations.

Border-free opportunities are also available not only to students and faculty but to staff, as well as the wider regional and global community through conferences, workshops, symposia and more.

“Through Border-Free GC, the Georgia College community has access to far-reaching opportunities like conferences and workshops for a broad audience,” said Liz Havey, assistant director of Education Abroad. “For example, the African Writers Festival in February, co-sponsored with the Creative Writing program and the English Department, was a border-free event at Georgia College that truly embodies the global nature of the initiative.”

Dr. Chika Unigwe, assistant professor of creative writing, co-hosted the virtual festival with Dr. Kerry Neville. They brought together many globally-prominent African writers who shared their passion for critical issues and their works with participants.

“It exposed the students to some of the best contemporary writers, thinkers and poets from the African continent,” Unigwe said. “An event like this fosters an understanding across borders at a time when the world is arguably, more polarized than it has been in a long time and contributes to the expansion of our world(s). Our theme was connections and illumination, and I am pleased we achieved both.”  

Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopian-American) 2020 Literature Award winner, American Academy of Arts and Letters; participates in the Georgia College African Writers Festival in February.
Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopian-American) 2020 Literature Award winner, American Academy of Arts and Letters; participates in the Georgia College African Writers Festival in February.

Dr. Melanie DeVore, professor of biological sciences, held a border-free Maymester class, “GC2Y 10 Plants that Changed the World.” She also taught another border-free class—Biology 4580 with Marie Fidele Tuyisenge, a young botanist and conservationist who works as a researcher in the biodiversity program at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda. 

“Marie Fidele was able to join the class from Rwanda and present to my students in real time,” said DeVore. “Several of my colleagues from other institutions and organizations around the nation also joined us to chime in with their expertise.” 

DeVore feels that border-free classes, events and programs provide experiences and produce authentic products, which can be used by students in portfolios or interviews to demonstrate competencies obtained in their studies.

“The IEC will not only help you secure funding but will work with any faculty interested in developing a truly border-free experience in their classroom,” DeVore said. “GC’s IEC is a leader in this mode of instruction and the only organization, to my knowledge, openly building a border-free program of this scope.” 

Another recent border-free offering included Georgia College management information students collaborating with University of West Georgia and University of Muenster students in Germany to present a solution to a simulated worldwide problem. The case was set up by Professor Armin Stein in Germany, through his relationship with the company that provided the case study.

“We plan to do this every year, but in 2022, we’ll travel to the Netherlands, Germany and France. The collaboration project will take place while we’re in Germany,” said Dr. Joy Godin, associate professor of management information systems. “Even though the session was virtual this year, we can do pretty much anything we can do when we travel.”

“Border-Free GC can benefit not only students, but also faculty, staff and our community. I hope people will seek out or create—and we are happy to help—border-free opportunities, that they will enjoy those experiences, see and understand the world and its wonderful diversity in an enhanced way and—to paraphrase Vitruvius—leave a more lasting remembrance for all as a result.”
– Dr. James Callaghan

Looking ahead, the IEC is also in talks with partners abroad to develop shared virtual spaces for Georgia College employees to discuss and learn more about different professional topics that pertain to our work in higher education, including possible collaborative training programs. Soon, colleagues will be able to connect abroad to explore in-depth topics of interest or concern and interact with others by sharing opinions and solutions.

The IEC is happy to assist faculty, students and staff in connecting with colleagues and exchange partners and elsewhere, as well as other professional contacts throughout the world. Whether it’s the pursuit of academic studies, collaborative research or cross-cultural perspectives on day-to-day tasks, Border-Free GC is a great way to evolve, grow and expand knowledge, plus gain valuable insight and solutions.

“My goal is for every GC student to graduate with some kind of international experience,” said Havey. “Ultimately, I hope those students who engage in a border-free experience will seek out physical travel either as part of a study or internship abroad experience or even personally or in their future careers.”

“Border-Free GC can benefit not only students, but also faculty, staff and our community,” said Callaghan. “I hope people will seek out or create—and we are happy to help—border-free opportunities, that they will enjoy those experiences, see and understand the world and its wonderful diversity in an enhanced way and—to paraphrase Vitruvius—leave a more lasting remembrance for all as a result.”

Learn more about Border-Free GC.