From Jordan, with Love and Purpose

BY COLBY CALISI // DEC. 17, 2014 //

Dr. Susan LaRocco is working from off campus this academic year. Way, way off campus.

The longtime Curry Nursing Department professor is living, learning and working in Amman, Jordan on a Fulbright Scholarship.

Dr. Susan LaRocco

Dr. Susan LaRocco

The Fulbright Scholarship is awarded to 8,000 U.S. students and scholars each year to work, study and research at foreign institutions. In order to receive the honor one must have a strong academic track record, as well as a proposal that promotes the “critical relationship between educational exchange and international understanding.” The award is one of the nation’s highest scholarly honors—LaRocco’s came through the core Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, which provides 800 teaching or research grants each year—and is administered by the U.S. State Department.

LaRocco’s project proposal was “Promoting Patient Safety Through Nursing Education,” and she is working at the University of Jordan, in Amman.

LaRocco, who was interviewed for this article via Skype, said she has been plenty busy since arriving in Jordan this past summer. She is teaching doctoral students there about qualitative research methods, and is actively assisting students and faculty in thesis preparation and dissertation work. She is also helping students studying advanced cardiac life support. In addition, LaRocco, who has been documenting her experiences through a blog, has been working with a dean on a smoking cessation program.

Dr. Susan LaRocco at the University of Jordan. // COURTESY PHOTO

Dr. Susan LaRocco at the University of Jordan. // COURTESY PHOTO

Although Arabic is the national language of Jordan, many of the students at the university have been learning English since they were in grade school. Textbooks, instructions and Powerpoint presentations are all in English, said LaRocco.

“Sometimes there will be quick bursts in Arabic for better translation, and I will even find myself correcting some of the students’ written English,” she said.

LaRocco is also busy raising funds for the Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) Honor Society for Nursing. She is on the advisory committee working to launch the honor society in Amman. LaRocca said helping start the society in the Middle East has been among her favorite activities.

“There’s an Arabic term here called ‘Wasa,’ which translates to giving and receiving favors,” said LaRocco. “Hopefully next semester I’ll be able to gain full access to places like the King Hussein Cancer Center, clinical facilities, and more guest lectures as a result of all my hard work.”

LaRocco joined Curry in 2003. She has served as the college’s coordinator of the traditional, accelerated and master’s nursing programs. LaRocco holds degrees from Boston University, UMass Boston and New York University, and is a Certified Nursing Leader.

Doctoral students in the nursing program at the University of Jordan. // PHOTO BY SUSAN LAROCCO

Doctoral students in the nursing program at the University of Jordan. // PHOTO BY SUSAN LAROCCO

She said she has been struck by both the differences and similarities between the nursing programs. Students in Amman are limited to important nursing equipment only, as well as simulation labs, similar to those at Curry. It is also rare to see student-professor relationships and open communication outside of classroom hours, LaRocco said. In addition, the University of Jordan doesn’t offer student housing, sports teams, or student clubs.

“There truly is less student involvement and not much fun for students here,” she said.

However, students and faculty in Jordan are driven by the same social purpose as their U.S. counterparts: to help those in need, to make their communities and the world a better place.

Said LaRocco: “They are traits all my students have.”

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