A San José State University School of Information student recently completed a 16-day trip to Austria with 10 other SJSU students to broaden their awareness of critical international subjects.
Dana Lema was selected to participate in the SJSU Salzburg Scholar program and travel to a United Nations World Heritage Site in Salzburg, Austria. The faculty-led program included a one-week seminar held at Schloß Leopoldskron with students from other U.S. colleges and universities followed by another week exploring the historical and cultural aspects of the region.
“The first week of the trip was focused on attending the Global Citizenship Alliance seminar,” Lema said. “Schloß Leopoldskron is a small castle and one of the many sites in Salzburg where ‘The Sound of Music’ was filmed (complete with a library that had a hidden passage in one of the shelves).”
Lema said students from three colleges attended: SJSU, Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, and Saratoga, California-based West Valley College. The students attended group sessions presented by guest speakers, such as the Director for Partnership of Education of Children in Afghanistan, Santawa Dasgupta, and the South Asia Director for Amnesty International, Champa Patel.
“These sessions were highly interactive and designed to help us beyond our preconceived world views to see things from a global perspective. On the first day of the seminar, the president of GCA told us our primary job was not to learn, but unlearn,” she said.
Lema wanted to use the international experience to meet Competency O of the iSchool’s Master of Library and Information Science degree program: Identify ways in which information professionals can contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities.
“I tried to identify how information specialists can have a global impact,” she said. “As the week progressed, I saw very clearly the ways a deficit of information or misinformation contributes to social disparity and injustice.”
Lema said the second week focused primarily on cultural enrichment including tours and concerts. Because the Salzburg Scholar program is tied to the College of Business, she enrolled in BUS5 187 – Global Dimensions of Business. Scholars toured the Red Bull corporate headquarters in Salzburg to learn about international business.
Lema noted the principles taught in the global business course do have applicability the world of information science. “Information specialists have a vital role in ensuring access to information for as much of the population as possible and providing the tools people need to analyze and critique the information they receive,” she said.
As part of the program, the scholars will develop and implement a project during the academic year to help globalize SJSU.
“We spent a lot of time in small groups working on projects we could potentially bring back to our campuses to help promote the ideals of global citizenship. I had read about libraries participating in the Human Library project and suggested to my small group that hosting a Human Library event could be a project. My small group adopted this idea, and that was what we worked on and presented to the larger group,” she said.
Lema said she believes her time in Salzburg will have a significant influence on her future work and career. Her experiences have caused her to examine the world “through a different lens,” and as she moves forward in her career she understands how being a conduit for information and educating people on how to find and analyze information is a significant responsibility that can have social impact.
According to the SJSU Salzburg Scholars application, students are chosen on the basis of three fundamental criteria:  excellence (in terms of their primary roles and responsibilities as students at SJSU);  leadership (in terms of their ability to mobilize others and work collaboratively with other students as well as faculty and administrators); and  leverage (in terms of their potential for amplifying the impact of their contributions on campus).
“[The program] is an excellent way to see how U.S. politics, economy, social issues, etc. are viewed outside of our country’s established information filters. Although I was the only MLIS student there (most others were studying business, political science or history), if you approach the experience asking how information specialists have a global impact, you will find those revelations,” she said.
To learn more about Lema’s experience, visit her blog.