Value of IFDS & Testimonials
Below are testimonials written by participants after their seminar experience. If you would like to speak with someone who has participated on one of our faculty seminars, contact email@example.com .
Contemporary Regional Issues in Botswana and South Africa
Instructor of Economics
Western New England College
The experiences, the knowledge and understanding gained, and the individuals I met during this seminar have had an impact on me personally and professionally. As a result I will be able to contribute more effectively to Western New England College’s internationalization plans.
The immediate impact of the CIEE seminar was to refresh my personal interest in international issues and travel, and to focus my attention on Africa again. I was reminded how important it is to actually experience different cultures and get a glimpse into the lifestyles of people in other areas of the world in order to improve understanding. Through readings and online research, I can acquire a great deal of factual material relating to Botswana and South Africa; however, first-hand experiences can only be gained through travel. Prior to visiting the region I had some knowledge of the culture, politics, and history. I had studied the economic situation, development issues and HIV/AIDS. Participation in this seminar allowed me to expand my knowledge of development issues in Botswana and South Africa. The on-site aspect of the seminar, moreover, contributed an essential component to my understanding of the situation in Southern Africa. The lectures by individuals living/ working within these countries were beneficial and provided factual information and “local” perspectives. It was the overall experience of Botswana and South Africa- which included the site visits, tours, social settings, contacts made, and discussions with individuals- that was invaluable. These experiences provided context for the factual and theoretical information and improved my understanding of the setting-social, cultural, historical and political- in which development is occurring. I hope to convey what I learned and this enthusiasm for travel abroad to students and colleagues at Western New England College.
My seminar experience will also have an impact on the classes I am teaching this fall. I am incorporating more international examples and plan to include information gained during the seminar. This summer my husband and I are revising our course called AIDS: A Global Pandemic. Several of the lectures, especially the one given by the former Minister of Health in Botswana and a talk by a demographer at the University of Botswana, will contribute directly to this endeavor. The class will also benefit from the background information on the socio-economic setting for the AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa. Through individual discussions with speakers and on-site faculty, and bookstore visits in Gaborone, Pretoria, and Johannesburg we have found several new books that will be useful in this course. Students will now read a South African novel along with the previously assigned novel set in Botswana.The focus of this course is on Sub-Saharan Africa; therefore, participation in this seminar has provided me with a great deal of new material, experiences and perspectives that will enhance the learning environment and improve the students’ international awareness.
In the future I would also like to create a course on Sub-Saharan Africa. The primary focus would be on economic development issues, past and present, and the impact of globalization. The knowledge of southern Africa along with the first-hand experiences gained during the seminar will contribute to this effort. Materials, photographs, etc. collected during my stay will be incorporated into the class thus increasing the student interest and strengthening awareness of global issues and how they affect regions in Africa.
The development of a study abroad opportunity should have the most impact on Western New England College’s effort to internationalize. I am involved in the creation of a 3-4 week summer term for WNEC students in Botswana. I plan to be one of the instructors on this trip, and will be teaching the course on AIDS and adapting it to the location and length of the term. This would not be possible without the information and contacts gained during the seminar. We are able to incorporate the knowledge of the area including possibilities of sites to visit, tours, places to stay, etc. into the planning for this study opportunity. Also, some of the individuals we met have been helpful in the planning stages and hopefully will continue to share advice.
I am certain that my seminar experiences will continue to influence my activities in the coming months and years in ways that contribute to Western New England College’s internationalization plan. As a member of the College community I hope to be actively engaged in expanding participation in international education through increasing global awareness and opportunities for study abroad.
Religious Diversity in France: Jews and Muslims, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
Binita Mehta, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair, French Department
II attended the CIEE International Faculty Development Seminar on Religious Diversity in France: Jews and Muslims, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia held in Paris France from June 3-9, 2010. From the start of the seminar, when the group leader Hannah Taieb and Lucie Laureillard of the CIEE Study Center in Paris met the seminar participants at Charles de Gaulle airport, to the final drive to the airport on June 9, I found the seminar rich and rewarding. During the week-long seminar, we listened to lectures by historians, sociologists, and political scientists, toured various ethnic neighborhoods in Paris, visited museums, cultural centers and places of worship, and had conversations with activists, school teachers, school principals, and social workers.
I have incorporated what I learned at the seminar into my teaching and research this year at Manhattanville College in a number of ways. I created a First Year seminar for Freshman entitled Multicultural France that I am teaching in fall 2010. The syllabus for the course includes readings (articles, book chapters, handouts) that I acquired during the seminar.
In light of the current controversy about the opening of an Islamic cultural center and mosque close to ground-zero in New York City, I also hope to open dialogues with my first year seminar colleagues comparing perceptions of Islam in France and in the United States. Part of the dialogue will include the current laws passed in July/August by the French General Assembly and other European parliaments banning the wearing of the full Muslim veil or burqa in public.
