Fulbright Scholar Marcie Boucouvalas researches adult learning for societal development in Greece
February 8, 2013
Marcie Boucouvalas, professor of human development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech in the National Capital Region, spent five months in Greece as a Fulbright Scholar. There she conducted exploratory research on the prospects and challenges of applying and implementing the Framework for Action, the final document of UNESCO’s Sixth International Assembly on Adult Education adopted on Dec. 4, 2009 in Belém, Brazil.
Revised every 12 years, the Framework for Action guides policy and practice in all UNESCO countries over the next decade and has been translated into the language of each country. Actively involved with UNESCO in various capacities for several decades, Boucouvalas served as a delegate on this assembly and has served on a number of others, including the UNESCO World Assembly on Higher Education.
Boucouvalas, who is also director of the Adult Learning and Human Resource Development Program, an option in the Department of Human Development, emphasized that UNESCO’s broad conceptualization of learning frames her work.
“In addition to developing skills, knowledge, and learning how to learn, emphasis is placed on learning how to live together and learning how to transform self and society,” Boucouvalas said. “Beyond a sole emphasis on individual development, the development of organizations, communities, nations, and the human species is stressed.”
Boucouvalas’ project that began with the UNESCO document as a focal point has expanded to embrace the broader issue of how individuals were learning to adapt and change, and the nuances of their “lived world,” especially during the crisis situation in Greece.
Boucouvalas noted that during her stay in Greece, “the country was center stage in crisis mode, providing me with a first-hand look at how individuals and collectives navigate and learn to change while under duress.” Her project was directed toward uncovering the driving and restraining forces needed to navigate change.
“While change is generally a constant, in Greece, at this time in its history, there is need for shifts of a truly transformative nature to encourage growth,” Boucouvalas said. “And it does seem that an array of governmental and non-governmental organizations, grass roots movements, professionals, and citizens are embracing opportunities for growth, however painful.”
For her research, Boucouvalas collaborated primarily with the Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning, and Religious Affairs; with colleagues at the University of Thessaloniki; and with the Educational Advisor to Members of Parliament. She participated in learning/teaching and discussion with colleagues and/or students at many Greek universities, including the Universities of Aegean, Anatolia, Athens, Macedonia, Patras, Peloponnese, and Thessaloniki; and made several presentations to the Ministry of Education, Office of Adult and Lifelong Learning and other venues. Boucouvalas also provided informal advising to several doctoral and prospective doctoral students while in Greece.
Her months in Greece included many conversations and interviews with members of Parliament; the former prime minister; representatives of government ministries (including the ministry that governs mental health); other government related and non-governmental organizations; grass roots action groups; provosts; directors of international programs in higher education; private citizens; and immigrants.
Boucouvalas concluded that “Greece represents a microcosm of larger issues facing humanity at large and therefore, learning from them can benefit the rest of the world as well."
Nancy Pyrini, education advisor for members of Parliament, interviewed Boucouvalas while she was in Greece. The resulting article, Speaking Personally—With Marcie Boucouvalas, appeared in the American Journal of Distance Learning.
As part of the Fulbright Inter-Country Lecture Program, Boucouvalas also traveled to Italy.
“At the University of Padua, I was fortunate to engage in scholarly dialogue with department heads, graduate students and the vice rector for International Affairs, which contributed significantly to my Fulbright experience,” she said.
She made two formal presentations there: “UNESCO and Adult Lifelong Learning for Societal Development: An exploration of driving and restraining forces in the case of Greece” and “Self-Directed Learning and the Importance of the Greater Concept of ‘Self” in a Contemporary Global Context.”
In Reggio Emilia, Italy, Boucouvalas met with the director of human resources at Lombardini Enterprise and other key members of his team for a discussion on professional development of the work force. She gave presentations on adult learning and organizational and societal development to Lombardini employees and learners in two Master of Business Administration programs at the Reggio Emilia Industrial Association Business School in collaboration with host Professor Monica Fedeli of the University of Padua.
Boucouvalas joined Virginia Tech in 1980. She is editor of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology; director of the Commission for International Adult Education; on the board of directors for the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame (into which she was inducted in 2003); and immediate past president of the Coalition of Lifelong Learning Organizations.
The Fulbright Scholar Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the United States government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.