Study in the Virgin Islands

By Jessica Hetizman
SC Staff Writer

In today’s economy, it’s hard to find a job after graduating with a degree from college. Students are griping as they try to fluff their resumés with as much experience as they can, but quickly realize that they don’t have anything to put into it, while Goodie Twoshoes has a resumé loaded with the goodies that companies are looking for.

Companies are seeking people who are willing to step out of the box and make themselves stand out from everyone else. Just look around you. Your opportunity might be just around the corner.

Dr. Richard Wesp of the East Stroudsburg University Psychology Department has been taking his Cross-Cultural Comparison of Behavior Therapy (PSY 306) students to the Virgin Islands for eleven years to work at the Ginger Thomas Home for Disabled Adults.

A majority of the residents at the Ginger Thomas Home for Disable Adults have limited mobility and social skills so they need constant care while other residents have a greater degree of independence.

Students will compare local human services programs with those in the Virgin Islands. They will combine cultures between their own and those in the Caribbean. Part of the lesson is cultural competence, to learn how different cultures interact and communicate. This knowledge is essential in many fields, but especially important when caring for individuals who have limited communication skills.

Dr. Wesp can’t stress enough how important cultural competence is in the world of psychology and even for other majors. Every culture is different. Having cultural competence also involves being respectful to beliefs and values of other cultures, and respect goes a very long way.

The course begins May 20, 2013 and goes to June 7. It is a three-credit course, beginning in an ESU classroom with a week-long review of behavior therapy approaches and a discussion of cultural competency. The class will then travel to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and apply what they have learned in the classroom to real life experiences, but within a different culture.

“My students get some good experience,” says Wesp. “Recent people came back [to me] and were like ‘this is great. I learned all this stuff in class, but I didn’t see how it really was, and now I’m doing it in St. Croix.’”

Wesp explains that many students have contacted him after graduating and told him about their interviews and many times the interviewer will ask about St. Croix, which ends up being the entire topic of the interview.

A former student who graduated in 2008 has been to St. Croix twice to work with a resident who is deaf, blind, and mute. She wanted to help him learn a symbol communication method. She created a board with objects that he could feel and point to when he needed something. She says the experience at St. Croix has taught her patience and understanding.

Students will learn about the culture by exploring St. Croix, taking tours of archeological museums, the Columbus Landing site, Fort Christiansted, a plantation, several human service programs, and since the cottages are right on the beach, there will be snorkeling tours of the Buck Island—an underwater U.S. National Park.

The course requires prerequisites so be sure you meet the requirements. Psychology students should have taken Introductory or General Psychology, Theories of Personality, and at least two other psychology classes. Students from majors other than psychology may substitute comparable courses or experience and should speak with Wesp.

The class is recommended for students majoring in Psychology, Recreational Therapy, Sociology, Speech Pathology, Nursing, or Education.

If you’re interested, applications can be found hanging on Dr. Wesp’s office door in Stroud Hall room 114C. Applications will be accepted beginning September 19. Seats are limited to a maximum of fourteen students, so applications will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis. So act quickly, because seats are beginning to fill up.

If you have further questions about the course, cost, or prerequisites, please contact Dr. Wesp at

Email Jessica at: