Rod Light | December 18, 2017

Six Life Pacific women and one graduate coordinator just spent a semester living and learning in Chicago where they developed cultural competencies for careers in the helping professions.

By: Rod Light

Imagine spending a college semester studying in the Windy City, Chicago, Illinois. Imagine being completely immersed in a multicultural, multilingual environment as you learn to apply skills from your classes and internships in Life Pacific’s Human Development and Psychology program. Imagine the fun you would have experiencing life from a completely different perspective, all while you build your resume and develop competencies in the helping professions.

“Study Away reminded me why I chose this major and why I love it,” one participant said. “I am more confident in my choice and my future in this field because of my time in Chicago.”

Six students and one graduate coordinator spent the fall semester with LPC’s Study Away program, studying and living together in Chicago as God developed in them a deeper passion to serve others.

“Study Away reminded me why I chose this major and why I love it,” one participant said. “I am more confident in my choice and my future in this field because of my time in Chicago.”

Others in the group concurred adding that they applied all aspects of what they are learning at LPC and in their specific internships.

The group participated in a variety of activities while completing coursework online. Two full days per week were spent at their internship site, where they assisted in the development of Solutions, a Christian community center located on the Southeast side of Chicago. They wrote programs, developed curriculum and training plans, and researched the demographics of the community.

“Touring local universities and schools of social work in destinations like Chicago adds a new perspective to our student’s learning experience, ...Online coursework requires students to complete fieldwork and community evaluations, a process that immerses them in the local culture.”

- Dr. Gayle Samples, LPC Chair of Human Dev. and Psychology program

Dr. Gayle Samples, who serves as Life Pacific’s Chair of the Human Development and Psychology program, is convinced that Study Away allows students to see firsthand the many ways their classroom learning can make a difference for real people in real cities. 

“Touring local universities and schools of social work in destinations like Chicago adds a new perspective to our student’s learning experience,” Gayle says. “Online coursework requires students to complete fieldwork and community evaluations, a process that immerses them in the local culture.”

The students lived in an apartment near downtown Chicago and used public transportation to move around the city. They attended a city council meeting, interviewed key leaders and pastors, and interacted with people on the street. Taking an occasional break from their school work, the team also enjoyed Cubs and Bulls games, the Chicago Symphony, and the Chicago Art Institute. For the brave at heart, students also enjoyed the view from atop a 100-story building overlooking the city.

Study Away is a vital aspect of a student’s educational journey, according to Social Worker and LPC Professor Deb Baker, MSW. She says the program allows participants to grow in their field of study and gain cultural competencies. Five of the current Chicago team are multilingual and two are not. Together, the students learned how to make behavioral changes as they began to understand the differences in culture.

“Living together in a multicultural environment offers our students valuable skills and experiences that build their resumes and radically transforms their lives as leaders in the helping professions,” Deb Baker says.

The students lived in an apartment near downtown Chicago and used public transportation to move around the city. They attended a city council meeting, interviewed key leaders and pastors, and interacted with people on the street. Taking an occasional break from their school work, the team also enjoyed Cubs and Bulls games, the Chicago Symphony, and the Chicago Art Institute. For the brave at heart, students also enjoyed the view from atop a 100-story building overlooking the city.

“Cultural competencies are best realized as the students work together and live together, living out the values of Life Pacific and the HDP program in particular,” says Karen Tremper, LPC’s Global Life Director who oversees educational learning experiences in the U.S. and abroad. Karen makes sure each Study Away participant is directly connected with our Foursquare family network while they are away from the LPC campus. In Chicago, students attended Cornerstone Christian Center in Chicago Heights and worked closely with Associate Pastor Esperanza Morphis.

“Our students enjoyed working with a Hispanic pastor, Karen says. “For many of them, it was the first time they met a woman from their own culture serving in a leadership role in the Church.”

Students who participated in the Chicago experience believe Study Away has added value to their education and their specific major. They applied classroom learning, and perhaps more important, they learned to embrace each other’s cultures as they lived, studied, and played together.