University News

GELT grants meld travel, courses

Funding from U. allows instructors to combine courses with trips that enrich learning experience

By
Contributing Writer
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Travel becomes part of the classroom experience with the inaugural Global Experiential Learning and Teaching grants. The Office of Global Engagement announced the recipients of nine GELT grants for the 2014-2015 academic year Aug. 29, according to a press release from the office. The grants enable faculty members to design courses with a travel component that is funded by the University.

GELT grants are offered in two phases, according to the Office of Global Engagement website. Phase one provides instructors up to $4,000 to travel abroad to do research for courses they are planning. Phase two offers instructors who have already developed their courses up to $35,000 to bring 12 students to a destination that enhances their learning experiences.

J. Timmons Roberts, professor of environmental studies and sociology, said he will be using a phase two GELT grant to take members of his course ENVS 1575: “Engaged Climate Policy at the UN Climate Change Talks” to Peru this coming December to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Roberts has taken students to the conference for the past three years, but the trip was neither integrated into a course nor funded in the past.

“It’s really exciting, because in the past we would spend almost the whole fall semester going around with a begging bowl … trying to raise money,” Roberts said. Now that the funding is guaranteed, students can focus on their work, he added.

“It was unfortunate that we had to devote so much time to fundraising instead of collaborative research,” said Alison Kirsch ’15, who has traveled with Roberts before. “With the GELT grant, we can devote much more time and energy to our research projects, knowing that we have funding to go to this year’s (conference) and show them off.”

“The travel component is a crucial part of the learning experience,” said Maria Bustos ’16, another student of Roberts. “One thing is to read about UN policy and another one is to actually meet and engage with policymakers and civil society,” she said, adding that the UN conference is an opportunity for students to make professional connections.

Courses funded by GELT grants can be competitive to get into, as many students are drawn to the experiential aspects of this kind of study.

Roberts, whose course is already underway, said he received 60 applications for only 12 spots.

Professor of Judaic Studies David Jacobson, another recipient of a phase two GELT grant, said he is thrilled by the “amazing opportunity.” He will be taking his course UNIV 1001: “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Contested Narratives” to both Israel and Palestine.

While Jacobson has taught the course in the past, he noted that “travel will make a tremendous difference.” His course aims to give an objective, dual narrative to a conflict that tends to be approached from a one-sided perspective, he said, adding that his “mission will be enhanced by hearing the narrative literally come from the mouths of the people involved.”

Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology Peter van Dommelen is using his phase one GELT grant to collaborate with a colleague on creating a course that they will teach collectively, though in different countries. Dommelen will lead the course at the University, and his colleague will preside over the course in Barcelona. Toward the end of the semester, the two classes will come together to participate in an excavation in the Mediterranean.

Dommelen said he is “glad that the University is emphasizing the importance of internationalization” by providing these grants. As an archaeologist, he sees this opportunity as one “that brings fieldwork and teaching together” by enabling “students to interact with the materials rather than just see them on PowerPoints.”

Similarly, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Medicine Amy Nunn will travel to Ghana to develop a program that she said will help students “harness their energy to do good in the world” and enhance their “professional development” with support from the University.