On November 17, 2010, as part of the Faculty Lecture Series held at Manhattanville College, I will share what I learned at the CIEE seminar in Paris with my colleagues. The title of my presentation is “Connecting Training and Teaching: The CIEE Faculty Development Seminar, Religious Diversity in France: Jews and Muslims, Anti-semitism and Islamophobia.” My talk will also include a discussion of how I translated what I learned during the seminar into my teaching.
I will present the complex issue of Islamophobia in France at a joint student-professor panel-discussion entitled “Race, Religion, and Reason” at the 4th Annual Human Rights Awareness Day to be held at Manhattanville College on Saturday, November 20, 2010. Another panelist will focus on the recent mosque controversy in New York City and around the country.
During the spring semester of 2011, I will organize a French film series that will focus on religious diversity in France.
Ghana: Challenges of a Developing Nation
David E. Richards
Associate Professor of Library Science
Missouri State University
I was fortunate enough to be able to journey to Ghana, West Africa, in June to study libraries in a developing country. The CIEE Ghana seminar, entitled Challenges of a Developing Nation, introduced participants to the history of Ghana as well as the country’s numerous social, political, economic, and public health issues. Seminar participants came from a number of different academic institutions across the U.S. and from a number of different disciplines including history, social work, African-American studies, communication, and library science.
The twelve-day seminar was based at the University of Ghana near Accra, but we also traveled to Cape Coast and Elmina to tour the coastal slave forts, and to Kumasi, the ancient capital city of the Ashanti Kingdom. Although Ghana is a politically stable African country and fairly wealthy from cocoa and mineral exports, the state struggles with a sluggish economy, poverty, illiteracy, government corruption, and health-related issues. Library services are necessarily a secondary concern when even basic services such as reliable electricity, clean water, and anti-malaria initiatives are still being developed. Libraries in Ghana suffer from year-round high temperatures and humidity, regular power outages, mold outbreaks, and chronic insufficient funding.
I was able to visit a number of libraries and museums during my visit. Two libraries in particular illustrated the challenges faced by Ghanaian libraries. First, the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Centre which houses the personal library of the American civil rights activist, author, and Pan-Africanist, exhibited mold damage on dozens of volumes. Fortunately, the curator of the small library had quarantined the contaminated volumes noting that the moldy books required treatment. Second, the Balme Library of the University of Ghana in East Legon, illustrated the general rule that most large buildings or structures in Ghana simply lack air-conditioning2. The entire general collection of the library suffers the endemic heat and humidity of Ghana which sits just a few degrees north of the Equator. The only area in the library that is air-conditioned is the small Rare Books Room which benefits from a single window unit. Even this unit, however, is subject to frequent power outages (called by the locals as “lights-off”) which occur at least once a day in metropolitan Accra.
In terms of public libraries, the primary government agency charged with public library services throughout the country is the Ghana Library Board (GLB). The GLB provides a number of services including lending services, reference service, mobile library services, training programs, and serves as the de facto national library of Ghana. Public library service is definitely a perceived need, especially in the rural areas.
I am pleased to report that I have already conducted a number of professional, scholarly, and personal activities utilizing the knowledge gained from the Ghana seminar:
- Upon my return from Ghana, I provided a report to my Dean as well as to the Director of International Programs on the benefits of the CIEE Seminar.
- As a member of the Board of Trustees of the Springfield-Greene County Library District, I submitted to the Springfield-Greene County Library a written account of the trip including a few select photographs. This was published on the public library’s LibeWire online newsletter on August 6, 20103.
- I will be providing presentations on Ghana library development in LIS 500: Libraries and Librarianship and EAD 726: Educational Research on Sept 13th and Sept. 9th of 2010 respectively.
- Traditional art items (specifically glass bead necklaces from Asamang and Kente cloth from the village of Bonwire) I purchased in Ghana will be used by the ART 386: Art of Africa class this semester (Fall 2010). Students in this art class, under the direction of Dr. Billie Follensbee, will be studying the art objects and putting together a spring exhibit showcasing their findings. The objects I brought back will be studied and the students will also have access to my photos and video taken during my time in Ghana. Other African art from Drury Univeristy’s Stoneman and Davis African Art Collections will also be part of the display My department’s exhibit area at MSU’s Duane G. Meyer Library will host the exhibit in the spring of 2011.
- I will be investigating the possibility of returning to Ghana to teach a short-term seminar on the history of the book and the development of libraries over time (LIS 502: History of the Book and Libraries). This will be arranged with Dr. Emmanuel Adjei of the Dept. of Information Studies at the University of Ghana, East Legon.
