Public 4-Year Schools

Montclair State University: Lights, Action, Cuba!

Student filmmaker Will Monahan is always looking for new ways to share his work. In April, he was able to screen his film i, u, we, us, this in Cuba at the seventh International Videoart Festival of Camaguey (FIVAC). Held in the World Heritage City of Camaguey, FIVAC is the only event of its kind in Cuba.

Monahan was one of nine students who accompanied Television and Digital Media Professor Beverly Peterson and Filmmaking Professor Karl Nussbaum on a weeklong trip to the biennial festival, which showcased Monahan’s work alongside films produced by a roster of 75 international emerging and established artists and filmmakers. “We screened a reel of the best Montclair State experimental films from current students and very recent alumni the past few years,” says Peterson.

“My film explores the idea that the human experience transcends time, race and setting, using clips from 17 different films that I accompanied with short text I’d written,” says Monahan. “It was surreal to see people watching something that I made. A woman came up to me after viewing my film and said, ‘I know you a little better now.’ That was very touching.”

Monahan’s i, u, we, us, this and sophomore Peter Chapman’s short silent film The String of Things, which tells the story of a young man’s struggles with substance abuse, were both well received by festival audiences. “Both students were interviewed for a festival blog article,” says Peterson. “They were super excited about that.”

Front row, L to R: Peter Chapman, William Monahan, Javed Ali, Nathalie Tilley Back row, L to R: Melanie St. Clair, Brittany Zwier, Nicholas Richiusa, Eric Tumolo, Laila Abuelhawa are pictured on a beach in Cuba. Photo credit: J.S. Ali

A vibrant relationship

The trip strengthens Montclair State’s deepening relationship with internationally acclaimed Cuban filmmakers and festival organizers Jorge Luis Santana Pérez and Diana Rosa Pérez Legón. “They’ve developed programs to reach out into Camaguey so they can use experimental video and art as a way to build community,” Peterson notes.

The husband and wife, who first visited Montclair State in 2015, returned in February and were interviewed by Peterson’s class in advance of the trip and premiered a short documentary film by Legón at the University’s Film Forum.

Students also got to know Pérez and Legón and each other at a special pre-trip orientation session. “There were a lot of questions about what to expect and the students were all curious about what Cuba is like,” Peterson recalls.

Faculty features

Both Peterson and Nussbaum – who received Global Education Center grants to subsidize their travel expenses – screened their own work at FIVAC. Peterson, who had screened her transmedia documentary What Killed Kevin at the 2015 festival, presented Memory Rooms, an experimental virtual reality documentary experience.

“The storyline of the project is directly linked to Cuba and it’s easy to relate to, and was really well received,” she recalls. “I’m also excited by the use of evolving technologies. Memory Rooms uses HTC Vive room-scale virtual reality and it was exciting and magical to see the fascination in the use of this technology as a storytelling platform.”

According to Nussbaum, his experimental film Night Blooming Flower is a meditation on death, memory, acceptance and the passage into the world of the dead. In describing his film, Nussbaum says, “It was originally made for a video installation in which the film was projected onto a large, Vietnam-era parachute hung in a dark gallery, with an oscillating fan behind the parachute making the projection screen sway as if breathing.”

A transformative trip

According to Peterson, the trip made a lasting and positive impact on the students. “Camaguey is a fascinating, friendly city that is easy to get around and explore, so students were immersed in a new culture that only recently became accessible for most Americans,” she says.

For most of the students, the trip was their first exposure to a truly international art event. “It was really fun and gratifying as their teachers for us to see them meeting, networking and engaging in deeper dialogues with video artists from all over the world,” says Peterson.

For the students themselves, the trip was a transformative experience. “It gave me new insight on myself and on different cultures,” states Monahan.

Senior Journalism major Laila Abuelhawa says it was an honor to attend an international film festival as a student. “The trip was an incredible experience, and the films I saw were inspiring,” she says. “It was life-changing and made me think about so many different things – from the impact some of the films had on me to the people who live there.”

Montclair State University’s Global Education Center Is a Connection to a World of Opportunities

Montclair State students from all majors can study abroad in more than 50 countries on five continents. They take advantage of short-term programs like this year’s faculty-led winter session trip to Vietnam. This spring break, 100 students are joining embedded programs to Croatia, Austria, London, Rome and Stockholm that are part of six semester-long courses on everything from Global Entrepreneurship to a Dance Practicum. Each year, hundreds of other students opt to study for a year, semester or summer at affiliated universities the world over.

