Dean's Scholars in Globalization: Engaging Students in International Collaboration

Dean's Scholars in Globalization: Engaging Students in International Collaboration
July 01, 2010

For rising sophomore Clara Pak, the Dean's Scholars in Globalization program was a transformative experience that took her and seven other students to three Southeast Asia countries last spring to study with their counterparts from the National University of Singapore. “We met some fantastic people along the way and learned more than we ever thought we would…I experienced things that other people my age can only dream about!”

Added Lauren Hepler, a double major in American Studies and Journalism and Mass Communication, “Traveling reinforces everything you’re learning in the classroom. Even the best lecture can’t compete with seeing what you’re studying firsthand.”

Unlike the traditional study abroad programs, the Dean's Scholars in Globalization program—a highly-competitive academic initiative offered by Columbian College to freshman and sophomore students—is a year-long cohort that combines classroom coursework with the opportunity to perform research alongside students from the National University of Singapore or the University of Chile. In addition to traveling to the host countries, participants establish a virtual relationship via teleconferences, web chats, blogs and web cams to study significant issues in a global context.

“I have to say that never in my 24 years of teaching have I had quite this kind of experience in which we fostered the development of a community of young scholars who were all working on research projects related to a single interdisciplinary theme—in this case "Media and Education in Islamic Southeast Asia," said School of Media and Public Affairs Professor Janet Steele, who led the cohort this year with Anthropology Professor Joel Kuipers.

The focus on information sharing is another unique aspect of the program. Most joint faculty-student research occurs when a faculty mentors student research or a student assists a faculty member; however, on this trip, the level of collaboration between students and faculty was much more intense.

“We had some marvelous conversations,” said Steele. “Everybody was doing the same kind of work on equal footing. Students watched us as scholars—they don’t usually get a chance see what faculty are doing when we are not teaching.”

“We were all doing individual projects, but it was also a cooperative effort,” added Journalism and Mass Communications major Andrea Vittorio. “Our teachers would help us refine our ideas and help us expand them.”

The students were on the go from the moment they arrived in Singapore, through city stops in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur, and Indonesia’s Jogjakarta and Surabaya. They worked side-by-side with their counterparts to interview scholars, students, journalists, business people, and representatives from numerous human rights organizations to research topics ranging from Facebook use in Islamic boarding schools to the nuances of modesty between men and women in Islamic society. Many of the interviews were arranged through the extensive regional contacts of both Steele and Kuipers.

“Seeing their problem rephrased through the lens of their counterparts’ point-of-view had real pedagogical value,” said Kuipers. “We were getting students to engage in questions of enduring intellectual interest by approaching them ethnographically, historically, and journalistically through firsthand experience. I think we succeeded at that in spades.”

According to Paul Duff, the Columbian College Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, the intent of the Dean’s Scholars in Globalization program is to “prepare students to be able to live and work responsibly in a globalized world.” Through the Singapore and Chile cohorts, students become active partners with their international counterparts to explore topics ranging from HIV/Aids, crime, performing and visual arts, and the tourism industry.

For more information about the Dean’s Scholars in Globalization program, contact Paul Duff at 202-994-0425.