- I have started to revise my LIS 502: History of the Book and Libraries course syllabus to include a class period on libraries and library services in developing countries. The course will be taught again in the spring of 2011. A significant component of this change involves informing students of my seminar experience in Ghana I will share with them some of the photos and videos from seminar programs and have students investigate scholarly articles on the state of library development in Ghana and other developing countries.
- I have volunteered to assist the International Programs Office in their efforts to encourage an exchange program with Ghana and on August 26th I took one of our Ghanaian MSU students to his first minor league baseball game (Springfield Cardinals). I also plan to meet with and assist MSU’s African student organization, African Students United4.
- I will investigate the possibility of a digitization grant for the University of Ghana’s Library special collections and rare books department. Prior to submitting a major grant, I would most likely have to conduct a survey of the library’s holdings and assess the need for a major project grant or pilot project. Possible agencies to approach would include the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme5, internal research grants from Missouri State University, or the Fulbright Specialist Program.
1. http://www.webdubois-gh.org/ Accessed August 4, 2010.
2. http://www.ug.edu.gh/index1.php?linkid=190 Accessed August 4, 2010.
3. http://thelibrary.org/staff/libewire/080610.cfm Accessed August 20, 2010.
4. http://organizations.missouristate.edu/asu/default.htm Accessed August 30, 2010.
5. http://www.bl.uk/about/policies/endangeredarch/homepage.html Accessed August 31, 2010.
Jordan and Jerusalem: Middle East Conflict and Cooperation
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Quinebaug Valley Community College
The Jordan and Jerusalem seminar was a wonderful opportunity for me to consider the issue of conflict and cooperation in the Middle East, which is the source of much of the unrest in the world today. My exposure to scholars, activists, and politicians in Jordan has given me materials to incorporate into my International Relations course for the fall. For example, I am able to update materials on the politics of water in the Middle East. I am also re-writing my International Relations module on “the non-western world” to include a detailed look at current Israeli/Palestinian relations. I will be emphasizing the 1994 Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan that we discussed during the conference, environmental cooperation through Friends of the Earth Middle East, and my own personal observations of co-existence.
I am also working on a campus-wide theme of “displacement” for the semester which will center on the issues of land and access to resources, traditions, and culture. I hope to start the semester with a reproduction refugee camp that students will research and build here on campus. This will spark discussion of what it means to be displaced. I am already in contact with potential speakers on this issue too.
My history classes will benefit from my CIEE conference as well. In my Western Civilization class I will update my lecture on the importance of Jerusalem for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. My own photographs and observations from my visit to the city will supplement my other materials. In particular I will use information from Dan Rossing, from the Center for Jewish Christian Dialogue who was our excellent tour guide from our visit to Jerusalem.
Ghana: Challenges of a Developing Nation
Janice Sumler-Edmond, Ph.D.
Professor of History
For twelve days in June 2010, I participated in an exciting, memorable, and very informative seminar in Ghana. This seminar, entitled “Ghana: Challenges of a Developing Nation,” exceeded my expectations and inspired me to find ways for others to share the same African experience. I will continue to infuse my existing college history courses with information I acquired about Ghana, and I also plan to create a new university course on Ghana. The course will be an historical review and contemporary analysis of Ghanaian society and culture. Moreover, I am also committed to identifying funding so that faculty, students, and staff at my University can enjoy travel, study, and research opportunities in Ghana.
The seminar’s organization and daily agenda ideally suited University professors like me. I was very pleased to join seven other professors from across the USA. Inquisitive, seekers of knowledge, and open to new ideas and concepts, our seminar participants made up a congenial and helpful traveling group. Hotel accommodations and the dining facilities at the Protea Hotel were comfortable. The friendly and helpful hotel staff made my stay enjoyable.
The vast majority of our seminar days began with an informative lecture delivered by a top-notch professor from the University of Ghana. The professors met with us in the comfortable classrooms of the Aya Center. The lectures were superb. We learned about such topics as Globalization and the Ghanaian Economy from Dr. Kwesi Jonah, and Professor Akosua Darkwash discussed The Role of Ghanaian Women in National Development. Most enjoyable were the question and answer sessions immediately following each lecture. Each Ghanaian professor demonstrated his or her expertise in their respective academic fields. From the lectures, I gained a wealth of knowledge, and I plan to use that information both in my existing courses and in the course that I plan to develop on Ghana.
Field trips, both within the city and to out-of-town locales, were well planned and very memorable. Again, the amount of knowledge that I gained from the various field trips added to my understanding of the Ghanaian people and their society. One afternoon, we traveled to a section of Accra to meet with the director and staff members of the WISE Center, Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment. The group has branches throughout Accra and a few in other parts of Ghana. Their goal is to assist women who are victims of domestic violence. The dedication and commitment of the WISE staff impressed our seminar group. We were informed about their substantial impact on the Ghanaian society. From our observation, WISE is doing great work in that country.
