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Interview with Eileen Hammond

In this episode of the Learning Conversations podcast, Phil interviews Eileen Hammond who teaches communication courses at DDCC. Eileen talks some about her experiences as a communications instructor before the conversation moves on to what she learned in her travels in Italy with a group of Davidson-Davie instructors, students, and community members. Listen as Eileen shares the lessons she learned about herself and about the importance of global education.

Video Transcript:

Phil: Okay. Uh, welcome to the next episode of the Learning Conversations podcast. This is a podcast, uh, where we talk with people involved with different aspects of, uh, teaching and learning here at Davidson-Davie Community College. And today I’m talking with, uh, one of the instructors out at the Davie Campus, Eileen Hammond. Welcome, Eileen.

Eileen: Thanks for having me.

Phil: Sure. Great. Great to have you. Uh, so I thought maybe we’d start off with just a little bit of background on you for those that don’t already know you. Uh, and, uh, let’s just go ahead and maybe, uh, start, uh, how long have you been here, uh, at the college?

Eileen: This is my second year at Davidson-Davie. I started in the fall of 2021.

Phil: Okay. All right. Uh, relatively new like me. I’ve just, uh, passed my two year mark. Uh, so yeah, I hear you there. Uh, and then, uh, in terms of classes, what classes, uh, do you teach here?

Eileen: I teach communication, and what we offer in communication is Intro to Interpersonal Communication and also Public Speaking. Um, so I teach about half and half.

Phil: Okay. And did you pretty much teach those classes before you came here to Davidson-Davie, uh, or these, uh, somewhat new, uh, courses for you?

Eileen: Interpersonal was more new for me. I had assisted that class in graduate school. Um, but I’ve taught a lot of public speaking in the past, and I’ve taught other rhetoric-based courses in the past as well. Um, so I, I feel like an old hand at inter- at, uh, public speaking, and I’m still sort of developing and changing and experimenting with my interpersonal classes.

Phil: Mm-hmm. <affirmative> rhetoric that’s kind of special, uh, near and dear to my heart because in a previous life I was an English instructor. Ah, yes. Rhetoric was definitely key to what we did, so, uh, I like that. That’s great. Um, let’s see here. So, um, among the classes that you teach here at Davidson-Davie, is there one that’s kind of special to you, one that you particularly enjoy, or are they all good, uh, that you teach?

Eileen: I mean, they’re all good. I have to say, from an overall class perspective, I really love public speaking because I get to see the students do so much work. I really get to see their interests. They develop their own research projects to give their speeches about. And so I feel like I get a lot more interaction and engagement with the students, and I get to learn more about them and their interests in public speaking class. Um, but there are a few, like particular lessons in my interpersonal class that I think are also really fun. And we watch segments of movies and TV shows and do analysis. And so I think, um, the students really enjoy those as well.

Phil: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Yeah, I can imagine that, you know, uh, when you’re talking communication classes, that that is a great way to really involve students and make it a student-centered, uh, learning environment. Of course. Uh, being the learning design geek

that I am, I mean, we hear, and we talk a lot about, uh, students that are learning. Uh, and in some classes it’s more challenging than others, especially ones that are kind of more prone to use, kind of, a lecture-based approach. Uh, but in, in your communication classes, I can only imagine that, uh, kind of flips the table somewhat. You know, it really kind of encourages to be, um, you know, more direct participants. So that’s really cool.

Eileen: Yeah. It’s fortunate that, um, communication is a really obviously relevant topic for students in their lives. So I think that there’s some inherent interest there in a lot of the things that we practice and study in communication classes. Um, I don’t ever have the issue of a student saying, well, when am I ever gonna use the quadratic formula in my real life? You know, you’re, you, you communicate every day. And so I think that students really see the connection and it’s very obvious to them. And so, um, I’m fortunate to be in this field for that reason.

