EXL 594: Experiential Learning Travel Seminars
As a passionate advocate of faculty-led study abroad learning, I have co-led more than eleven such
interdisciplinary Experiential Learning (EL) seminars with Allegheny College colleagues from various departments (Psychology, Geology, Art, Chemistry, Theater, and Neurobiology).
The seminars to different regions in India, East and South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Japan have sought to introduce students to non-western perspectives and experiences of neoliberal globalization. The three-week summer EL study abroad seminars have addressed topics such as:
the exploration of race relations and the experiment with peace and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa,
environmental sustainability challenges in Kenya and corporate interventions,
the re-definition of democracy and secularism in postcolonial India, following the rise of neoliberal Hindutva (Hindu fundamentalist neo-nationalism),
the recovery of Sri Lanka from decades of civil insurgency,
the study of water ecology and eco-tourism in southern India, and
the postmodern hybridity of a reluctantly globalizing Japan.
Most recently, in the summer of 2019, my colleague Professor Beth Watkins (Theater) and I co-led an El seminar to India. Here's a writeup on it from Athena magazine. My next EL collaboration in 2021 will be with Associate Professor Dr. Lauren French (Biology/Neuroscience). Together, we will take Allegheny students from different fields of study (communication, economics, art, neurobiology, and global health) to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, to study the Mekong Delta in our seminar on "Wars and Waterways."
ABOUT THE ALLEGHENY COLLEGE SUMMER EL SEMINARS:
At Allegheny College, the summer EXL 594 Experiential Learning (EL) travel seminars (for 2-4 credits) typically include travel in the U.S. or abroad, and incorporate a range of on-site explorations, intercultural activities, and lectures/workshops by local experts, that complement or illustrate the seminar topic. The seminars encourage students to integrate their intercultural and experiential learning with theory and research from their fields.
Students are exposed to diverse ideas, peoples, cultures, perspectives, and ways of life. The EXL 594
courses are designed and team-taught by Allegheny faculty and/or staff educators. Individual EL Seminars are reviewed by the Study Away and Campus Internationalization Committee and approved by the Curriculum Committee. For summer EL seminars, there is intensive academic preparation on the seminar topic during the Spring semester prior to travel. Graded assignments include travel journals, reflective blogs and papers, supervised research or community projects in the host culture, and re-entry presentations to public audiences.
The 2018 Summer Japan Experiential Learning (EL) Seminar to Japan (video above) co-led by Associate Prof. Darren Miller (Art) and myself, introduced students to how centuries-old traditions have shaped the consciousness of contemporary Japan.
We visited traditional gardens, shrines, and palaces. Then, we explored different museums -- watching robots play music at the Toyota Museum, before traveling to a village where we saw how feminine entrepreneurship (making life-sized dolls) can produce economic and social feminist empowerment. The art island of Naoshima was a lesson in how small towns can collaborate with industry houses to re-create themselves creatively and profitably.
We learned how to make our own fake food (shokuhin sampuru), took an intensive language course at Keio University in Tokyo, and discovered the importance of mascots in all aspects of Japanese life. From animal-cafes to open-air markets; from tea ceremonies and coffee houses to conveyor-belt sushi, fantastically fluffy egg sandwiches at Lawson's and the best desserts ever, Japan proved to be a gastronomic delight. Students were quick to spot links between the symbols in the historical kimonos on display in museums, and myths informing anime and video game narratives, and it all came together when we got to the modern marvel of Studio Ghibli, a wonderland producing media fantasies that enthrall contemporary generations.
However, the highlight was meeting the 103-year old survivor of the Hiroshima bombings, who you see towards the end of the video above. She insisted on meeting each member of the group individually, saying our names aloud and blessing us. After a day spent re-visiting the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, that encounter taught us more about peace and reconciliation than any exhibit, and it left us humbled.
As Americans, though, we were also moved by the respect that the Japanese felt towards President Obama for visiting Hiroshima and apologizing for the nuclear holocausts there. His gesture of reconciliation -- an origami peace crane -- can be found in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
OUR GILMAN SCHOLARS
I have worked closely with students, guiding them through the application process for the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships awarded by the U.S. State Department to help low-income students study abroad. Here are four of my success stories: