Bridging Cultures: Visiting Scholar Sparks Talk of New University Exchanges 

Posted on November 17, 2023

a woman in a head scarf sits on a wall with green grass behind her
Dr. Sari Karmina came to UNCG in September as part of the prestigious Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship academic exchange program.

A visiting scholar at the University of North Carolina Greensboro hopes to open doors for deeper collaboration between UNCG and the Indonesian university where she works. 

Dr. Sari Karmina came to UNCG in September as part of the prestigious Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship academic exchange program. She is a lecturer and coordinator of the Office of International Affairs at the Department of English at Universitas Negeri Malang (UM), the state university of Malang. 

­­­­­Social-Emotional Learning Research 

Karmina is here for the Fall 2023 semester to conduct research on social-emotional learning with one of the subject’s leading researchers, Dr. Ben Dyson. Dyson is a professor in UNCG’s Department of Kinesiology and got to know Karmina when he was a faculty member and she was a doctoral student at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. 

Karmina applied for the Fulbright award because she wanted the chance to study social-emotional learning in practice in the United States, where the educational method was developed and has been extensively studied. 

She’s getting that opportunity through the Middle College at UNCG, where she’s observing the class of one of Dyson’s students. The Middle College allows students interested in earning health and medicine degrees the chance to pursue their high school diplomas and earn college credits simultaneously. Dyson’s student is a teacher who incorporates social-emotional learning into the school’s health and physical education classes. 

As Karmina explains, “Social emotional learning helps students to acquire five skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.  

“I think it is very important for students to have these skills to be able to develop their potential and make collaborations that will help them later in the workforce and as lifelong learners,” she adds. 

Building a Foundation for Future Indonesian Exchange 

While Karmina’s primary goal as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar has been to further the research she started with Dyson at the University of Auckland, she also has been meeting students, faculty members and administrators at UNCG, trying to lay the groundwork for longer-term academic partnerships and student exchanges between UNCG and the Universitas Negeri Malang (UM), where she teaches. 

She’s already broached the topic with Dr. Maria Anastasiou, UNCG’s associate provost for international programs, and with the director of UM’s international office. Karmina says the discussions are ongoing. 

Despite being 10,000 miles apart, UNCG and UM have similarities that would make them good partners, Karmina says. For example, both are government-funded, both have strong traditions in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and both value international education. 

“UM offers scholarships for students to come to study Indonesian culture or any subjects that we offer,” she says. “I’m encouraging UNCG students to take this opportunity to explore Indonesia, in particular, to enhance their international knowledge. 

“People here know about Bali, but they don’t know that Bali’s not a country, it’s just a part of Indonesia. And they don’t realize that Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest country,” Karmina says. “I’m looking forward to sharing my stories with as many as possible.” 

That’s why she’s become a regular attendee of UNCG’s International Student Association’s meetings and welcomes the chance to speak.  One of her most rewarding experiences thus far has been being a guest in History of Islam class taught by Omar Ali, dean of the Lloyd International Honors College .  

“The students were enthusiastic,” she says, asking questions about Indonesia in general but also about her experience as Muslim woman in a democratic country with the world’s largest Muslim population. 

While sharing stories of her homeland is important, she’s also interested in something more universal.  

As she puts it, “I want to promote diversity, equality, equity, peace and, of course, mutual understanding for people in the world.” 

Story by Dee Shore

Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

Students from UNCG International program.



Share This