An afternoon tour of Gamashie, an impoverished community in the heart of Accra, was an unforgettable experience for me. Tiny one-room houses lined alley-ways that served as the community’s streets. Residents greeted us warmly and were open to conversation. The people of Gamashie live in poverty by American standards, but they have not given up hope for a brighter future. Family members band together and pool their resources. Young people search for jobs. Luckily, outreach groups, like CENCOSAD and others are hard at work with micro enterprise projects, housing upgrades, and environmental sanitation initiatives to improve the lives of people living in Gamashie and other impoverished areas in and around Accra. I believe it is very important for Americans to visit Ghana. I want them to see places like Gamashie as well as the middle and upper economic-class neighborhoods in Accra. One of my post-seminar projects is to identify funding so that members of my University community will be able to participate in a Ghanaian seminar.
I was delighted when our seminar group toured Accra one afternoon and visited Kwame Nkrumah’s burial site and museum. As a historian myself, I very much appreciated the care with which the curators displayed the various exhibits that document the life of a great leader. The museum, Nkrumah’s dignified and imposing statute, and the museum grounds provided evidence of Nkrumah’s positive impact on his homeland.
After an amazing seminar in Ghana, I am looking forward to incorporating much of the knowledge I gained into my existing history courses. Further, during the academic year, I plan to create and then seek administrative approval to teach a new course on Ghanaian History and Culture. Lastly, I have already begun discussions with the president of our University. He is encouraging me to seek grant funding to help finance travel to Ghana for other members of our University community. I had a wonderful time in Ghana, and I would like others to enjoy the warmth of the Ghanaian people and to learn about the vibrancy of their society and culture.
Religious Diversity in France: Jews and Muslims, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
Marianne Robins, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History
I knew this seminar would be good for me. Yet I did not expect all the benefits I gained from it. I will be selective in my comments because I could focus on a whole variety of details that are indeed “gains”, but may not fit the more academic goals of this report.
Simply going to France, engaging in discussion with experts in the field, both academics and advocates, renewed my understanding of the issue, of its complexity and necessary contextualization. Although I was familiar with some of the historical literature in the field, the quality of the speakers and the participation of scholars from fields other than mine (political scientists in particular) added considerably to my knowledge. Social workers and advocates brought a day to day engagement that illustrated and problematized the issues –for instance by pointing out the divisions of Islam in France and the difficulty of having the community speak with one voice.
Being engaged in discussions with colleagues who care about the same issues and bring different disciplinary lenses to it was energizing. I came out with a long list of films to see and use for class, with references for readings coupled with insights on how well they actually work in the classroom. Some discussions had little to do with the topic and yet nourished me as a teacher and scholar working in a small liberal arts school. I found myself engaged in a variety of discussions about the value of a liberal arts education, particular approaches to the history of the body or student independence in off-campus programs. I was struck by the commitment and quality of many of the participants who were clearly engaged in the life of the mind, as well as deeply caring for their students.
The quality of the organization, leadership and support inspired me. The team who led the seminar was top quality. They brought very different and complimentary personalities, but all of them knew both how to engage us, and how to help us navigate the important questions. They were attentive to our needs without being patronizing and offered a model of grace and effectiveness that I only hope to be able to replicate.
As a scholar engaged in the study of the rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, I found myself jotting down thoughts and references throughout the seminar. While the seminar was not directly related to my research, conversations and reflections occurred on a daily basis that helped me further my own thinking on particular issues – most clearly at the Mémorial de la Shoah, where the main speaker was very familiar with my questions, but also in other conversations.
How this will influence my activities once I return to campus:
The French seminar will have a direct influence on my activities on campus, this semester, and next semester during an off-campus program I will co-lead in France and the Middle East.
On campus, I will be using some of the readings presented in the seminar for an orientation class to our semester program in the Mediterranean. Conversations with the director of the seminar lead me to assign another set of readings on cross-cultural misunderstandings between French and Americans. I will also use some exercises my colleagues suggested in this class.
This semester, I will lead a campus discussion of the movie The Class, which deals with the challenges of teaching in a multicultural setting given the French traditions of schooling –among other things. Although Islam and Judaism are not at the center of the movie, many discussions we had in the course of the seminar dealt in one way or another with multiculturalism (a word that is not commonly used in French), and the seminar provided wonderful material and context to organize an all campus discussion.
I will also renew some of my lectures on globalization in my World history class, by including more specific illustrations of hybridity and adding to the depiction of the Muslim Diaspora. Although this will take a bit more time, I am hoping to move toward a more global approach in one of my upper-division offerings on ritual and spirituality –this is a direct consequence of conversations I had during the seminar, in particular with the Director of the CIEE program.
