Editorials

Editorial: GELT grants offer travel, equality

By
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

On Aug. 29, the Office of Global Engagement announced the recipients of its inaugural Global Experiential Learning and Teaching grants. GELT grants are awarded to faculty members to teach semester-long courses with international travel components. This year’s grants will take students to destinations including Brazil, Berlin, Israel and Palestine.

The GELT grants represent a long overdue initiative that hopefully signals new attention to including international experience in the curriculum. This guaranteed source of funding will allow professors who receive it to focus on their courses and travel, rather than searching for avenues of funding. While many students face barriers in studying abroad for an entire semester, such courses will offer students the valuable opportunity to travel internationally without the financial burden of a formal study abroad program.

The concept of the alternative spring break is by no means a novel one; however, it is an option for students that has been noticeably lacking on campus in recent years. While in past years, University-affiliated organizations such as Brown/RISD Hillel and Brown Disaster Relief have offered alternative spring breaks, the GELT grants signal formalized support by the University for experiential programs that allow students to get outside the walls of the classroom.

Programs led by University-affiliated organizations also have rarely been free in the past, and thus have only been available to students at least partially able to cover the costs of international travel. GELT grants emphasize a commitment on behalf of the administration to make invaluable experiences such as these available for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Additionally, the GELT courses will allow students to develop closer relationships with their professors and classmates than they might ordinarily develop in traditional courses. GELT grants join a cohort of existing courses, such as URBN 1000: “Fieldwork in the Urban Community,” that address the need of college students to learn beyond of the confines of the classroom or textbook.

While there are undoubtedly many possible drawbacks to international experiences that are as short as a week — such as the phenomenon of “voluntourism” that has been widely critiqued in the media — programs that are responsibly designed by faculty members will hopefully surpass these issues, focusing on very specific learning goals so as to avoid such stereotypes of traveling abroad. In creating the GELT grant, Brown takes a step forward as a leader among colleges and universities in recognizing the increasing importance of both experiential learning in today’s globalized world and the access of all students to such experiences.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Zoila Bergeron ’17, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Manuel Monti-Nussbaum ’15 and Katherine Pollock ’16. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.