Committed to connecting students, faculty and staff to a world of international opportunities, the University’s Global Education Center awards competitive grants to faculty twice a year. According to Domenica Dominguez, interim director of the University’s Global Education Center, the grants support faculty efforts that internationalize the University through collaborations, teaching exchanges and the development of new international partnerships, programs and initiatives.

“The Global Education Grants underscore the University’s commitment to internationalizing the campus and to ensuring that our students develop global competencies,” says Dominguez. “It is critical that we continue to support our faculty this way, as our sustainable international partnerships and programs often derive from faculty initiatives.”

Art and Design Professor Livia Alexander received one of 10 fall 2016 Global Education Grants. Her award will fund an exploratory spring trip to Norway, where she will meet with her counterparts at Montclair State partner institution, Norway’s University of Agder, to research and develop an exchange program that she hopes will expand opportunities for Art and Design majors. “Norway is a leading center of design today,” Alexander says. “It is one of the best places in the world to study design.” Additionally, she notes that the University of Agder offers the advantage of a range of classes taught in English.

Marketing professors Shintaro Sato, Jie Gao and Yawei Wang were awarded a grant to explore and establish a Sports, Events and Tourism Marketing partnership program with Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, Japan, in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

While Sato will be a guest lecturer at Kokugakuin University in June, he and his colleagues have already begun brainstorming ideas for research collaborations. “Towards 2020, we would like to further develop a mutually beneficial relationship with Kokugakuin University to obtain internship opportunities in Tokyo for our students,” he says.

Other students will be able to attend an international film festival in Camaguey, Cuba, in April with Communication and Media professors Beverly Peterson and Roberta Friedman, who received a grant to subsidize their travel expenses. Since 2015, the University has fostered a vibrant exchange program with filmmakers in Cuba, which will be strengthened by the forthcoming trip.

“One of our strengths is the breadth of opportunities,” says Dominguez. “If you are a Montclair State student and want to study abroad, we will do everything possible to work with you to make it happen. No one should feel that study abroad is not for them. It is for everyone.”

Montclair State recently joined the Generation Study Abroad international initiative, with a pledge to double the number of students studying abroad by 2020. Dominguez notes that students have access to University and external scholarships that can help transform a student’s dream of going global into a reality.

To read more stories about Montclair, scroll down:

U.S. Department of State Grant Supports International Theater Exchange Program
Students Gain Global Perspective in Transatlantic Entrepreneurship Academy

U.S. Department of State Grant Supports International Theater Exchange Program

Chile’s capital city of Santiago is home to a vibrant cultural life – and to Montclair State partner university, the Universidad Mayor. A U.S. Department of State grant will increase and diversify study abroad between the two campuses by supporting an innovative collaborative theater exchange program.

A $42,000 U.S. Department of State Partners of the Americas 2017 Capacity Building Grant for U.S. Undergraduate Study Abroad has recently been awarded to Montclair State Theatre and Dance Professor Heather Benton and Global Education Center Programs Coordinator Wendy Gilbert-Simon.

Their project, Devised Theatre Project of the Americas, builds on a successful 2016 theater exchange program between the two universities. Led by Benton and Montclair State Theatre and Dance Professor Debbie Saivetz, Montclair State students visited Universidad Mayor where they worked with Mayor Professor Leonor Lopehandia to explore Sergei Belbel’s play Caresses during their spring break. The new award will support an innovative, sustainable, three-semester program for students from both Montclair State and Universidad Mayor, who will work together to create and ultimately perform an original, bilingual theater piece.

“The Global Education Center seeks to expand international education opportunities for all Montclair State students by creating affordable and innovative programs,” says Gilbert-Simon. “The excitement generated by the 2016 theater student exchange program with Chile clearly called out for further development. We are so very pleased to receive this award.”

Students enrolling in the project courses will explore the intersections between their diverse cultures. According to Benton, around 20 students – 10 from each university – from a variety of majors will be led by faculty through a unique, three-semester collaborative process.

During the 2017 fall semester, students from the two universities will connect online. Two phases of live collaboration and international travel will follow, with Montclair State students traveling to Chile over spring break in 2018 and with the Chilean students visiting Montclair State in fall 2018. “Each exchange will include a weeklong developmental rehearsal process, a ‘work-in-progress’ showing and an itinerary of cultural explorations in each country,” notes Benton.

