Professor shares love of studying abroad

Professor Mumm-Jansen led recent study abroad trip to Peru

Receives Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching

by Laurie Krasin

students hiking Puerta del Sol

As a college student, study abroad experiences in Spain and Costa Rica along with four months in Peru working with children at a local orphanage, opened Professor Valerie Mumm- Jansen’s eyes to diverse experiences and perspectives.

“I also quickly learned the importance of knowing another language and saw how it opened up opportunities to form personal relationships and mutual understanding that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise,” said Mumm-Jansen.

She is passionate about traveling and completed coursework abroad during both of her degree programs, earning a master’s degree in Spanish language and Latin American literature from UW-Milwaukee and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from UW-Eau Claire.

Now, as a UW-Fond du Lac world languages professor, she has guided students on this same type of educational journey. She has led two UW Colleges study abroad programs - a three- week Winterim program to Cuernavaca, Mexico, and a two-week summer program to Lima and Cuzco, Peru.

Her dedication to students in and out of the classroom has been noticed. In 2013 she received the UW Colleges Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for Faculty. The award recognizes her excellence in teaching, attention to scholarship, innovation in the classroom and leadership connecting students to service- learning opportunities. UW-Fond du Lac is one of the 13 UW Colleges located across the state.

A member of the UW-Fond du Lac faculty since 2008, Mumm-Jansen teaches Spanish courses and has been involved in many service- learning activities both in the community and abroad. She is also the faculty advisor for the Multicultural Club.

Hands-on learning

students building bathroom in Peru

Her study abroad courses focus on the target culture’s history, geography, literature, colloquialisms, politics, culinary customs, music and folkloric traditions. “These lessons often take place in museums and archeological sites, but also while watching parades, through discussions with host families or even while hiking parts of the Inca trail,” said Mumm- Jansen.

The lesson can also be hands-on.  In Peru, her students worked at a local school where they mixed concrete and hauled bricks to build a bathroom. They worked right alongside the school’s director and a teacher.

“The school was in dire need of an additional bathroom to provide the boys and girls separate facilities so that the school could be officially recognized and receive funding,” said Mumm-Jansen. “My students also led after school tutoring, math games, literacy development opportunities and recreational activities.”

Through study abroad experiences like this, Mumm-Jansen hopes students develop a stronger sense of global citizenry, improve their linguistic skills and increase intercultural competence. But, the experience isn’t one- sided. “Students are given the opportunity to accomplish all of this while positively contributing to the communities.”

Service to the community

In her UW-Fond du Lac courses, students are encouraged to identify a need in the local community for their service-learning projects and have helped the Salvation Army at their holiday assistance sign-up event and the coat distribution day serving as interpreters for local families. They have also worked at the annual Fiesta Hispana event assisting kids with various crafts and games. Others have gone into elementary school through high school classrooms to share some of their linguistic and/or cultural knowledge.

“Students are expected to use the target language during their interactions at the service site,” said Mumm-Jansen. She adds that these types of interactions help students build confidence and develop additional life skills at the same time. “Over time, students form a sense of ownership not only of their learning, but also of their community as they foster personal relationships at the service site.”

Professor Mumm-Jansen reading to young girl

UW-Fond du Lac Dean and CEO John Short agrees. “Professor Mumm-Jansen has been an extraordinary asset in creating an inclusive, caring environment, and in fostering community engagement for our campus,” he said. “As advisor to the Multicultural Club, she has been instrumental in helping a student organization become actively involved in community events such as Fiesta Hispana and Celebrate Community, both of which celebrate the richness of our diverse Fond du Lac region.”

On campus, Mumm-Jansen is recognized for her mentorship and advising of students, both in and out of the classroom. “In their letters of support for this award, former and current students noted how much they valued Professor Mumm-Jansen’s mentorship and her dedication to helping them reach their goals,” said Short. “Learning a new language can often be a difficult process. She goes out of her way to assist students and help them to succeed.”

Balancing it all

Mumm-Jansen says mentoring and guiding students is something that she enjoys doing. Many students are balancing family and job commitments while working towards a college degree. “I clearly remember the challenges of balancing many responsibilities while keeping up with my coursework in college,” she said. “Since I funded my education,  I consistently worked two to three part-time jobs while taking full credit loads.”

She was honored to receive this recognition. “I felt surprised, excited, but mostly, extremely honored because I know there are so many deserving candidates among the great faculty I have the pleasure of working with both locally and across the entire state.”

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for Faculty is awarded each year in the UW Colleges.

Photos courtesy of Valerie Mumm-Jansen