Faculty goes to Chile to strengthen ties

Kelsey Bundra
News Editor

A group of Millersville professors traveled to Valparaíso, Chile to assist in disaster prevention and strengthen ties with a partner university. Pontificia Universidad Católica De Valparaíso has had a student exchange agreement with Millersville for fifteen years.

Professors in attendance were Dr. Norma Rivera-Hernández, Dr. Sepideh Yalda, Dr. Karen Rice, Dr. Duane Hagelgans, Dr. Marc Felizzi and Dr. Kirsten Bookmiller. Rivera-Hernández is the cultural facilitator for the Americas under the Center for Disaster Research and Education and served in the admissions committee since August 2012. Yalda is director of the Center for Disaster Research and Education. Bookmiller is the project leader.

The group left Oct. 25 and returned Nov. 1.

Rivera-Hernández assisted in translating for the group. She has background as a Spanish American, knowing both English and Spanish and having knowledge of Chile’s culture.
The goal of the trip was to “further institutional collaboration in disaster management field between Millersville and Pontificia Universidad Católica De Valparaíso.”

While the trip was meant to ease communication between the universities, Millersville professors also met with community members. They met with fire fighters, community leaders and school teachers.

Professors assist with emergency management in Chile.
Professors assist with emergency management in Chile.

Chile is highly disaster prone. The country has earthquakes, tsunamis and wildfires. Valparaíso wants to improve their emergency management after the wildfires they suffered in April.
The group from Millersville gave workshops to the people in Chile. They wanted to initiate a dialogue with local community. The disaster management of Chile could be improved. CDRE doesn’t exist in Chile, but the people have an interest in it.

“[The Chileans want to] create a counterpart to what we have here at Millersville University,” Rivera-Hernández said.

This is Rivera-Hernández’s fourth time in Chile. She said her experience has always been good. She called the people she encountered “friendly, receptive, open to learn and welcoming.”
She also said that the Millersville faculty on the trip connected well. “We were helping each other out to make the best of our visit,” Rivera-Hernández said.

They were working most of the time but they did have small breaks where they could enjoy a meal together.

“The food is wonderful,” Rivera-Hernández said.

Students from the foreign language department have gone to Chile through the university’s partnership. Students come back with improved language skills. “They are enriched by experience,” Rivera-Hernández said.

Exchange students from Chile have also attended Millersville.

Millersville University Office of Global Education and Partnerships offers courses in different subject areas. The program can be one semester long or extend for an academic year. For more information go to:

“I hope this is an initiative that continues and expands to other Spanish-American countries,” said Rivera-Hernández.