Throughout the project, faculty from both institutions will lead students through a bilingual creative process. “The content and themes of the piece will emerge from the students and from the collaborative process, which will guide the creation and dictate the form,” explains Benton. “The devising process will invite curiosity, ignite deep personal reflection and provoke questioning. Through this intense process, the students will discover the theme or themes that demand exploration.”

The Devised Theatre Project strengthens an ongoing partnership between Montclair State and Universidad Mayor. In 2014, a U.S. Department of State innovation grant supported a collaborative biotechnology course between the two institutions, while the spring 2016 pilot program in Santiago laid the groundwork for the newly funded project. “It was fascinating to observe students from both institutions explore and connect to one another with such bravery and freedom through the craft of acting and a shared theatrical text,” recalls Benton. “Creating an original piece of theater together seemed like the perfect next step and we are elated to have the opportunity to bring this project to fruition over the next three semesters.”

Students Gain Global Perspective in Transatlantic Entrepreneurship Academy

For future entrepreneurs, a global business perspective is essential to making the dream of transforming a startup into a worldwide organization a reality.

To provide students with a hands-on opportunity to study the world’s latest entrepreneurial models and strategies, the Montclair State University Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship and the University’s Global Education Center have partnered to launch the Transatlantic Entrepreneurship Academy, a semester-long immersion experience that includes an eight-day trip to Graz, Austria’s second-largest city.

As part of the program, 17 Montclair State students studied at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Applied Business Studies at the University of Graz – Austria’s second-largest entrepreneurship program and a longtime partner of Montclair State – during Spring Break.

Learning European startup models and their similarities and differences to American business philosophies, Montclair State students work with Austrian undergraduates, creating an interactive, team-based model that teaches students how to work with people from different countries and cultural backgrounds.

Twenty Austrian students then traveled to Montclair State in late April for a week of academic activities as part of the spring 2017 semester’s program. Alongside their American counterparts and under the direction of business faculty members Jason Frasca and Iain Kerr, the students from both sides explored “Innovation: Between Worlds and Things,” a week-long focus on entrepreneurial innovation that included a series of hands-on experiments with 3D Printing, interactive lectures, and team-based work that evolved new paths of innovation. Participants visited Uber’s corporate offices in New York for an entrepreneurship-focused tour and worked in the University’s MIX Lab 3D printing facility in addition to taking part in cultural and team-building activities.

By taking the program global and working with universities internationally, I think the diversification of business ideas is taken even further,” says Frasca. “By pairing Americans with Austrians within the program, the outcomes of the innovations and startup ideas were even more creative, and allowed them to build upon one of the pillars of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship, which is the importance of diverse teams.”

“It was great to be able to compare the United States startup and business models to those in Austria,” says Zakiyyah Williams, a junior accounting major at Montclair State and a Newark, New Jersey, native. “The program has really helped me come out of my shell by gaining experience pitching my ideas and meeting wonderful people and friends from a different culture, which will definitely help me as I move forward in my career.”

The current program came out of the experiences of an international student from Austria, Sebastian Swoboda, who participated in the curriculum in 2014. Completing Montclair State’s Certificate of Entrepreneurship during his stay, he also was part of the winning team in the University’s 2015 TeleBrands Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs pitch competition. His experiences had such a significant impact that he wanted to give Montclair State students the same life-changing opportunity for years to come. He then worked with professor Gutschelhofer, the head of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Graz, to make the program a reality.

“Coming to the United States opened up a completely different world for me,” says Swoboda, who now serves as the program coordinator for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Applied Business Studies in Graz. “It was a new way of seeing life, and the strategies the Feliciano Center focused on were a shift from what I learned in Austria. After having those amazing experiences, I thought it would be a great idea to bring students from each campus to both places so that American students could see another part of the world.”

“Our partnership with the University of Graz is Montclair State’s oldest and deepest international collaboration,” says Jane Ann Williams, Montclair State’s executive director of global education. “Thanks to the academic direction of the team of professors Frasca and Kerr and professor Gutschelhofer, this program demonstrates the breadth of academic, cultural and social connections that are possible through short-term study abroad programs. It serves as an outstanding example of the impact global education can have on students from all parts of the world.”