The seminar also has invaluable impact on my organizing of our Spring semester program in the Middle East. I included a good number of sights (le mémorial de la Shoah, la grande mosquée de Paris, l’Institut du Monde arabe) in our program. I will also assign more specialized readings on Islam in France to our students. I established contacts with speakers who can dialogue with our students, both in Paris and in Montpellier. I gathered very specific ideas from colleagues on more effective ways to help students process their experience as they travel abroad.
I am hoping that this experience will lead to a more long-term off-campus program that centers on the questions of marginality within cultures (be it religious, social or any other form of marginality).
Spain and Morocco: Exploring the Coexistence and Challenges of Neighboring Cultures
Tenured Faculty in Business and Technology
Fresno City College
The Spain and Morocco seminar heightened my sensitivity to international and immigrant students who attend Fresno City College. Not only will I be more sensitive to the issues related to language, culture, and religious diversity that routinely emerge, but I will also work to communicate value for these differences, particularly in the Job Search and Workplace Skills class where students seek to recognize skills and background knowledge they can bring to their local job market.
The Job Search class is the one I referenced in my original application for Ping funding as a class whose textbook recently eliminated the chapter on diversity. I am in the process of creating a new module to maintain—in spite of changes to the primary text—a focus on the areas of diversity, sensitivity to international issues, and cross-cultural relationships. The seminar lecture given by Spanish scholar Marcos Crespo entitled, “Spanish Anthropological Reflections on Morocco: between tradition and modernity” will provide a thematic basis for the module. In fact, Crespo’s lecture might have been titled, “Becoming a Cultural Anthropologist,” a proficiency I hope my students would strive to develop as they strengthen their job search and workplace skills
Secondly, I intend to pursue partnerships between FCC students and the women’s cooperative in Morocco that produces argan oil: Cooperative Amanar. I was particularly struck, during the Morocco portion of the seminar, by the manner in which vulnerable and disempowered people in Moroccan society are able to achieve success through community-oriented endeavors. For example, divorced and widowed women in that culture have few options for gainful employment. Not only do they no longer have spouses to advocate for them, they have few options for remarriage. Without a spouse/advocate, these women are not generally able to find jobs to support their children in Moroccan society. Because I am a single mother (widow), I feel a tenderness toward their plight.
Our group spent time at Cooperative Amanar observing single mothers who pooled their resources to produce argan oil. The women sell the processed oil and share the profits among their community. This co-op inspired me to begin making contacts in the United States to assist their efforts, and perhaps to encourage some of FCC’s entrepreneurship students to take on an importing project with the co-op women. I have already made a local contact who is interested in selling argan products in her beauty salon, and I intend to pursue several of my colleagues who teach entrepreneurship courses about this enterprise as a potential student project.
Another example of cooperative business was demonstrated for our IFDS at a remote farming community in the hills outside Chefchaouen. The farmers we met received little support from the government to produce their products (honey, olives, oil, nuts), but were able to secure quality roads, efficient production equipment, improved water supplies, and considerable profits by forming collaborative ventures and sharing resources. Their model for business is making a tremendous positive difference in the lives of the families in their communities. Even the non-business people (women) have begun to use community resources—ovens—to improve the quality of their lives and interactions with others. I hope to incorporate stories from the adventures of this site visit into the business classes I teach.
Third, I will continue to promote international faculty development on my campus with fervor. I have already made a formal presentation (August 13, 2010) to Fresno City College’s teaching faculty and administrative staff describing not only my personal experience in Spain and Morocco, but also lauding CIEE in general. I have promoted the website, have collaborated with the international studies and grant writing offices to verify availability of funds, and have begun communicating with a number of interested colleagues who may potentially travel with CIEE or another international organization for professional development in coming months.
In addition, I have met with and/or carried on email conversations with numerous faculty, both within and outside my division about how to internationalize our curriculum. One of my co-workers recently returned from a trip to Southeast Asia, and he and I have begun talking about how to use our experiences to connect with students who have immigrated to the United States from the regions we visited last summer.
I continue to be enthusiastic about my participation with CIEE in both the 2009 IFDS to Peru as well as the more recent 2010 IFDS to Spain and Morocco. Doubtless, my colleagues will hear stories of the group’s adventures and will receive invitations to join me in future learning experiences.
Spain and Morocco: Exploring the Coexistence and Challenges of Neighboring Cultures
Stephen Knadler, Ph.D.
