The Colgate Scene
March 2002

On top of the world
Colgate's international focus continues, both on and off campus

Heidi Martindill '02 talks with students at recess during a Japan Study Group visit to Takenosato Elementary School in Kyoto.

It's early January, and although the winter break is only half over, the Office of Off-Campus Study and International Programs is humming. With 145 students and accompanying faculty members at various stages of preparation and departure for locations around the globe, director Ken Lewandoski and his staff are juggling scores of details, answering last-minute passport questions and making sure everything's in place for Colgate's ten spring study groups. Another 131 students will be off campus on non-Colgate and affiliated programs, and at the end of the semester, another 45 will go on extended study trips linked to specific courses.

"Colgate is very much moving forward in its international efforts," said Lewandoski, by way of explaining that the events of Sept. 11 have not put a damper on the college's many programs and initiatives that focus (and operate) on the world stage.

Only a handful of students who originally planned to study abroad this spring pulled out citing Sept. 11 as the reason for not going. And looking to next academic year, while there appears to be a modest downturn in interest, Lewandoski noted that there doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to the smaller number of applicants for certain study groups.

"We don't know why some of the pools are smaller," he said. "It may be a result of trepidation about traveling on international air flights, or that parents would prefer their sons or daughters stay closer to home." The struggling economy may also be a factor. It's possible, too, that the year might just be an anomaly.

Nevertheless, many of the applicant pools were just as healthy as in previous years, and all programs are continuing, supported by increased vigilance.

"Paramount in all of our decisions is the safety of our students," said Lewandoski. A great deal of communication, research and assessment went into determining that there was no reason to pull back on programs abroad and that in reality, just the opposite is true.

The Australia Study Group van got hung up taking students to Fitzroy Falls National Park for a discussion of environmental management and community relations with park rangers.

"The immediate impulse in a time of tragedy is to hunker down and isolate oneself," remarked Lewandoski, "but the next part is that Sept. 11 points up the absolute necessity of being aware of world events, of understanding cultural differences, communications networks, world economies, globalization, immigration and emigration. In fact, Sept. 11 confirms the importance of what we've been doing with our study groups for years, and the way we've been doing it."

A huge advantage is Colgate's faculty-led group approach, which is not a common practice. "Having our own director on site is comforting for us administratively because we have a direct source of information about local conditions," he said. "That person is also a valuable local resource for our students."

This approach also links Colgate's study groups closely to the curriculum, facilitating the integration of on- and off-campus experiences and giving students a better understanding of the places where they are studying.

"Akin to walking through a museum of art that is unfamiliar, you can go and look at the exhibits and respond to the pieces viscerally, but if you have discussed the artists or periods in class, have read about them in advance and then are taken through by an expert, that experience is going to be fuller, deeper and vastly more informed," said Lewandoski. "As Jane Pinchin said in her piece in The Christian Science Monitor on November 20, 2001, it becomes more and more important for us as educators to provide our students with a well-structured academic experience that's international." The college's three distinct programs in London, for English, economics and history, are prime examples of the close connection between location and curriculum that characterizes all Colgate off-campus opportunities.

Professor Yufan Hao demonstrates a typical spinning machine used by communist revolution leaders to make their own clothes, on a China Study Group field trip to the remote village of Yanan. During a field trip to Extremadura, Spain, Professor Carmen de la Guardia walked Madrid Study Group members among the medieval walls of Cáceres.

New initiatives

Colgate's international focus has a long history both within the curriculum and on campus, and the college has been successful in gaining significant outside funding in support of its current initiatives. The goal is to give students a clearer lens through which to view the world and better tools with which to participate in it.

For example, the college is exploring ways to form more reciprocal ties with its host institutions at existing study group sites. "I'm being a bit facetious," said Lewandoski, "but if they're the host, then that makes us a sort of parasite. We're trying to move to a model that is more of a partnership."

A four-year grant of $283,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, received last May, will fund new models that build on, but do not replace, Colgate's faculty-led study groups approach, including new forms of faculty-student research and information literacy programs as well as student and faculty exchanges.

"We're thinking about greater mobility among our faculty and students," said Lewandoski. A student who comes back from the Australia study group fired up about her studies of the country's policies regarding its aboriginal population might be funded to return there for work on an honors thesis through a directed student exchange. Colgate could then benefit from the perspective of an Australian student coming here to compare policies regarding Madison and Oneida County Indian land claims.

Kyle Chandler '03, Alida Pitcher-Murray, Lorraine Coulter '03 and Brendon Biddle '03 at the University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg, on the Core 190 extended study trip to South Africa

Also planned through the Mellon grant are ways for Colgate students to work collaboratively with students from an international partner school on a subject of mutual interest to faculty at both institutions, using distributed learning technologies such as teleconferencing, web courseware, or streaming video or audio.

"Not only does that us allow us a greater perspective on whatever subject is being studied -- whether it's acid rain in Sweden and the northeastern United States, or a historical investigation of the slave trade from West African, British, Caribbean and American perspectives," Lewandoski explained, "but this type of project-based programming using new technologies also makes us a team with an international institution and will be of mutual benefit to both."

Through six additional extended study programs and other opportunities for faculty-student research, faculty members will engage students in the study of Asia to new areas of the curriculum and to new locations. This May a group of 18 students will participate in a new extended study course to Beijing to examine health systems, as part of the Distinction in the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum program. Next May, the education department will take another group of students to Hong Kong to study education systems. A $740,000 grant from the Freeman Foundation supports this endeavor, as well as two faculty development trips -- one designed specifically for Asian studies faculty and another for faculty in other disciplines who may benefit from experiences in Asia. Providing teachers with greater access to international resources helps them bring richer perspectives into the classroom.

The creative idea of adapting the model of course-related extended study trips to one for faculty development yielded a one-year grant from the private agency that funded Colgate's original extended study initiative. This grant will allow for two trips in May for professors who teach core courses. Drew Keller, associate professor of the classics, will tailor his Material Culture of Roman Pompeii extended study course for 15 faculty members who teach Western Traditions. The program will provide them with experience that will enhance the teaching of the Latin portion of the syllabus. Faculty members who teach The Challenge of Modernity will participate in an extended study to New York City, to focus particularly on the course's nontextual elements, such as the urban environment and painting, music and sculpture. That grant would also permit faculty interested in developing extended study courses to better prepare by accompanying an existing program that has an experienced director.

Building and improving

"We're really trying to build on the good stuff we've been doing for 30-plus years, and we're not alone in this regard," said Lewandoski, who mentioned the government's planned budget increases for international educational endeavors such as the Fulbright-Hayes fellowship program. "Since Sept. 11, I don't think anybody, the federal government included, is retreating from the recognition that we need to have a populace who are aware of foreign cultures, foreign languages and the interconnectedness of the world. Those are the things that we've been doing a good job with and hope to be doing better."

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