Iceland 2017: Global Learning Connecting In One Place

During the next few weeks, Associate Professor Chris Hamstra is teaching several sessions on leadership and communication (Authentic and Servant-leadership, leadership life-stories, etc.) at Bifröst University in Iceland. Chris is documenting his time in Iceland in a series of articles to be featured on his LinkedIn page and on the DU Hub.

This is the third article in the series.

  • Article 1 – Connecting Across Borders
  • Article 2 – Engaging the Paradox

Iceland 2017: Global Learning Connecting In One Place

It is a good day of learning when the hiking boots are dirty.

Bifrost University sits in the shadow of the long-dormant volcano, Grabrok. After a day of back-and-forth discussions inside I joined three of my new faculty colleagues outside. Our after-dinner hike took us up a new path where we talked about the different geologic features and a variety of other subjects. I wanted to take this short post to wrap up the week. This short(er) post are a few thoughts about global learning with new faculty and student colleagues.

New Learning – Faculty Colleagues

This first week has been a wonderful mix of thoughts and perspectives as a facilitator of learning.

To quickly review, I subscribe to a perspective of self-directed learning where adults are encouraged to seek opportunities to grow in their knowledge and skills. Resources come from in and out of the classroom. For me, authentic dialogue is an important aspect.

This week I have had the opportunity to engage with faculty from around the world and contribute to a common cause of learning in this environment. I have worked side-by-side with faculty members from Iceland, Germany, and the Netherlands.

I learned the unique mix of management and teaching from Einar. Harriet and Claudia challenged me with conversations about gender in leadership, but also shared the possibilities. Frank has gently taught me about particle physics, big data analytics and encouraged my work in complexity.

A common theme through our conversations centered on passion as a key resource for faculty to effectively engage student colleagues. Each of us are excited about our specific subject. More importantly we are eager to see learners do well.

Even though we come from different institutions, the similar issue of identity seemed to surface among our learners. Many of our students enter the learning environment with no idea who they are, who they want to be, or how they want to contribute. While we brainstormed a few ideas within our specific contexts, I wonder how we can help students find not just a career but their calling in life?

New Learning – Student Colleagues

This week I worked side-by side with student colleagues from close by (Canada, New York, Washington D.C.) but have also engaged with India, Italy, Greece, Spain, Columbia, Brazil, and others. These students seem to have a love to explore, take initiative, and discover new insights. For me the learning from these students has been an absolute joy. Students have been teaching students and students have been teaching me. One of new student connections has taken up learning the Dutch language because her roommate speaks the language fluently.

In our sessions about leadership life-stories I sensed an acceptance of narrative as a viable addition to generate knowledge and learning across cultures. Even when two distinct backgrounds shared their stories, a common theme was discovered. I learned from my Greek student that the ongoing dialogue, prompted further self-reflection for internal learning.

Getting personal for a moment with my learning, this week has been a confidence boost that there seems to be some acceptance of storytelling in our personal and professional lives. Funny that I had to travel over 6,000 miles to get this confirmation that anecdote and analysis can work together. I will take these conversations and experiences forward about leadership life-stories to see where the next step might go.

Iceland.Mountains.2New Learning – Environment

It is a good day when the brain and body have been engaged in the learning environment. I learned this simple but important truth from my friend Charlie Bunker.

Two final lessons for me. The picture you see above is from the top of the dormant volcano Grabrok. Within 10 kilometers there are three mountain tops with unique styles of rock. The picture below is from another spot very close that shows very clear examples of the different strata carved by the glaciers during the ice age. It is cool to me that the earth is angled in a way that shows how the ice moved and flowed from this volcanic area.

I try and draw a correlation to my life through these observations. In some way there have been a variety of “times” in my life. I seek, by the grace of God, to keep slowly moving forward. An encouragement is for you to keep taking your steps no matter the time or space in life.

A final thought, as I understand the word Bifrost comes from the Nordic language and was used to describe a burning bridge that shows up as a rainbow. This thought circles back for me to the initial post of this adventure, the opportunity to connect as individuals across cultures.

Edited Note: Just after posting the original version of this post, our car ride brought us through the heart of this section of west Iceland. The following picture is just one that was captured.

As we finish up Week #1 at Bifrost University in Iceland I can use a variety of different adjectives. None would fully describe the sights, sounds, and feelings of this initial week. I am thankful for this wonderful opportunity to serve and humbled by what still needs to be learned.

I want to end this first week with a line of thought heard from the students and summarized by me: “The world connecting in Iceland.”


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