Sunday, March 15, 2009

Global-Development Training Program in the Works

Two years ago, a proposal was submitted to and rejected by the National Science Foundation's REUProgram (Research Experience for Undergraduates). The vision is not put to rest. An abbreviated proposal title is, International Community Development Research-Training. The requested support in the original proposal amounts to about $450,000 allocated over three summers including use of the Wheaton College Science Station in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The venue would host a ten-week "experience", primarily for highly-motivated natural-science undergraduates, primarily from four-year liberal arts institutions. Other disciplinary majors would be considered, if they demonstrated significant affinity for the vision. Students from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences are also given some recruitment preference.

NSF rejection was not unexpected but unfortunate. The details of the training are many and to some academics, these appear to be too applied (that is, not enough "real" research). In its current form, the research-training is only slightly revised. The biggest change now is that the concept will probably be presented to private foundations for support instead of public sources of funding. In addition to undergraduates, graduate students will be potential participants. Instead of paying participants a $4000 stipend (an impressive aspect of REUs to recruit and compensate for summer's wages lost), there will probably be much less financial aid available. However, it would be highly desirable to keep the experience from being a significant burden for the less affluent.

Learn-practice and demonstrate is the mission objective. Program scheduling follows:

PHASE 1, week 1 - lectures in cross-cultural sensitivity/communication, project/research planning, basic instruction in use of GIS technology for data collection and interpretation;

PHASE 2, weeks 2 through 9 - module instruction and project work/research (participants are in two teams) for 4x2-week blocks. The four modules include *Water-resource exploration (field and geophysical methods) and provision (well drilling and water collection); *Sanitation Systems (use of natural materials and processes for purification, containment); *Building Materials (exploration and testing of natural materials for construction in diverse regions); *Village-scale Energy Systems (focusing on solar, wind, hydrodynamic, and biofuels sources tested with battery-delivery technologies). These four components were chosen for their broad significance in global context. Note that each module does require exercise of original "research" from conception to final demonstration and critique.

PHASE 3, week 10 - The last week features reports/demonstration of module projects. Uniquely important is that participants are able to convey any critical principles and effective methods learned to others in a simplified, practical fashion. This imprints the objective of Learn-practice and demonstrate so that the program participants may embody the role of TOT, the training of trainers. Ideally, this would become a working out of 2 Timothy2:2. The Christian NGO (non-governmental organization) Lifewater International, employs the TOT principle in training trainers in the Majority World to pass on the ability to drill for groundwater.
The graduates of the ten weeks will be certified as "Apprentice Practitioners" and represent a great resource for development organizations, Christian and otherwise.

The above is offered as a further hope for GLOBAL WHEATON. Your prayers are coveted. Your comments and ideas are likewise coveted. More information is available on the details. Ask and it shall be posted.
Thanks, Jeff G.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tell Students to Go Away!

There is a lot I could say in response to the faculty development day and the call for more globalization of the curriculum at Wheaton.  For now, I will put forward just one thing: study abroad.

We are all aware, I believe, of the lack of study abroad opportunities at Wheaton.  Summer programs are important and should be supported, but they do not approach the level of immersion possible for students on 4-5 month study programs in which they are living with local families, enrolled at national universities, and possibly studying in another language.  Wheaton need not develop its own programs, but could partner with other Christian schools, such as Calvin, Westmont, and so forth, to financially support current programs in exchange for guaranteed spots.  By placing a particular number of students off campus each year, the size of the student body could actually be increased by that many students, which would more than pay for the support of the programs.

Several years ago, during a fall semester, I was told that 80 students out of 2500 were studying off campus. That included Wheaton in Chicago and HNGR students.  Anthropology students really need to have an off-campus field experience.  International Relations, foreign languages and many others would benefit.  Our students, in general, need these experiences.

Wheaton in Chicago and HNGR are outstanding programs.  HNGR has no room for growth, however, and Wheaton in Chicago is constrained as well.  Furthermore, students need more options than these two.   