Professor of English
From May 24th to June 4th I participated in the CIEE International Faculty Development Seminar in Spain and Morocco. Over the course of the seminar we read, discussed and examined through on-site visits several key themes relevant to my teaching and scholarship: first, we looked at the historical revisionary work on Al-Andalus and the coexistence of Jewish, Christian and Muslim cultures in Cordoba and Southern Spain before the “Reconquista”; we investigated the economic, political, legal, and cultural issues surrounding immigration from Northern and Sub-Sahara Africa into Spain (and through this portal of entry often other parts of the EU); we explored the Islamic and Northern African Arab legacy in Spanish culture; we studied the conflict between tradition and “Western” individuality and modernity in a rapidly shifting Moroccan society; and we examined the ongoing relation of Morocco with various European communities in the arts, in politics, economics and in environmental sustainability.Many of these focused topics will have a significant impact on my teaching, research and contributions to the campus-wide programs here at Spelman College.
One key objective I stated in my original application to participate in the CIEE IFDS seminar was curricular development. I thought the Spain Morocco seminar on “Neighboring Cultures” would enhance a current course I was teaching on U.S. Latino/a Literature and Culture and would help in the design of a new course on “Afro-Asian” encounters. In my existing seminar on U.S. Latino/a Literature and Culture I focus heavily on an African genealogy and influence within many hemispheric Latino cultures in order to raise questions about the “whiteness” and “European-ness” of these Spanish-speaking communities, particularly in the U.S. By incorporating the material on Al-Andalus that I acquired in the CIEE FDS, I will be able to give a longer historical view of these issues. The immigrant narratives that I heard and read will also allow me to introduce a comparative approach to this thematic unit of the Latino Seminar. By juxtaposing the different national responses to immigration, I will better prompt my students to probe the contentious political and cultural debates over cross-border migration and immigration that are not unique to the U.S.
My experience in Morocco will also be particularly fruitful in my design of a new course on Afro-Asian encounters. As part of this new interdisciplinary course that I will teach, I plan to have a module on African American relations to the Islamic world, from nineteenth-century orientalist perspectives about Arabs to current tensions between African American Muslims and more recent Islamic immigrants. Designing this course has required that I retrain myself as a scholar since I had little previous research experience in Islamic history, beliefs, and cultural practices. Being in Morocco, actually visiting a mosque, and seeing the gender relations between Muslim men and women in the cafés or the medinas (marketplaces) has significantly added to my body of knowledge on the sociological, political and theological issues within Islamic society and in nuanced ways that I could not have obtained simply by reading. While I was in Rabat, to take another example, I observed a street protest over the Israeli blockade of relief freights to Gaza (which was happening at the time). Such an unplanned eyewitnessing of history in the making allowed me to gain insights that only a participant observer (to borrow a phrase from anthropology) could have gained into complex political debates.
In addition to enhancing the knowledge I will bring and the approaches I will use in my individual class, the CIEE IFDS seminar will also help my work on various college communities and campus-wide initiatives. Currently I am a member of the First-Year Experience steering committee, and this year the theme will be “Civility in a Global Society.” As part of the activities designed for the First-Year Experience, students will think about cultural differences in understanding civility, and about intercultural communication in relation to talking (and listening) across borders. The information that I acquired in the seminar—as well as the pictures and other artifacts I obtained—will help me better design lesson plans. It is often the students’ lack of knowledge about and prejudices toward the Arab world that presents some of the biggest challenges to global citizenship.
The College’s QEP (or Quality Enhancement Project) for SACS accreditation is also the internationalization of the curriculum. The college has committed itself to ensuring an international experience for all students, though that experience will not always entail study or travel abroad. The knowledge and activities I will be able to design for my first-year experience classes will help the College realize its goals. I am also a member of the College Study Abroad committee, and the national trend has been increasingly for students to choose to spend a semester or “mini-mester” in an Arab country in Northern Africa or the Middle East. My experience in Morocco will help me better advise students who are considering these choices.
A second key goal of my participating in the CIEE IFDS in Spain Morocco was to enhance my research. My recent research has focused on a need to rethink African diasporic and African American migrations, cross-cultural exchanges and cross-ethnic and racial encounters outside a dominant Black Atlantic or transatlantic paradigm. Over the summer I was revising a forthcoming article to be published in Modern Language Quarterly examining the nineteenth-century repatriation (or Back to Africa) movement in relation to a transcontinental Islamic diaspora, or spread of Northern Islamic Arab culture into West Africa. The CIEE IFDS seminar helped me realize I had oversimplified my argument about Black Atlantic writers’ response to West Africa as a contact zone between Arab and “native” Africans because I had not adequately accounted for the ethnic conflicts between Arabs and the Berber minority in North Africa. As I research more an African American literary response to the Islamic world, the insights of my trip will be invaluable.