Phil: All right. Awesome. So, uh, let’s, uh, shift to kind of, uh, the main topic at hand, the main focus of our conversation that I know I’m really interested in hearing more about, and that is, uh, you led recently a trip, uh, to Italy as part of our international education program. Shout out Suzanne LaVenture. Uh, and, uh, so I thought it’d be great to, uh, hear more about that experience. I know you shared, you were kind enough to share a little bit of that in one of the recent, uh, Storm Report Newsletters, so that was really nice, but I thought maybe the podcast would give us an opportunity to talk a little bit more about that. So, uh, maybe just start off, uh, with, uh, kind of what generally sparked your interest in either Italy in general or kind of your interest in leading this, uh, study abroad trip, uh, to, to Italy.

Eileen: Well, I have to say I was really, um, surprised and impressed when I started at Davidson-Davie to learn about how robust our international ed program is. That’s really not something I, um, even thought about when I was, um, looking to get into community college teaching.n I didn’t realize that was available. And for us to have such, uh, an incredible international ed program and so many study abroad, um, experiences, I knew that was something I wanted to get involved with right away. And I have to give a special shout out to Amanda Klinger, who is our math teacher here on the Davie Campus, who’s also very involved with study abroad, because when I started my first semester, Amanda was recruiting for the trip that was planned to go to England. And that trip had already been postponed once or twice because of COVID, and then it got postponed again. And then when it was finally going to run, um, the State Department had England listed at too high of a risk level because of COVID. And so the trip got switched to Italy, um, because Italy was at a lower risk level, and we could run the program. And because the, the trip got pushed off so many times, um, a leadership position opened and I was able, able to sneak in on that trip, um, because Amanda had originally recruited me as a participant to go on the England trip. So I signed up, I was gonna go on the England trip, just pay, enjoy myself, um, because I really wanted to see what our study abroad programs were like so that I could lead one in the future. And, uh, yeah, just because of the way everything shook out after COVID, um, travel restrictions eased up, I ended up becoming a leader on that program, which ended up being in Italy. Um, so I just really got lucky there.

Phil: <Laugh>. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear you on the, uh, the robustness of the international education program here at Davidson-Davie, because, um, I’m relatively new. When I first came to the community college here, I’m relatively new to community colleges in general, and I, that was something that didn’t really, kind of wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t, didn’t think that, uh, international education would play that strong of a role in a community college context. But, uh, man, it certainly does here and it is quite impressive. Um, so I, I hear you there. Um, yeah, it’s kinda also interesting too about how COVID kinda, uh, presents different opportunities while certainly had, uh, many downsides and, and tragedies and that kind of thing. Um, it’s interesting how it also has presented some opportunities.

Eileen: Yeah, I was, um, I was glad to see how game all the participants were, because about half the folks who went to Italy with us originally signed up to go to England, and we just switched the trip on them and they were open to going to Italy instead. And I think everyone had a great time, despite the fact that they didn’t all originally intend to travel to Italy.

Phil: Fascinating. Yeah. Oh, uh, kind of a related note, um, about how many, can you remember how many students, uh, went with you?

Eileen: Um, we had 22 total participants, and I would say about half of them were students. Probably more than half were students, but, um, we had a good number of, um, faculty and staff and a couple of parents, family members, community members coming with us as well. So it was a pretty good mixture there.

Phil: Oh, yeah. That’s the other thing that, uh, has been a pleasant surprise for me, uh, in terms of learning more about the international education program, is that it also incorporates community members. It’s not just students, you know, that if you’re a member of the community and that’s something that really interests you, um, you can go. And I think that that’s really, really a nice aspect, uh, to the program as well.

Eileen: Speaking of its robustness like you were getting at before. I think it makes a big difference for our high school students as well, because over here at Davie, we serve a large population of students from, um, the Davie County High School and also from our early college. And I think especially if you’re trying to encourage 16, 17, even 18 year old students to travel to a foreign country perhaps for the first time, um, being able to bring a parent, a family member, someone you know, can really make all the difference in the world to whether or not that’s gonna feel like an accessible and exciting thing for them.