This is a modest proposal to address a serious shortcoming in our curriculum in the short run.  My word to my colleagues is to educate yourselves about the opportunities that currently exist for our students (BestSemester, Houghton in Tanzania, ISDSI's semester in Thailand, Calvin's semesters in Ghana and Honduras, etc.) and begin pushing first year students to consider these early on in planning their course schedules.  I believe one of the biggest impediments to students studying abroad is a lack of awareness and a campus ethos which discourages innovative or creative thinking about curricular scheduling.  Having an advisor ask, "Have you thought about when you might do study abroad?" would go a long way towards getting larger numbers of students to put it on their mental radar early in their career.  This is one thing we can do without more funding or administrative action.  Let's get our students out there! 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Wheaton College Dept. of Geology and Environmental Science has over the last several years taken on certain characteristics of a "globalized" program. Of course, the name, geology refers to study of the earth without geographic exception. Many academic geology programs in the USA do tend to focus on our own nation. However, in spite of long-utilized field education venues in regions surrounding Illinois and in the Black Hills of South Dakota, research and service among department faculty and students at Wheaton are now international.

Locations of recent, current and anticipated faculty projects include the following.

  • Water-resource exploration and well drilling: Tanzania, Chad, and Nigeria (J. Clark)
  • Geological investigations in conjunction with archeological research: northern Sinai, Egypt and Askelon, Israel (S. Moshier)
  • Integrated sanitation and waste-water abatement: Eastern Cape Province, RSA; Land-use and water supply analysis, and geological mapping in mineral district, northern Tanzania; Community development planning, sanitation, alternate energy, stream restoration, and geological resource inventory, Kosovo (J. Greenberg)
  • Geophysical surveying and mapping of geological structures as support for groundwater exploration and well drilling, La Gonave and other areas of Haiti (J. Clark and J. Greenberg)
  • Invention and field testing of low-cost geophysical instruments for the exploration of groundwater by global NGOs (J. Clark)
  • Geological mapping and exploration for local building materials, Rwanda (J. Greenberg)
Note that the above efforts represent both basic and applied research. In most cases, the studies have been and will be conducted with faculty and Geology majors as junior research associates. In all cases, the projects are conducted in partnership cooperation with other academic groups (local and otherwise), NGOs and local community members.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jonathan Blanchard and Global Engagement

This is a terrific idea. I'm glad to see this information coming together in advance of a more formal initiative (and in a fairly "democratic" and transparent fashion, promoting horizontal networking and allowing all of us to learn from each other as we go).

I think a quote from Jonathan Blanchard is appropriate. On the occasion of his 80th birthday, he was asked why he chose to locate the College (Institute) in Wheaton. His answer: "Because Wheaton is near Chicago, the gate city between the Atlantic and the Pacific, between Western Europe and Eastern Asia."

Global engagement has been a part of the College since its founding. Implicitly, experiential education has been, as well. If Blanchard meant global engaement only in the classroom or after graduation, he could have founded the College anywhere. We need to be more intentional about weaving this thread into the fabric of the College's current identity.

The governing documents of the College state that the "stable and enduring identity" of the College are captured by its mission to build the church and improve society worldwide through excellence in programs of Christian higher education. We need to discern the intersection between the stable and enduring identity of the College and the relatively unstable and changing world.

I'm glad we'll be extending this discussion. I look forward to posting on developments in Urban Studies/Wheaton in Chicago soon. More importantly, I look forward to reading about all of the important work going on across campus (and off-campus!) and to learning about how our colleagues are thinking about global engagement and experiential education.

A Wheaton College Blog on Globilization


For recognition of Wheaton College's current and future involvement in global education, outreach and encouragement for students, faculty, staff, administration, trustees, alumni, family and friends.
The blog ought to serve as a vital prelude for the greater vision of intentionally "going into all the world".

An initial objective is to make known pertinent activities via blog entries. It is hoped that after several months online, a master listing of "THUNDER EVERYWHERE" activities will be compiled and made available. There is no doubt that the number and variety of international connections will be impressive. It is likely that many of these reports will truly be new news to most of us. Blog contributions are sought from all of the constituents mentioned above, whether the activity is formalized in curricula, an extracurricular program, or just a pre-born dream.

A sample entry from the Dept. of Geology and Environmental Science will soon follow.