Overall, I found the CIEE IFDS in Spain and Morocco both a productive and enjoyable experience. The seminar coordinators Oscar Ceballos and the rest of the staff were warm, gracious, well-organized, and efficient hosts. As a literature professor who believes strongly in the power of storytelling (or qualitative research), I found the interaction with immigrant communities in Seville, women forming cooperatives in Rabat, and community elders in Chefchaouen (to name only some of the personal encounters) all offered insights into the everyday reality of the broad issues of the seminar (immigration or the gender dynamics in the Arab world) that I would never have gotten just by reading books. I may not be able to tie these pieces of conversations to specific learning outcomes, but in the end, I know that they are the memories that will be most transformative of my teaching, scholarship and campus work.
Religion, Ecology, and Identity in Tibet
Mindy Walker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
My time in China and Tibet taught me to experience this foreign and unfamiliar landscape as a pilgrim rather than a tourist. Such an approach required a major shift in mindset and personal philosophy, as I realized that I was seeing Tibet with a Beginner’s Mind. A colleague and fellow traveler on this adventure who is well-versed in Chinese and Tibetan studies introduced me to this term, and explained that in Buddhism, a Beginner’s Mind is a naïve one, a mind that is effectively empty and open to all possibilities. I felt that I had read enough to know in a vague sense what to expect but, like a Beginner, was not “tainted” by the knowledge of an expert. I also began to realize that I had long been imagining Tibet through a Western filter and that I was in fact not impervious to the influence of Orientalism in the media and the arts. In many respects, my imagined Tibet and the realized Tibet were one in the same. They were both spectacular, aesthetically unbelievable, and incredibly spiritual. As I anticipated, much of what we seek in our own lives can be found in Tibet. However, I came to reprogram my mind and realize that this myth, this pure land that we imagined Tibet to be was itself not immune to desecration. We watched consecration in fact bleed into desecration as we saw impoverished Tibetan people in a depauperate landscape selling their crafts to Han Chinese tourists on the banks of their sacred lakes and rivers rather than making pilgrimages to these blessed places. I thought of the spirits in these mountains and lakes and the ancient bond between the Tibetan people and the earth, and I wondered how it had come to this. I also vowed to share this experience, as well as what I had learned from my American colleagues and the Chinese scholars in Beijing, with my colleagues and students at my home university. I recently gave a presentation about my CIEE IFDS experience to more than 20 members of our faculty and administration in a Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning session. I hung prayer flags, draped our Associate Dean in a kahta (prayer shawl), served traditional food, and asked my colleagues to picture their imagined Tibets. I then told them of both my imagined and my realized Tibets and showed them photos taken by members of my IFDS group, allowing their imagined Tibets to either be sustained or altered through the course of the talk. I plan to share my experience with my students, particularly in the spring when I teach Evolution, given the strong parallels between Tibetan buddhism’s emphasis on ecological interdependence & interrelatedness and the process of organic evolution.
Human Rights in Thailand: Military Coups, Social Movements, and Rule of Law
Sandra Sims Patterson, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Participation in the CIEE seminar on Human Rights in Thailand was one of the most rewarding and moving experiences of my professional career. It was one that expanded my knowledge base of the meaning of military coups, social movements and the rule of law in Thailand, Southeast Asia and in other countries, and challenged me to reexamine my own cultural values and assumptions about human nature in diverse societies. The seminar provided the opportunity to examine diverse viewpoints and experiences about human rights issues from former senators, members of the parliament, scholars, public officials, NGO representatives, government officials and local dwellers in various communities in Northeast Thailand.
The Faculty Leader and Coordinator provided excellent instruction for this seminar. They challenged participants to explore various perspectives at a deeper level and shared their expertise and experiences in studying these issues. Faculty participants were also diverse in academic disciplines and college/university environments. The unique and collective experiences shared by seminar participants in the sessions with speakers and local villagers added another layer of understanding to these issues. Participants came to learn, but they were equally eager to give back and make recommendations and suggestions to address human rights issues in Thailand. We also shared our collective disappointments in not being able to immediately impact change. For example, some villagers seemed to expect that we would be a voice for them at a higher level.
Overall, the learning process in this CIEE seminar was informative and engaging, and allowed for conversations to continue during our travels to different sites and evening gatherings. We exchanged ideas and discussed individual and collaborative teaching and research opportunities about globalization and human rights issues. I expect that these discussions will extend far beyond our participation in this seminar.
