Several years ago, when I was the Chair for Servant-Leadership, I participated in a service trip in northern India. We went to a Buddhist nunnery that worked with Tibetan refugees and installed a computer lab at the nunnery--work we did in conjunction with Project Community Computers. The trip took us to Dharamsala, India, the home of the Dalai Lama and the location of the Tibetan government in exile.
The trip was great--with one exception: Brett Kash, one of the students who went, lost his passport. It was a real bummer, because without the passport and accompanying visa, Brett wasn't going to be able to leave the country. So, Brett and I left Dharamsala early and returned to Dheli so we could get the paperwork taken care of--so Brett could go home.
As happens on trips like this, every "issue" has numerous silver linings. In this case, Brett and I were able to spend some serious time together--from the 9 hour taxi ride down from the foothills of the Himalayas to the 3 days we spent in different Indian government offices to process the necessary documents, etc. What I learned from the experience is something I've learned over and over again in my role as Chair for Servant-Leadership, and that is this: MSOE has great students. Brett demonstrated his "greatness" by being patient with the Indian bureaucracy, by being willing to engage in Indian culture (from rickshaw rides to crazy Indian cuisine), and by simply going with the flow. That can be a challenge when traveling in vastly different cultures, because it requires you to rethink your own cultural norms.
As a former member of the faculty and now as an administrator, I highly value these rare opportunities to spend days on end with a student. It's important to know who the university is serving, and these overseas service projects are great opportunities to create such information exchanges.
Brett is currently taking an independent study with me before he graduates this May. I'll write about what it is we're learning about in tomorrow's blog.
Here's a photo of Brett and I when we visited the Taj Mahal--quite a treat for an Architectural Engineering major.