Group Gathers on AU Campus to Discuss Grant and Rio de Janeiro Trip

Group Gathers on Ashland University Campus to Discuss Grant and Rio de Janeiro Trip

10/28/15 ASHLAND, Ohio – Eight Ashland University undergraduate students as well as eight full-time teachers in the humanities and social sciences around the state of Ohio gathered at Ashland University on Oct. 23 to discuss their trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during July of 2016 to study accessibility and inclusion within a Brazilian context.

The trip was made possible when Ashland University was awarded funding for a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad (GPA) grant titled “Accessing Carioca Culture through the Lens of Disability.” AU Dwight Schar College of Education associate professors Dr. Carla Abreu-Ellis and Dr. Jason Brent Ellis received the award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of International and Foreign Language Education.

The award, in the value of $67,575, will allow the 16 pre-service education students and current K-12 teachers to join Carla and Jason Ellis for the trip to Rio de Janeiro. The 16 students and teachers were selected for the trip after submitting an essay and going through an interview process.

The eight Ashland University undergraduate students who are pre-service teachers are: Ashley Fickes, intervention specialist (Mild/Intensive K-12) major from Ashland, Ohio; Michala Metzcar, early childhood education major and coaching minor from Zoarville, Ohio; Alyssa M. Edwards, early childhood education major, 4th & 5th Grade Endorsement, and psychology minor from Akron; Austin Borton, early childhood education with the 4th and 5th Grade Endorsement and religion and Online/Technology Education minors from Dayton, Ohio; Kaitlyn Aukerman, early childhood education major 4th & 5th Grade Endorsement from Wooster, Ohio; Kyler Hendershott, intervention specialist (Mild/Intensive K-12) from Ashland, Ohio; Tyler Potter, intervention specialist (Mild/Intensive K-12) from Spencer, Ohio;  and Alexa Moore, early childhood education major and Spanish minor from Defiance, Ohio.

The eight Ohio teachers are: Michael J. Buttil, third grade teacher at Stingel Elementary in Ontario Local Schools in Ontario, Ohio; Lauren Keener, intervention specialist at Shaker Heights High School in  Shaker Heights, Ohio; Marisa (Carafelli) Shaffer, intervention specialist at Plymouth High School in Plymouth, Ohio; Richard Wasowski, language arts at Ashland High School in Ashland, Ohio; Erin Austin, intervention specialist at Normandy High School in Parma, Ohio; Molly Owens Mahaney, intervention specialist at Wooster High School in Wooster, Ohio; Kearsten Hendershott, intervention specialist at Whitesville Elementary School in Moncks Corner, S. C.; and Jennifer Dodd, seventh grade social studies and science at Shelby Middle School in Shelby City Schools, Shelby, Ohio.

All of the teachers except Buttil and Wasowski are Ashland University alumni. “It was our intention to write a grant proposal that would allow us to give back to Ashland University alumni,” Abreu-Ellis said.

Abreu-Ellis said one of the goals of Ashland University's Strategic Plan is that “Ashland University will promote and strengthen student’s views of people and global issues in an environment that prepares students to value other cultures, traditions and languages as global citizens.”

“This project prepares current pre-service teachers and current state of Ohio teachers, many of them Ashland University alumni, to value Brazilian culture, the traditions that people from that culture embrace, and functional use of the Portuguese language,” she said.

Ellis also noted that the strategic plan states, “Ashland University will transform students into involved alumni through the creation of opportunities for purposeful student/alumni interaction.”

“This opportunity will enhance interactions between students and alumni, since both groups will be part of the same cohort going through the same experiences while abroad,” he said. “This will create space for current teachers to provide a seasoned perspective and pre-service teachers to share a fresh view of current educational theory and practices. This exchange will be further enhanced by interacting with current Brazilian teachers and engaging in project activities.”

Ellis, who is project curriculum specialist for the grant, said, “We are extremely happy to be funded for this project since it will provide our students and local educators in the community the opportunity to learn another language – Portuguese -- and experience a different culture’s concept of disability and accessibility.”

Abreu-Ellis, who is the project director, explained how the seminar abroad program will work. “The selected participants will spend four weeks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,” she said. “They will attend a series of seminars on accessibility and inclusion provided by leading Brazilian theorists, professionals and practitioners.
“We were thrilled when we received the grant’s technical review and found out that we had received 100 out of 105 possible points on the proposal,” Abreu-Ellis said. “This is a competitive grant and we are honored to have been selected.”

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2016, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.      ###