4th Global Studies Symposium illustrates new campaign goals
With the variety of internships and community-based courses that Whitman offers on a yearly basis, it is no surprise that both the student body and administration place a high value on education through experience. Courses like Semester in the West, History and Ethnobiology of the Silk Roads, and State of the State for Washington Latinos are celebrated for drawing students outside of the classroom, and, thanks to the recently trumpeted “Now is the Time” campaign, made public in November 2011, these types of programs face a bright future.
According to its website, “Now is the Time,” which aims to raise $150 million for the school’s endowment, plans to allot $75 million of these dollars towards enhancing the school’s academic program, a primary focus of which will be increased experiential learning opportunities, as well as an expansion of the Global Studies Initiative.
“There are a lot of components to [experiential learning],” said Vice President for Development and College Relations John Bogley. “There’s community-based learning where it might be based in an academic course, and another [component] might be an internship in the summer for a student to go and work in a social services agency, [or] it might be to go and work on something that might be relevant to his or her career upon graduation . . . Our experiential learning initiative has to do with raising funds to support these community-based experiences.”
A similar level of support for these types of programs can be seen in the student body. Senior Erik Lyon, an environmental economics major who went on Semester in the West last year, emphasized the value of experiential learning.
“I think experiential learning is hugely important. A lot of times in the classroom we are really theoretical and it really helps to get on the ground to see what people are actually doing, and how they live their lives . . . you see a level of complexity that you don’t see otherwise,” he said.
Lyon, who will be returning to the program next fall as the group’s technical manager, commented on this experience’s effect on his education.
“Last semester I took Environmental and Natural Economics, and we do examples where we look at graphs on the whiteboard, and it was really great to have spent a semester actually looking at those examples in real life . . . [and] just being able to imagine what we [actually mean] when we say ‘cattle devalue the land for recreation’: I know what that means because I’ve walked through cow patties,” he said.
Like Lyon, Bogley spoke of the value of these types of experiential programs, but particularly referred to their positive effects outside of the classroom.
“One of the reasons I am the way I am is because of what happened positively to me here at Whitman, and so my community engagement is reflective of the kinds of experiences I had here, and what we’re hoping Whitman will do for each of the students who go here,” he said.
Bogley also referred to the vitality of the “Now is the Time” campaign as a whole.
“Whitman alumni, parents and friends have already given over $101 million to this college in the five of years of this campaign so far. That’s a really good number. And it’s making a difference,” he said.
Funds raised from the campaign will also foster expansion of the Global Studies Initative, responding to calls on faculty and alumni for a more internationally-focused curriculum at the college.
“I know that most of you will not specialize in the international arena, but all of you will be informed and affected by it wherever and however you engage,” said alumnus Ryan Crocker ’71 at the 2009 commencement ceremony.
“This is ultimately supportive of the mission of a liberal arts [education] . . . and that’s why a lot of donors, a lot of alums, business people, lawyers, teachers and diplomats understand those connections and that critical awareness that is necessary,” said Associate Professor of Politics and Director of the Global Studies Initiative Bruce Magnusson.
He is hopeful that the global studies program will continue to receive donor support because people understand its increasing importance.
“What the Global Studies Initiative does, among other things, is it allows students to have, integrated into their classes throughout the four years, professors presenting material that prepare them to understand the issues that come from not just the U.S.-based perspective, but a global perspective,” said Bogley.
Through this initiative, a summer program for faculty members has been put in place, guiding them through several texts which they will later reconvene to discuss.
“Whether one was in the reading group or participated in the summer seminar, the reality is that all of the faculty involved in each of the last three summers wind up taking ideas from that either year-long reading process or the seminar that they participated in at the end of the year, and think about how that should change how they teach,” said Bogley.
This type of integration is a vital component of the initiative, and also helps faculty collaborate with their curricula.
The initiative hosts an annual symposium on a specified topic, which allows students, faculty and the community to critically discuss professional works by global experts.
Members of the Whitman community have the chance to experience this annual symposium firsthand on Saturday, Feb. 25. The theme of this year’s symposium is “Places/Peripheries: Intersections of the Global and the Local.”
“Four faculty members are involved, three students will be commentating on each of the presentations; it’s great fun and it’s really interesting,” said Magnusson.
“The idea here is to give students another chance to read leading works by experts in a particular issue, analyze these experts’ papers, and then present a response to those papers in the Global Studies Symposium,” said Bogley. “It’s a fantastic academic experience for a student to actually take on a global issue.”
The Global Studies Symposium will last from 1-4 p.m. in Maxey Auditorium and is free and open to the public.