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International affairs students reap benefit from New Zealand partnership

Maria Julia Bortolucci logs onto her online class, Intelligence in the Security Environment, once a week. It is a little different since it is taught by a faculty member at Massey University in New Zealand. Dr. Dlynn Williams, department head of political science and international affairs, said the course exchange is a global partnership between UNG and Massey.

Maria Julia Bortolucci has taken a few online courses at the University of North Georgia (UNG), but the Intelligence in the Security Environment course is a little different.

Bortolucci along with UNG students Shannon Di Virgilio and Thomas Vella are learning online from a faculty member at Massey University in New Zealand.

"When presenting the lecture, the professor offers examples from New Zealand as well as the other countries in the region, which is such a change compared to the frequently Western-centered examples offered in some of my regular classes," said Bortolucci, a 21-year-old junior pursuing an international affairs degrees at UNG.

Dr. Dlynn Williams, department head of political science and international affairs, said the course exchange resulted from a global partnership between UNG and Massey. She said the collaboration between the two schools stemmed from a discussion at an Institute for Leadership and Strategic Studies symposium in 2018.

"We started having conversations about where UNG and Massey's curriculum overlapped and how we could develop a partnership between our two institutions," she said.

UNG and Massey approved the agreement in spring 2019, allowing Massey to offer their course to UNG students in spring 2020. The arrangement also granted Massey students the opportunity to enroll in a Comparative Security Issues course at UNG in spring 2020.

Williams said the alliance supplements curriculum at both schools and provides a cross-cultural experience for students in their home countries.

"Presently, we only have one full-time faculty member to teach intelligence courses," she said, adding now they have two with the Massey exchange. "The course is easily integrated into our coursework and students have no travel hurdles."

Williams quickly pointed out the course does not take the place of a study abroad or international internship, which is required to graduate with a bachelor's degree in international affairs. But it does introduce students to international collaboration early.

"The benefit is students will have to explain their work in an international cross-cultural environment," she said. "And our students can see how a different country sees intelligence issues."

Bortolucci said she has already reaped those benefits and more.

"I was extremely excited to (virtually) meet students from New Zealand and listen to their perspectives on the world during the 'Introduce Yourself' forum," she said. "I was eager to read their insights, which could broaden my worldview and increase my analysis of global issues mainly regarding intelligence-related events."

Bortolucci also has unexpectedly improved her organizational and language skills through the online class with Massey University. She explained since New Zealand is 18 hours ahead of Georgia, she must pay attention to the time so she doesn't miss a deadline.

"Knowing the different time zones is an important skill to acquire since most jobs require awareness of the time zone of  partners and co-workers who are located in different parts of the world," she said. "Admittedly, it is also very fun to plan my life around two different time zones at the same time."

As a native of Rio Claro, Brazil, her comprehension of the English language has evolved, too. Bortolucci said listening to the English language with a different accent has honed her skills.

"Being exposed to this is a huge benefit as it allows me to learn about the uniqueness of the English language from different countries," she said.

For more information, visit the Massey University course partnership webpage.

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