Goshen College to launch domestic Study-Service Term in local Latino community

GOSHEN, Ind. – Northern Indiana may not have the exotic allure of Cambodia or Peru, but after 40 years of sending students around the world for a semester of cross-culture learning, Goshen College is launching a new location for its Study-Service Term (SST) program right in its own backyard.

Starting in the spring of 2010, Goshen College students will have the opportunity to study about, serve in and be immersed in the local Latino culture for a semester in Northern Indiana, which has seen significant demographic changes in the last 20 years. Minority enrollment in Northern Indiana schools – particularly of Latino students – has grown dramatically. For example, in Goshen Public Schools it has grown from 8 percent to 41 percent since 1990.

Director of International Education Tom Meyers said, “Since the inception of the international education program, there have been conversations about a domestic alternative to our international programs. We believe that it is time to develop and implement a new model. We need an immersion experience and direct contact with another culture for students who can’t go abroad.”

Since 1968, when Goshen College was one of the first colleges in the country to require international education to graduate and began the unique semester-long SST, the college also has had the option for students unable to travel abroad – often due to life circumstances and commitments – to fulfill the requirement by taking related elective, on-campus courses. Approximately 20 percent of students take the alternative courses, which are taken when their schedule permits and are spread out over several academic years.

While planning this new program, Meyers conducted several focus groups with students who haven’t been able to participate in the traditional SST program. “This will work better for them and they were very interested and excited about this possibility,” he said. Students will continue to have the option to take alternative courses on campus though.

“For many years Goshen College has rightly placed emphasis on SST as an abroad experience. But when I heard that GC was planning for a domestic SST, I was excited,” said local Latino community leader Gilberto Perez Jr., the Bienvenido Program Director for the Northeastern Center in Ligonier. “Domestic SST will create a space for GC students to listen and learn about what’s happening in their backyard regarding cultural issues related to the Latino community.” Perez and the Northeastern Center have assisted the college in connecting with Latino leaders in Elkhart and Noble County.

Similar to other SST locations in places that have “significantly different” cultures, the students will be required to have taken two semesters of Spanish language study beforehand and will take Spanish classes during the semester. They will also study Latino history, literature and culture; they will process their experiences as a group; they will take field trips to Latino communities in such places as Chicago and Indianapolis; and they will serve in local organizations, church programs or schools that are linked to the Latino community.

Though students will continue to live on campus or at home, the plan is that they will each connect with a local Latino family on a regular basis during the semester. In other SST locations, students live with host families during both the six weeks of study and the six weeks of service.

The impetus for the development of a domestic SST location was funding designated in the 2006 Lilly Endowment grant for the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning (CITL), which was created to serve the educational needs of a rapidly increasing Latino immigrant population.

The new program will be phased in with pilot units during the 2010 spring and summer semesters. A half-time coordinator/group leader will be hired to work in conjunction with the International Education Office and CITL on this.

Since the first SST units went to Costa Rica, Jamaica and Guadeloupe in 1968 and began one of the country’s pioneer international education programs, more than 7,000 students and 230 faculty leaders have traveled to 22 countries. The college currently organizes SST units to study and serve in China, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Germany, Senegal, Peru, Jamaica and Cambodia. The program’s uncommon semester-long combination of cultural education and service-learning remains a core part of the general education program, and has earned citations for excellence from U.S. News & World Report, Peterson’s Study Abroad and Smart Parents Guide to College, the John Templeton Foundation and American Council on Education.

Besides providing service to local organizations through the new domestic SST program, Goshen College students continue to student teach in local schools, learn in local hospitals, do internships in local businesses and volunteer in a wide range of settings.

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.