Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Community College Corner: Theory for Practitioners: UIUC's Studies Research Seminar

The following is a guest post by Derek Shouba, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Morton College.  This is Derek's second contribution to the IHEC Blog  'Community College Corner'.

Thanks again to David Comp for inviting me to address international education issues in the community college-setting.  This post is dedicated to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Global Studies Summer Research Lab.  As most community college faculty members know, community college educators suffer from several serious challenges related to campus internationalization programs.  One of these challenges is that community college educators often have little time to do the kind of sustained critical thinking that makes for good academic programming.  Teaching five or more classes each semester, full-time community college faculty members can sometimes find it difficult to conduct systematic research before implementing a new course or academic program.  Teaching at multiple campuses for lower wages, community College adjunct faculty members may find it almost impossible to methodically examine existing scholarship in a given subject area before implanting course reform.  The University of Illinois’ grant-funded Global Studies Research Lab is an inspired attempt to ameliorate the situation by offering community college faculty and staff across the country the opportunity to earn short-term fellowships to support a wide range of global education initiatives. 

Applying for the fellowship in the spring, I received an acceptance letter in late April, and began a week in residence on the University of Illinois’ beautiful campus in July.  My project centered on the creation of an enhanced comprehensive campus internationalization plan at my community college near Chicago, Illinois, but other fellows in the program intend to create new international courses, new research bibliographies, or new study abroad programs.

The Global Studies Research Lab affords fellows access to one of the country’s premier research libraries.  The grant covers the cost of the dorm for up to six days, as well as travel expenses to and from Urbana-Champaign.  It also offers fellows a small honorarium for the delivered product, with the opportunity to receive some modest additional funding for the implementation of the product in the months to come.

For me, the highlight of the week was the opportunity to meet with scholars whose work touches on themes related to campus internationalization.  In my case, I had the chance to meet with Dr.Antoinette Burton, historian of empire and author of dozens of extremely influential books and articles on subjects related to globalization.  Dr. Burton’s work has influenced my thinking on globalization, and global history in particular, for quite some time, so it was an honor to meet with her.  Her book, A Primer for Teaching World History: Ten Design Principles (Duke University), has been particularly helpful to me over the past couple of years. While the book acknowledges many of the challenges of teaching global history effectively, it nevertheless offers historians (and perhaps faculty in many other related fields) very practical strategies for tackling this enormously important task. 

To conclude, the Global Studies Research Lab is a wonderful opportunity for community college faculty members to spend some time connecting theory to practice in the field of international education.  I can only hope that this form of dialogue between our nation’s senior and junior institutions finds many analogues in the coming years.

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