From the President
Experiential learning is a major part of a Georgia State education.
I remember well when I traveled to Toulouse, France, as a young assistant professor to speak at my first international conference. It was the first time I had traveled internationally on my own, and I can remember the nervous excitement I felt. Navigating my way through French customs and the Paris subway system, taking the train from Paris to Toulouse, I was by myself and in a country where I had only minimal facility with the language.
It was an opportunity to experience a new culture first hand, and I relished the chance to soak it all in. It was an eye opening experience, and a chance to learn how others see the United States from afar as much as it was to learn about France and French culture.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to travel to dozens of countries and hundreds of cities in my professional and personal life. Every new city and country is a terrific learning opportunity.
To me, working and playing outside of my comfort zone, beyond what is familiar and safe, is the key to true growth. Climbers who attempt to summit the world’s highest and most challenging peaks don’t do so because they are easy. Professors engaged in pioneering research don’t rest on their past discoveries. They push beyond what is comfortable and continue to strive and achieve.
Experiential learning — whether an internship at a company across the street or a study abroad trip on the other side of our planet — has become a key component of a Georgia State education. We want students to be challenged in new environments and pushed out of their comfort zones. Those experiences lead to personal and professional growth, and new levels of confidence. As graduates and friends, you know about our enterprising spirit and the adventurous nature of our community.
Around the world, our faculty, students and alumni are pursuing their own passions and adventures. Our professors are leading research projects from Taiwan to Turkey. They are teaching high school students in China and helping to craft governmental policies in the Republic of Georgia. A record number of our students are studying abroad, taking the opportunity to travel overseas for international experiences that will help shape their worldview and give them perspective.
This summer, I had the great privilege of leading a team of students up Mount Baker in Washington. It was a challenging and transformative experience for us all. The group came back with an appreciation for the wonders of mountain climbing, but more important they developed a deeper appreciation for life itself. In conversations after the climb, I have heard time and again that one of the most rewarding outcomes of the trip was the experience of accomplishing a goal once thought to be beyond their mental and physical limits.
Like those young mountain climbers, we must all strive to take chances and push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. That’s when we truly discover who we are and what we are capable of, and find out all that life and this world have to offer.
Mark P. Becker