Phil: Oh, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I didn’t even think about that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Wow. Yeah, that’s a great point. Yeah, I mean, if you’re, you’re, you know, that young and your first time abroad, it can really help in terms of making that transition and making it for a, you know, to be more positive experience, uh, as well. Wow. Very cool. Um, when you think about kind of like getting ready for the big trip, uh, to, to Italy, um, what was some of the preparation you did? Uh, did you already know, um, Italian for example, or know a few phrases or what kinds of, what was some of the logistics that you did to prepare for it?

Eileen: I knew zero Italian before going to Italy, and I personally signed up for Duolingo and started learning just a tiny bit of Italian. But one benefit that everyone on our study abroad trips has is that when you sign up to travel abroad with us, you also enroll in a humanities course. It’s HUM 120. We offer this as a, uh, a curriculum and a continuing ed for community members. And, um, that class met for the eight weeks before we went on our trip. So we met in person the first time to all sort of meet and greet, and then we had six weeks where every Tuesday we would meet on Zoom together and Suzanne led the class, and each week had a different topic and purpose. So we learned about Italy’s history, and especially Renaissance history. We learned about, um, the art of the Renaissance. We learned about food, we learned about fashion, um, and each week the students had, you know, little mini assignments to, um, research things to bring things in to, to contribute to the discussion. And, um, I think that helped so much for everyone to get just a little primer on this place that we were visiting. And then on the last class date before our trip, we met in person again, and we went over a lot of the logistical aspects of travel, like what it’s gonna be like to connect through these international airports, to go through customs and passport control, um, what to expect as a traveler in terms of changing money and using your electronics and using your cellphone, and things like that. So there were some really practical logistical things that we went over as a class, and I think that really helped everyone feel like they were prepared before we actually left.

Phil: Wow. What a fantastic foundation. I really like that balance, um, that she set up between the practical, you know, like you said in terms of like, you know, the currency issue and just like travel logistics and whatnot. And then also the broader kind of topical kind of things that people would be interested in knowing: the art, the architecture, the history. Um, that’s a great balance. And, uh, you know, I’m thinking another word that comes to mind as I’m hearing you talk is, um, scaffolding, you know in education, that’s a big thing. Uh, you know, providing some scaffolds for the learner, the students, you know, whomever to, uh, gradually kind of, uh, have a sol- more solid kind of, uh, grasp of the content material, what have you, uh, so they can kind of, uh, be more of an independent learner.

Eileen: So. Yeah, absolutely. I think that the students felt a lot more, um, ownership over the experiences they were having in Italy because their expectations were set in advance. Um, one of my favorite photos that I took while I was there is of me standing in front of a painting that I researched in order to present to our class when we were learning about renaissance art, and then we were there in Florence in the gallery, and I got to see it in real life. And a lot of the other participants had the same experience of seeing the art that they researched or eating the food that they had only read about. Um,and being able to sort of compare from this place to that place, what’s the difference in gelato from Rome to Florence. Um, and we had a wonderful knowledgeable guide with us the entire time, who was just a fountain of knowledge about, um, all of Italian history. And so it felt good to have our guide teaching us about the places that we were visiting and the things that we were seeing, and to be able to think back and, and, and say, oh, yeah, I remember we talked about that in class before. And I think having that scaffolding, like you said, really gave us like hooks to hang all of those experiences on.

Phil: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. I think that nicely ties into kind of the next thing I was gonna ask you about: is like, what were some of the highlights for you, uh, of this trip? And it sounds like, uh, one of them was this guide, uh, that was like, extremely knowledgeable and kind of pointed out some of the things, and then, and then how you had a chance to actually come in firsthand contact, you know, with this, uh, piece of art, uh, that you had, uh, looked at or studied, uh, in the classes that led up to the trip.

