Exploring Community & Culture course instructors
Dr. Opal Leeman Bartzis is Vice President for Academic Affairs at IFSA, where she oversees curriculum development, academic policies and student learning, teacher training and collaborative engagement with the international studies faculty committee of Butler University. She earned her doctorate in adult, higher and community education with a focus in higher education from Ball State University’s renowned Teachers College. As part of that program she earned two doctoral certificates, in College and University Teaching and in Community College Leadership, and was twice honored for her scholarly accomplishments as “most recognized graduate student.” Her research focused on the impact student teaching abroad has on the development of culturally sensitive teaching practices. Her doctoral research was nominated for “national dissertation of the year” at the American Educational Research Association, a venue where she also delivered a paper on intersectionality theory and college student identity.
Opal holds an Honors B.A. in German and a Master’s degree in history from Butler University. Opal co-taught and redeveloped the curriculum for a master’s level seminar course in the education department at the University of Kentucky titled Foundations of International Exchange, and she has guest lectured in the political science department at Butler University. She was a K-12 teacher for four years and developed her school’s first foreign language program during that time, teaching additional classes in German and Russian. She was a K-12 substitute teacher for two years and has been a periodic guest speaker and tutor for the Indianapolis Public Schools system. Opal taught academic orientation programs and provided academic support to more than 2,000 IFSA college study abroad students in Ireland over a three-year period.
In addition, through her 20 years of professional commitment to the Forum on Education Abroad, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), Opal has been the lead and supporting trainer on myriad professional development workshops for her peers on a range of international education topics. She also served on the Forum on Education Abroad’s Committee for Curricular Development and Academic Design. Among her publications are “Student Teaching Abroad: Intercultural Learning in Context and a Changing Approach to US Educator Preparation” in Global Innovation of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Transgressing Boundaries (Layne & Lake, eds., 2015), “Study Abroad: Toward Fulfillment of a Critical US Need for More Culturally Sensitive Volunteers” in the PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning (2015), and “Innovative Approaches to Study Abroad at Harper College and Fox Valley Technical College” in International Education at Community Colleges: Themes, Practices, and Case Studies (Raby & Valeau, eds., 2016).
Opal is delighted to now be able to intentionally combine her teaching experience with her research on the development of cultural sensitivity through her co–instructor role with Exploring Community & Culture in a Global Context, a unique learning opportunity for IFSA students.
Sharna Bremner is a Senior Student Services Coordinator at for IFSA programs in Adelaide, Australia. She is undertaking her doctoral degree in International Development at the University of Adelaide and holds a Bachelor of Development Studies (Honours) from the same institution. Her research is focused on the intersections of health and education policy in post-conflict developing countries and her publications include “The World Bank’s Health Projects in Timor Leste: The Political Economy of Effective Aid” (Rosser & Bremner, 2015). Sharna assisted in the development of the curriculum for the Exploring Australia: Community & Culture course and has served as the course coordinator and instructor since its inception in early 2016. Sharna has assisted over 1,500 IFSA students in her seven years as a Student Services Coordinator, and her daily activities include the provision of academic and personal support to students, curriculum development for the Exploring Australia: Community & Culture course and engagement with partner and host universities. She is excited to bring her knowledge and experience to the co-instructor role with Exploring Community & Culture in a Global Context.
Nikki Bruckmann is the Associate Director of Student Services at IFSA. Nikki holds an M.A. in social and cultural anthropology. Nikki’s research focused on anthropology of education, looking at intersections of race and education through critical pedagogy, postcolonial theory and community based learning. Upon graduation, Nikki co-founded a local non-profit in the Indianapolis area that provides after school programming engaging youth in community engagement through critical thinking, self-reflection, alliance building and social justice education. She has also served as adjunct professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana for the past four years. Nikki is pleased to combine her experiences and educational background as an instructor of IFSA’s Exploring Community & Culture course.