Jordan: Middle Eastern Women: Tradition, Development and Change
Lanethea Mathews-Gardner, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Political Science
My experiences in Jordan have provided a critical backdrop for a new course that I am developing, Gender & Globalization, scheduled to be offered for the first time in during the 2011-2012 academic year. In addition, my experiences have encouraged me to further consider the extent to which the forms, identities, and strategies of women’s organizations are shaped by global political and institutional developments—a question that has formed a core of my academic research agenda for several years. I have begun to integrate some of what I learned about women’s organizing in Jordan in my ongoing research about the internationalization of female citizenship after World War II, and I have developed a component of my regularly offered course on Gender & Politics that will address these concerns when I teach the class again in the Spring of 2011. Finally, I have already put my experiences to good use on the Muhlenberg campus by simply spreading enthusiasm for travel to the Middle East among my colleagues and students. I plan to continue serving as an informal “advocate” for international study in Jordan! Indeed, I was recently asked to speak to the Feminist Collective, a Muhlenberg College student organization, about my experiences in Jordan. I also plan to provide a brief slide show to a major honors program on campus in the coming weeks.
On a more personal level, my trip to Jordan was a transformative experience in intercultural learning and understanding. The politics of the Middle East, of course, loom large as an important backdrop to considering not only the position and status of women, but indeed of democratization and globalization more generally. Simply reading the Jordan Times, the major English language newspaper in Jordan, quickly revealed the extent to which major Western media outlets portray the politics of the Middle East in particular ways rather than others. Also of particular interest to me was the ways in which women in Jordan were portrayed in Jordanian media. These “personal discoveries” continue to influence the ways in which I approach conversations with my colleagues and students here at Muhlenberg, the ways in which I cautiously continue to understand Western accounts of Arab-Israeli conflict, the ways in which I attempt to frame questions about the status of women in the Middle East, and the ways in which I structure my thinking about the role of gender in international development and political change.
An additional insight I gained from my participation in the seminar is the extent to which the women’s movement in Jordan is both similar and quite different from other women’s movements across the globe. Shared goals of self-determination, gender equality, political, economic, social rights—these define much of what is common in women’s struggles worldwide. Although the social, economic, cultural, political, and religious contexts vary tremendously, I think that I speak for many members of my seminar group in saying that we were struck by the easy feelings of solidarity we shared with the women activists, elected officials, artists, professors, business leaders, and cultural entrepreneurs that we interacted with during our stay.
Ghana: Challenges of a Developing Nation
Terrolyn Carter, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Sociology
North Carolina A&T University
My participation in the Ghana seminar was an extremely informative, exciting, and intensive learning experience. From the lectures lead by University of Ghana faculty members to the guided tours and activities; this seminar was the most rare, engaging, and eye-opening, professional development experience I’ve ever had. Faculty lectures did not only provide facts and figures about the country, but they provided a personal perspective and reflection on issues and events that continues to shape the political, economic, and social atmosphere of Ghana. These lectures were further enhanced by guided tours of museums, slave castles, urban neighborhoods, and rural villages. As a result of my participation in the seminar, I plan to propose course curriculum that integrates global learning, lead a faculty development brown bag session on IFDS, and develop an undergraduate study abroad course. My efforts to achieve these goals are well underway after sharing, briefly, my IFDS experience at a faculty departmental meeting.
Campus-Wide Faculty Brown Bag Seminar
I will be leading a campus-wide faculty brown bag session on my Ghana IFDS experience this November. This session will facilitate a small forum to discuss methods of internationalizing their course curricula and the possible development and collaboration of student study abroad experiences. Another purpose of this seminar session is to share with faculty how I am utilizing my IFDS experience to redesign my population studies course.
Ghana will be used as a case study for my population studies course (Spring 2011) in which students will learn about the major demographic processes—fertility, mortality, and migration—of the country. Because I now know a great deal more about Ghana, I can create a unique learning experience for students beyond what books, articles, or internet sites can offer about Ghana’s political, social, and economic development. I believe students learn best when textbook material is supplemented by instructors’ knowledge and personal encounters with the subject matter—the IFDS has undoubtedly provided me with this exceptional teaching tool.
Short-Term Study Abroad Experience
I am probably most excited about developing a study abroad course that will encourage both faculty and student participation in research and civic engagement in Ghana. I have three faculty members (one is Ghanaian) that are excited to help develop and coordinate a program for minority undergraduate students. We will be working with our institution’s Office of International Programs and colleagues at the University of Ghana-Accra to create a short-term study abroad program that integrates course material, research methodology, and civic engagement. Our goal is to provide an experiential learning initiative that will broaden student opportunities for academic and professional development, while at the same time, contribute to positive social and economic change in a Ghanaian rural community.
Since traveling to Ghana and participating in CIEE’s International Faculty Development Seminar, my perspective on teaching and student learning has changed in a way that I think more concretely and globally about my course material. I want to have conversations with students about how women contribute to the national development in Ghana, or that 40% of Ghanaian youth aged 18 to 35 are unemployed, or though most African societies are identified as patriarchal, some regions of Ghana are matriarchal. There’s so much that I learned through my participation in CIEE IFDS program that I couldn’t get elsewhere, not at this level and short period. The Ghana IFDS experience is just the beginning.