SHREVEPORT – LSUS psychology assistant professor Dr. Michael Becerra hosted a pair of his Colombian psychology colleagues this past week in an exercise of academic and cultural exchange.
Isabel Cristina Bernal Velez and Mireya Ospina Botero spoke with LSUS students and faculty, shared their experience from a Colombian perspective and sampled Louisiana culture on their five-day visit.
Velez and Botero teach and work at Universidad Catolica de Pereira, located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in the coffee-rich region of southern Colombia.
The pair help operate a psychology clinic employing 60 students that work alongside faculty and staff in an operation that sees 680 patients per semester.
“The cultural and academic exchange during the visit was immensely valuable on multiple fronts,” Dr. Becerra said. “It provided students with a remarkable educational experience, introducing them to diverse communication styles and clinical perspectives from international professors.
“This exposure enriched their learning, fostering a cross-cultural environment that is increasingly important in today’s interconnected world.”
LSUS operates an on-campus clinic that helps prepare students with hands-on training.
Students from Becerra’s counseling practicum and counseling social and cultural foundations classes visited with the Colombian professors.
Becerra translated for the Spanish-speaking professors.
“The student feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” Becerra said. “They expressed their gratitude for the unique experience of hearing different languages and gaining insights into the psychology field from an international perspective.
“Several students even expressed a desire to visit my colleagues’ universities in Colombia. One student took the initiative to give thank-you notes to my colleagues, expressing their appreciation for their visit and the insightful discussions.”
Becerra is no stranger to Colombia, spending six years in the South American country teaching and aiding small business development through media and audiovisual projects.
Becerra participated in research with a host of Colombian academics, including the visiting professors, to explore how a psychology student’s family of origin impacts their therapeutic style, fears and techniques as a clinician.
“Their visit advanced research projects and potential collaborations,” Becerra said. “Ideas and methodologies exchanged between colleagues from different regions sparked innovation, potentially leading to international research projects and training opportunities.
“The cultural exchange component promoted cultural understanding, tolerance, and appreciation. Witnessing my students attempting to speak ‘professional’ Spanish was a proud reminder of my own journey toward becoming a bilingual clinician and professor.”
Becerra and the Colombian professors participated in an interview on the podcast 318 Latino, where Becerra is a frequent guest.
The professors also attended Hispanic Heritage Festival in downtown Shreveport.