Go directly to main content

View more photos from the KEY trips!

Spring break learning trips take students to Europe, San Francisco, Detroit

March 26, 2019

KOKOMO, Ind. –  From examining mental health care options in Europe, to touring international headquarters for major auto manufacturers and tech industry giants, Indiana University Kokomo students stepped out of their classrooms and into the world for spring break learning experiences.

As part of the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program, psychology students witnessed how patients are cared for in Austria and the Netherlands, while business students met with auto industry leaders in Detroit, and informatics and computer science majors had an inside look at the tech industry in the San Francisco Bay area.

Fourteen students, led by Rosalyn Davis, clinical assistant professor of psychology, Brooke Komar, visiting lecturer in psychology, Kathryn Holcomb, associate professor of psychology, and Lory Tully, academic advisor, spent a week in Vienna, Austria, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, comparing mental health services offered in those European countries to those in the United States.

Highlights of the trip included Neustart, an Austrian organization that provides social and mental health services to people leaving prison or on probation, to support them as they overcome the issues that led to their incarceration; and the dementia village in Amsterdam, which provides a homelike atmosphere for its residents, to give them better quality of life.

Davis wanted students to see the world as both a bigger and smaller place, “bigger in that there are other ways of looking at issues and people than we think about in the United States and smaller in that there are some common concerns and struggles that are universal and deserve our attention.”

Erica Washington, a junior from Carmel, was interested in the differences between the health care systems in European countries and the U.S., and was impressed by the holistic care offered in the dementia village.

“There’s nothing like that here,” she said. “It’s better care than we offer. It’s interesting to be aware of what’s out there and to know that there’s a whole other world outside of Indiana and the U.S.”

Gabby VanAlstine, lecturer in business,  and Gloria Preece, director of the Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Management programs, led 12 business students on a five-day Cougar Career Experience Externship in Detroit. The group visited headquarters for Ford, FCA, and General Motors, along with touring the Automotive Hall of Fame, the Detroit Institute for the Arts, and the Motown Museum.

Preece said in order to keep the best and brightest students in Indiana after they graduate, they have to know the career opportunities available to them in advanced manufacturing, because of the region’s long history as a manufacturing powerhouse.

“We believe if students understand the opportunities available for high-quality, high-paying jobs, with pathways for future growth and advancement, and have made connections with professionals in the field, making Indiana their home after graduation becomes more attractive and realistic,” she said.

Sophomore Eric Willhite plans a career in manufacturing, and has seen the production side from his father’s career at FCA, and his own job with robotics manufacturer AndyMark.

“It was a good opportunity to see the business side of things, and how they run from the top down,” the Kokomo resident said. “It helped me realize how far I can go with my education, and what opportunities are available to me if I go elsewhere or if I stay in Kokomo.”

Eight students in the computer science and informatics programs saw the tech industry from the inside, with an externship in the San Francisco Bay area. Christian Chauret, dean of the School of Sciences, M. Abdullah Canbaz, assistant professor of computer science, and Nicole Miller, employment specialist for the Career and Accessibility Center, led the trip.

“Our goal was to make them realize the possibilities that are there, not just with Google and Facebook, but with startups, and to get students exposed to the tech industry, which is really fantastic to observe,” Chauret said.

The group visited the Apple Park Visitor Center, toured Facebook, Tesla, Google, and Stanford University, and networked with members of the IU Alumni Association of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Alex Martakis, a sophomore from Wheatfield, was excited about visiting Google and Facebook because of their importance in pop culture, but said the biggest impact of the trip was networking with alumni and people Canbaz knew in the industry.

“A lot of them were big on being mentors for everyone else, and sharing what they’ve learned from their experiences,” he said. “They talked about what’s important when you’re starting out in the field with a degree and no experience, and how to stand out from the crowd. The tech industry is competitive, so it’s valuable to have that inside knowledge.”

He was especially happy to meet alumni, and to feel like part of the IU family.

“The main thing I walked away with is that you can’t forget where you came from,” he said. “The alumni we met were passionate about where they came from, and happy to be from IU. It’s really passing the torch down.”

The trips were part of the IU Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program, which gives students a chance to connect with people and participate in real-world experiences. The goal is for every student to have at least one travel experience within his or her major.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 03/26/2019