Springfield College Sport Management and Recreation Assistant Professor Christie George recently spent two weeks collaborating with sport and recreation professionals in the Republic of Azerbaijan. George was one of only six U.S. educators chosen for the visit, which focused on comparing different sport and recreation programs for individuals living with disabilities in the United States to those programs available in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The visit included organized lectures and informational sessions, along with a tour of Azerbaijan facilities.
The trip to Azerbaijan was a follow-up to the collaboration in October when 17 sport and recreation professionals from Azerbaijan visited Springfield College. The overall sharing of programs and procedures was made possible with the assistance of the Institute of Training and Development (ITD) in Amherst, Mass. ITD was awarded a grant that was funded by SportsUnited, a division of the U.S. Department of State Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs, to conduct a project that brings physical education teachers and disability workers from Azerbaijan to Massachusetts to collaborate in learning how to promote and adapt sports for youth with disabilities.
“This entire program with Azerbaijan and ITD has been such a great experience,” said George. “Having the opportunity to meet with professionals from Azerbaijan and see the facilities they have and view the programs they execute was very enjoyable. It was a great follow-up to what we were able to meet about when we hosted the Azerbaijan visitors in October. We all share a passion for helping individuals with disabilities and we were able to explain programs that work well here in the United States as well as witness some strong programs that are utilized in Azerbaijan.”
During the trip, George and her colleagues met with the president of the Azerbaijan Paralympic Committee, and also met with Azerbaijan physical education teachers and disability workers to view facilities in Azerbaijan’s capital city of Baku. George also visited the cities of Shaki, Mingacevir, Khachmaz, and Sumqayit. To conclude the two-week program, George received a tour of the Azerbaijan Paralympic Team Training Center.
“At the end of the trip, we were able to debrief at the Embassy of the United States in Baku, which was an amazing experience,” said George. “It was great to see individuals from two separate countries just working toward one overall goal of helping individuals with disabilities.”
The initial visit by Azerbaijan professionals to Springfield College was part of a three-week U.S. program during which Azerbaijani participants were involved in different learning and social activities with American counterparts focused on youth with disabilities. Lectures by George and Springfield College faculty members provided Azerbaijan participants with U.S. historical and social background related to disability and disability sport and recreation. The program also included visits to disability organizations and schools providing direct contact with youth with disabilities and the programs that serve them.
"Professor George at Springfield College did a fantastic job helping the Azerbaijanis to imagine new ways to work with people with disabilities through sport and recreation in their country,” said Institute for Training and Development Executive Director Julie E. Hooks. “The ITD participants made great connections with the therapeutic recreation graduate students and we hope these will continue on into the future."
Founded in 1885, Springfield College is known worldwide for the guiding principles of its Humanics philosophy—educating students in spirit, mind and body for leadership in service to others. With its foundation of academic excellence and rich athletic heritage, Springfield College prepares students with real-world leadership skills for careers that transform lives and communities. The college offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the fields of health sciences, human and social services, sport management and movement studies, education, business, and the arts and sciences. It also offers doctoral programs in physical education, physical therapy, and counseling psychology. The college is ranked in the 2015 edition of “Best Colleges” in the top tier of “Best Regional Universities – North Region” by U.S.News Media Group, and is designated as a premier Leadership Development Center by the YMCA of the USA. More than 5,000 traditional, nontraditional and international students study at its main campus in Springfield, Mass., and at its School of Human Services campuses across the country.