In June, José Muñoz, University of Arizona Nursing's Senior Professional, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, packed his bags and headed for Bali to experience firsthand the opportunities and benefits offered by UArizona’s Cultural & Inclusive Experiential Learning Opportunities (CIELO) program.
Formerly known as Global Experiential Learning (GEL) under the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, CIELO integrates travel, multicultural education, and service learning to empower students with knowledge and skill sets to utilize as they continue their careers at UA and beyond. CIELO seeks to provide a valuable holistic student experience in the form of short-term trips both domestic and abroad. CIELO programming explores themes of interdisciplinary learning through civic engagement, cultural immersion, environmental justice, and social equity. One of the program’s goals is to provide historically marginalized students the ability to participate in global experiential learning.
Muñoz was invited to join the Bali trip because of his efforts to investigate ways the College can advance experiential learning and service learning for nursing students. The College's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Nursing Committee (EDI-NC) had been actively brainstorming ideas for ways to offer health equity related learning to students, so when the travel opportunity arose, Muñoz was thrilled for the chance to learn more. “They asked if I wanted to see how the program is run, so I could learn behind the scenes and experience a CIELO trip” he says. “I immersed myself as a participant and learned not only about Bali, but also about how CIELO trips are managed, and the impact they have on participants.”
Muñoz joined a pilot trip that was the first time faculty and staff joined a CIELO trip, which normally focus on student experiences. With a longstanding commitment to issues of inclusive excellence in higher education, Muñoz was able to meet like-minded colleagues from across campus and share knowledge about ways to enhance the learning experiences of historically marginalized students.
“Some of these students are used to learning within the four walls of a classroom, and this trip really takes that learning outside. They get to talk to local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to learn from the local community, so it’s a very immersive trip," ~ José Muñoz, Senior Professional, Diversity Equity and Inclusion
“We are providing greater access and participation for the students that do not historically go on these global learning experiences," says Dan Xayaphanh, Director, CIELO. "If you thought these programs were not for you because of specific barriers, CIELO is here to help open these doors and provide these life-changing opportunities!”
“There’s a lot of research that connects study abroad activities with retention and persistence,” Muñoz points out, noting that financial barriers and time constraints are often the cause of students’ lack of opportunity. CIELO aims to guide students on study abroad experiences at very low cost and offers programs that are more manageable timewise, such as one or two-week stretches rather than semester or month-long programs that are more typical.
“Those are some of the barriers that CIELO is looking to address and really get students to think outside the box,” Muñoz says. “Some of these students are used to learning within the four walls of a classroom, and this trip really takes that learning outside. They get to talk to local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to learn from the local community, so it’s a very immersive trip. There’s a lot of reflection time for the participants, and we’re able to have those critical conversations on issues such as climate change and health care.”
The Bali trip was packed with activities. CIELO participants learned about local Balinese culture through cooking classes, Legong dance performances and the annual Galungan celebration, a holiday celebrating the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. In addition to the cultural immersion activities, participants were also able to visit to various local NGOs, including a local coral restoration center working to reverse the effects of global warming on local waters, and the PKP Women’s Center, which has an overall goal to facilitate female empowerment and gender equality to Balinese women and girls. Each day concluded with personal reflection time as well as small group work geared around processing the day’s activities.
“The program was very intentional,” Muñoz says. “It helped me center myself. As I was learning about different cultures, I reflected on my own culture.” Studying abroad, he says, sparks cultural humility and breeds a sense of empathy that makes us think critically about how we enter spaces when we’re travelling. “The CIELO program focuses on the historically marginalized faculty and staff population, which in itself was really empowering.”
Inspired by his experience, Muñoz returned to UArizona Nursing with new connections, and a firm desire to apply concepts like cultural humility to the College’s curriculum and programming. “As an ED&I professional, I want to see how we can continue to move that so our students will have those skillsets to help address some of these disparities that exist within our own community,” he says. “We want them to be culturally responsive to the needs of our own community.”
As Fall semester looms, Muñoz is looking forward to going back to the drawing board, working with CIELO as well as UArizona Nursing colleagues to reimagine what education looks like and discover the best ways to provide these opportunities to nursing students. “We’re exploring all our options to provide these kinds of experiences to our students and our faculty to participate,” he says. “There’s definitely momentum growing here. What CIELO is doing is amazing and I’m so proud to say the UArizona has a program like this that is forward thinking and working collaboratively with other colleges and units to afford these experiences to students, faculty and staff.”
For more information about CIELO, please visit diversity.arizona.edu/cielo