When Emily Dickmann took 23 UW–Madison undergraduate students on an alternative spring break service learning trip to the Dominican Republic in 2008, she knew they had learned some valuable things.
“There was no room to hide behind a textbook,” says the academic adviser who took students in the Chadbourne Residential College (CRC) to teach English to orphans in the northwest region of the country. “Students learned through their actions, and through the difficult reflections and conversations they had that acknowledged their power, both as individuals and as a group, to change the world around them.”
But even Dickmann was surprised a month or so after returning when she realized the extent to which they had changed. “I noticed their emotional and mental growth as they talked about their relationships, the purpose of a college education, and the impact of service learning on their lives,” she remembers. “This was transformative learning through the act of doing.”
Last spring, due to financial constraints, CRC residents were unable to participate in what Dickmann and Caton Roberts, CRC faculty director and professor of psychology, think may be the only international alternative spring break program on campus.
For the next two years, however, the Division of International Studies Global Scholars Award* will allow up to 30 CRC residents access to that same experience, this time augmented by public health and sustainability projects in addition to teaching English. They are also developing in cooperation with the Division of International Studies a two-credit course to prepare the students for their experience. After that, the CRC administrators hope to secure external funding to continue to offer the international service learning experience.
“When the Division’s advisory board envisioned the Global Scholars Awards they were looking for ways to support UW–Madison’s internationalization in its entirety,” says Gilles Bousquet, dean of the Division of International Studies and vice provost for Globalization.
“While necessarily a broad, campus-wide effort, internationalizing curriculum and research really comes down to supporting one, unique project after another for a cumulative effect.”
A residence hall away, Jack Kloppenburg, faculty director of the new GreenHouse Residential Learning Community and professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, is busy finding ways to instill international content into their programming. Several faculty members, from German to landscape architecture to consumer science, will be involved in this burgeoning endeavor, which seeks to combine participants’ commitment to sustainability and engaged teaching and learning with an interdisciplinary, international orientation.
First on the list, Kloppenburg says, is arranging a portfolio of international learning experiences with local organizations such as Just Coffee, as well as with UW faculty. Other possible activities include a short course on organic agriculture, talks from visiting chefs on the theme of “global food, global thought,” and a “Sisters in Sustainability” initiative with Madison’s sister city Freiburg, Germany.
These are two of a handful of projects the Division of International Studies will support in the next two years with the aim of further internationalizing students’ experience at UW–Madison.
Next year, similar funding will go to two-year research projects that aim to infuse international content and perspectives into cross-disciplinary ventures.
*Projects funded under the 2010-12 award cycle are:
1. Chadbourne Residential College Alternative Spring Break: Serving Orphans in the Dominican Republic, $30,000 over two years
2. Research Abroad Opportunities for Undergrads, $30,000 over two years
3. GreenHouse Global Village Program: International Education for Citizenship and Sustainability, $30,000 over two years
4. Study Abroad Leadership Program, International Learning Community, pre-departure study abroad course $10,000 in year one
For more information, contact Division of International Studies Assistant Dean Katherine Sanders.