- By Pablo Shiladitya Bose
Through an initiative of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, the GRS Program undertook a comprehensive review of study abroad programs and options at UVM this year. The Office of International Education estimates that nearly a third of all UVM students go on study abroad programs over the course of their studies, yet only a handful go through UVM – either it’s one existing semester-long program in Oaxaca, or any one of its faculty-led programs to places as far flung as Nepal, Ecuador, Belize, Mongolia, Uganda, and Iceland, or as near as New York City, New Orleans and Boston. A number of other students go on exchange programs with one of our partner universities including diverse locations such as Stockholm, Newcastle, Dublin, Leon, or Mastricht amongst many others. And yet more students – the largest number – go abroad via external programs such as those run by the School for International Training (SIT) or the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). While the latter programs can be very rewarding for participants and are often organized by a particular theme or topic, there are also many challenges for our students – especially the often arduous process of transferring credits, the expensive nature of many external programs, and the difficulties in integrating these programs with their own major requirements. Both our bilateral exchange and in-house study abroad programs are therefore components that GRS under the guidance of CAS Associate Dean Abby McGowan has been looking at strengthening. Here are a few of the initiatives we will be focusing on in the upcoming year:
- Oaxaca: The Oaxaca Semester Abroad Program is an extraordinary educational opportunity for UVM students to explore the interrelated themes of health, environment, and culture in Southern Mexico. Not only can students earn 18 UVM credits and utilize their financial aid, they will also acquire essential field research experience and broaden their understanding of multicultural societies. The first half of the program consists of intensive Spanish and core classes, followed by two tracks:
- Sustaining Communities: Examines cultural identity, environmental stewardship, and the health of our communities and earth.
- Food Systems: Examines our current food system from the community, national, and international level, with its connection to social and environmental wellbeing.
- In our globalized world, the skills and experiences offered by participating in study abroad are invaluable. The Oaxaca Semester Abroad Program offers hands-on experience with a focus on a broad range of global issues that will impact students for the rest of their lives.
- Ecuador: one of the longest running series of courses in UVM’s study abroad portfolio have been a number of classes that focus on Ecuador – on its land use politics, oil extraction in the Amazon, the ecology of the high Andes, Alpaca husbandry, and conservation in the Galapagos Islands. After nearly a decade of running these classes successfully and building on the strengths of our Oaxaca Program, the instructor for many of the Ecuador programs Pete Shear along with GRS Director Pablo Bose have been putting together a semester long study program in Ecuador, one that would focus on the theme of political ecology and expose students to multiple environments from the Andes to the Amazon and many other places. This program will be launched in the spring of 2018.
- Belfast: in the Fall of 2016 the UVM Men’s Hockey Team will participate in the 2nd annual Friendship Four Tournament, hosted by the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Along with teams from Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence and U-Mass Lowell, the Catamounts will compete in a tournament that features games that will count towards their NCAA season standings. The Athletic Department at UVM including both current and former Directors Jeff Schulman and Bob Corran (respectively) worked closely with GRS Director Pablo Bose to develop a course to help the student athletes gain an understanding of the significance of this tournament – what it says about the current context of Belfast that it is able to host an event of this kind and size. This course – GRS 195: The Geographies of Peace and Conflict in Belfast – will introduce students to the history of Ireland, including British colonialism and the Ulster Plantation, the rise of Irish nationalism, the partition of Ireland, the period of The Troubles, the peace treaty process, life in contemporary Belfast post-conflict, and the role of sports in the formation of national identity and everyday life. All students participating in the trip during Thanksgiving 2016 will take this course during the fall semester.