“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like works.” (Thomas Edison).
Above is a quote I found in a book of positive quotations that I bought during my Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN Visiting Scholar Initiative Program from October 1st, 2019 to January 20th, 2020, at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas. People need breaks, and so did I. I am so glad that I chose my own break to create my own opportunity. Being so busy with my professional life as Vice President for student affairs in a private Midwifery Academy and a Nursing and Health Sciences College took all my time and energy and kept me away from my dream of taking a PhD program. I was so thrilled to know that I was chosen as one of the scholars from the Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN Visiting scholar program I applied for in September 2018. I know that it was a wonderful opportunity God has given me to pursue my dream. I had my break to learn through my research.
The year before, I wrote a proposal to do research on how the student affairs or student services were administered at a college in the United States for the program. I hope from the research I could help find solutions for the problems faced by the Midwifery Academy in meeting the required standards given by both the Ministry of Research and Higher Education and the National Higher Education Board of Accreditation regarding the quality of student affairs or student services.
The Midwifery Academy or Akademi Kebidanan is the minimum level for a student to undertake in a higher education institution to be a midwife in Indonesia. It is an academic and professional training held in the form of a Diploma III or three years program which aims to produce graduates who can do routine and contextual jobs, independently or with collaboration. The goal is for them to be able to do supervision and give guidance based on their managerial skills.
After becoming a higher education program in 1996, there has been more than 750 Diploma III Midwifery programs throughout Indonesia. These academies have a big responsibility to help midwives graduate and practice as midwives through their curricular teaching and learning programs as well as co-curricular and extra-curricular activities aiming to develop the characters and to keep their motivation as well as to ensure success during college and after graduation.
I was fortunate that I got the University of Arkansas (UARK), Fayetteville, for my research institution. I was grateful to have my 3.5 months opportunity as a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders in the College of Education and Health Professions (COEHP) at UARK. My research supervisor was Dr. Michael Hevel, the Department Head. Dr. Hevel was very supportive and helpful in assisting me with my needs to know about student services. Although UARK does not have a midwifery program, Dr. Hevel connected me with UARK Eleanor Mann School of Nursing (EMSON), where I learned about the Office of Academic Student Initiatives and Services and their academic counseling activities. During my research time in UARK, I also learned about student success initiatives, first-generation college students mentoring programs, First Generation National Day (November 8th), Fulbright College Student Success course and UARK Wellness and Learn Series. During that time, I had the opportunity to present to Indonesian higher and Midwifery education as well as about the cultural and traditional clothing of Indonesia to UARK students in undergraduate classes. I volunteered and participated in some UARK students’ events and programs where I could, not only share about myself, my religion and my country, but also observed and learnt about UARK students’ activities.
I also met the Director of the Student Success Center from Northwest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) to learn about their student services and programs. The information enriches my knowledge and understanding of student affairs and services in different higher education institutions in America. All of the meetings, discussions and activities helped me think about things that I could adopt at the midwifery academy in Indonesia.
Luckily I had some time to spend my semester breaks and holidays during my program to visit my good friends, who I knew through my works in Indonesia and at my Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program (2012-2013) in Arizona and Pennsylvania. I could also attend a Muktamar (meeting) of the Indonesian Muslim Society in America (IMSA) 2019 in Illinois, where I could make some new friends and networks. Another beneficial short travel I could make during my time in this program was the meeting I had with the other Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN visiting scholars at the Center of International Studies, U.S. State Department and American University in Washington D.C.
To end my program at UARK, I was blessed and honored to receive an award of Arkansas Traveller as Ambassador of Arkansas from The Governor of the State of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, to serve as Ambassador of Good Will from Arkansas to people of other states and nations.
Three and a half months was such a short time to research more about my interests in student services in American colleges, but enough for me to start my next steps to help improve my country’s higher education problems in student affairs. Coming back from the U.S. I shared my learning and experiences with my colleagues in my university and also at a newly established institution from the merger of our Midwifery Academy and The School of Nursing and Health Sciences.
Then, I continued my dreams of getting a PhD. Now I am a Doctorate student at the State University of Malang, East Java, studying Educational Administration. I will continue my research from the visiting scholar program in my PhD study. I am optimistic that someday in Indonesia, student affairs won’t only be considered as an administrative or additional job anymore. For the Higher Education Institutions of Health, especially the Midwifery Academy, improving student affairs will help provide qualified health care providers, such as midwives, which will overall provide qualified health care for the people in Indonesia.