Eileen: Yeah, for sure. Our guide was wonderful. I had never taken a guided trip before. I really enjoy traveling alone. I like to make my own itinerary, do what I wanna do. Um, and I wasn’t a hundred percent sold on the idea of the big group with a guide, but there were so many benefits to having someone around who could answer all of your questions and point out things that you wouldn’t have even looked at otherwise. So that was wonderful. Definitely seeing all of the art was a big, um, uh, highlight for me personally. But I have to say that as a teacher, one of the coolest experiences of traveling to Italy with DDCC was to see all of the aspects of an international trip through the eyes of our students. And many of them had never traveled outside the country. And in fact, um, on our, our first flight from Greensboro, uh, I was seated next to one of our students who had never flown on a plane before, and she was in the window seat, like recording the whole takeoff. And I just got to sit next to her and sort of feed off of that energy and the whole trip, really, you know, I’ve, um, I’ve traveled a good bit in my own life and, um, I guess I’ve forgotten what it’s like to experience some of these things for the first time. And so going with our students and experiencing all these things with them when it’s their first time really just like brings you back to the kind of appreciation that, I don’t know, sometimes I forget, maybe, um, as a, a, a more experienced traveler. So that was, that was a wonderful time. And, um, we had our students keep a journal on their trip, and Suzanne gives them some really great reflection questions to journal about.

Phil: mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Eileen: And, um, I just remember one of our student’s response to a journal prompt about what’s something that they learned about themselves. This student was a high school student, 16 years old, and on one of our last days in Rome, she and another high school student wanted to go see the Colosseum lit up at night, um, during free time.

Phil: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>

Eileen: Her mom was on the trip too, and the two 16 year-olds wanted to go by themselves, get on the metro, take it to the Colosseum, stop and go see the Colosseum. And, um, they did. And they had a, a wonderful experience. And one of the students reflected in her journal about how she discovered that she is more brave than she knew, um, and how proud she was of herself for, you know, taking a buddy and going and getting on the metro in Rome and going to the Colosseum to see it lit up without her chaperones, without her guides, and, and that she was a little bit nervous about it, but she felt so proud of herself and so brave after that, and she got such a big payoff for it. I think that’s one of those things she’s gonna remember for the rest of her life.

Phil: Wow. Wonderful. Yeah, I think that’s one thing that we as educators really appreciate about the overall process of what we do is being able to see, you know, like you’re getting at, uh, re– well, not necessarily maybe re-experience all the time, but certainly kind of see things through a different set of eyes, through a fresh set of eyes by the students, you know, that we work with. I mean, I love that story about, you know, sitting on the plane, you’re next to this, uh, the first time, you know, she’s been on a plane, let alone, you know, traveled abroad, and then the, then the story of the independence, you know, that, uh, these two students kind of assumed, uh, when they wanted to go see the Colosseum at night. Uh, fantastic. That’s really cool. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, yeah, it just reminds you, you know, me of, of like, Hey, this is, this is why, one of the reasons I got in, in this, uh, this field. So just why I find it so rewarding.

Eileen: Yeah. It’s definitely an experience you don’t get to have in the classroom every day with your students.

Phil: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Um, this kind of was related to what I was asking you before in terms of highlights, but maybe, uh, kind of again on a similar note, uh, some takeaways maybe just for you personally or individually, uh, now that you’ve done the trip, you’ve been back for a while and had to process, have had a chance to process it a bit, uh, couple, one or two takeaways that kind of stand out for you as a result of the experience.

Eileen: I think I’ve definitely learned to broaden the whole range of places that I want to visit, because Italy was honestly never high up on my list of places to go.

Phil: Mm-hmm.

Eileen: Um, despite the fact that it’s one of the most traveled, most visited places.

Phil: Mm-hmm.

Eileen: Um, and my expectations were not terribly high. And so I was just absolutely blown away. And I think one key takeaway I have from that is to, um, remember that I don’t know everything about all the places in the world and I’m not gonna be able to judge what places are gonna be the most amazing and where I’m gonna have the best experiences until I go there. Um, so just in terms of making my bucket list and thinking about the places I want to travel, I’m definitely sort of trying to broaden the net that I cast for myself in my own life. I think another takeaway for me is a newfound appreciation for traveling with other people. Um, because for as much as I enjoy traveling alone and doing my own thing and making my own schedule, um, I just would not have had so many of the experiences that I did in Italy if it weren’t for our participants and for our students. And getting to do things that other folks wanna do, seeing what other folks enjoy on their trips, um, noticing what other people notice out in the world really enriched that experience for me in a way that I didn’t expect. And so I think, um, traveling with other people or even just connecting with other people on my travels more, um, is a big takeaway for me that was really unexpected.

Phil: Yeah. Wow. Yeah, I mean, I think, um, I really like your point about the kind of inadvertent benefit, you know, this wasn’t like on your top of list, you know, kind of, you know, bucket list, as you say, in terms of countries to visit. And, uh, then just kind of turned out that way. And it, uh, turned out to be a really great experience. Um, I, I really like that point. Some of the best experiences, you know, certainly in life, my life anyway, have kind of turned out that way where it wasn’t something I necessarily planned for. Uh, but, uh, you know, in retrospect I’m like, wow, that was great. I’m really glad that opportunity kind of presented itself where I ended up making a decision to just kind of do that even though I hadn’t, you know, wasn’t in the cards originally. S

Eileen: Yeah, Italy is, Italy is definitely now very close to the top of the list of favorite places I have ever been. Like, I would go back in a heartbeat.

Phil: That was my next question was like, yeah, do you plan to go back?

Eileen: Oh, definitely.

Phil: Yeah. I haven’t been, so, uh, you know, I, it’s definitely on my, my top, top like five countries that I would like to visit.

Eileen: Can’t recommend it enough.

Phil: Yeah. Yeah. Very cool. Well, um, I don’t wanna take up too much of your time cause I know you’re busy, but I thought, uh, we’d close maybe by asking you if there’s anything else you’d like to share or add about, uh, you know, kind of leading this trip abroad with, uh, students.

Eileen: Just that I’m so grateful to be here at DDCC where we have these opportunities. I’m, I love being on the international ed committee. Um, I can’t wait to lead another trip again in the future. Um, I encourage everyone here to, uh, think about leading or joining a trip, um, because it’s, we have a great time. The value that you get for your money is really wonderful. Um, and you know, on our, our post-trip surveys, um, since the survey has been in action for the past few years, every single participant of all of our study abroad trips, 100% of them have said that they are glad that they went and they would do it again. That’s really, that’s really, and I think one of the, one really remarkable detail about what you just mentioned is like you were getting at before, you have like a lot of young students who had never even traveled abroad before. And for them to say, I, I’ve got this much excitement and this much enthusiasm for wanting to do this experience again, um, I think is a really just a fantastic, you know, testament to kind of the value that the international education brings.

Phil: Absolutely. I think that international ed is changing our students’ lives, and I hope that more and more of our students will take advantage of these opportunities. Yeah. Great. Great. All right, well, thanks again, Eileen, uh, for, uh, joining us and sharing your experience. It’s been really great, uh, hearing more details about that, uh, that really great trip. So, uh, and just one quick programming note, uh, for our listeners out there. Um, if there’s a, a teaching/learning experience that you wanna share, either you’re an instructor or a staff person here, by all means, feel free to, uh, reach out and contact me. I’d love to hear, uh, more about what you’re doing and, uh, impacting, uh, Davidson-Davie. So, um, thanks again, Eileen. Take care. And, uh, let’s see, today’s Monday. So have yourself a great week.

Eileen: <Laugh>. Thanks.

Phil: All right, see you. Bye.

Eileen: Bye.