Friday, December 28, 2007

Global Modules YouTube Presentation

A friend of mine taped a presentation that I gave here at Champlain about our Global Modules project and then placed most of it on Youtube in three sections. I’ll apologize in advance for the relatively rough quality of the print, and keep in mind that it was a somewhat informal presentation that I was giving to some of my colleagues at Champlain. That said, I think it does a fairly good job laying out the basic day-to-day structure of running a Global Module. As I’ve often said, sometimes, when viewed from the outside, the pedagogical and technical challenges of running a Global Module can seem daunting. Instead, we have designed the system to be as flexible and user-friendly as possible. It is a student-driven approach designed to add dimensions of international dialogue and critical thinking into the classroom without adding to the faculty workload. I hope this presentation can answer some questions, and I am more than happy to answer others.The one thing that doesn’t get addressed in any detail in this presentation is the bigger dream. Remember, our goal is to create an international network of universities interested in linking select courses together for short, thematic online discussions – to give students the opportunity to talk to their counterparts around the world about issues that have scholarly value and which also are important to them. To do that we need your help. Again, we are not looking for financial support – we are looking for innovative professors from universities around the world who are willing to take part in this approach.

Thanks, as always, and all my best,


Connecting to a Bigger World

I was just reading some old Global Module material and came across a wonderful excerpt from the first GM we ever ran from the 2003 spring semester. My good friend, Dr. Tapti Roy from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, linked our classes together so that we could have our students discuss inequality. We had students in both classes read an article about the Grameen Bank. As many of you know, the Grameen Bank started in Bangladesh and specializes in making micro-loans to the poorest of the poor. One of the stipulations is that the loans are only made to women. During the online discussion between the students in Burlington and Dubai the logic behind this rule was questioned by a couple of the male students here in Burlington. At that point one of the female students in Dubai, who was originally from the subcontinent, wrote an extraordinary first-hand account of what it meant to be a woman in Bangladesh. Now, I could have told my students the same thing but it would have never resonated with them the way it did when the story was told by another student. The students were profoundly moved by her story, and it was at that point that we realized the tremendous potential of the Global Module approach for bringing students together. Here is a brief excerpt of that original posting:

"You had a few doubts about the
philosophy behind the Grameen bank in your first
posting- let me try and give a shot at them. Coming from
a nation that practices such a system, perhaps I may
help you look at things from another perspective. First
your initial question- why women? One thing you need to
understand is the status of women in general in the
rural society of the sub continent. Women are treated,
unfortunately, as second class citizens by the system
and only as ‘tools’ by the immediate society. Once she
is married off, given birth to a son (yes, this kind of
narrow thinking is still prevalent in many the corners
of the sub continent) , she becomes non-existent, at
society’s level known only as so and so’s wife or
mother. In Bangladesh, this is especially so because of
the lack of literacy at the village level and the
orthodox belief in caste hierarchy. In defiance of the
Bangladeshi banking system which treats women as second
class borrowers, the Grameen Bank (I read somewhere on
the net) wanted to establish a 50-50 ratio of women and
men borrowers. The Bank soon discovered I guess that
women are far more effective agents of change because at
least in this rural scenario they are accustomed to
handling many responsibilities at a time- managing the
house, the children, in this case acquiring food,
tending to cattle, managing the fields if any, etc. It
is a different issue that these jobs are considered as
‘a part of her duty’ by the men folk. Hence, economic
empowerment of women has a dramatic impact on
stabilizing the family unit. I know you said that the
men might ‘feel as if they aren’t needed and leave their
families, go out and spend more money, or get into
trouble much more easily.’ But a man’s perception of his
role in society, in these cases, is larger than life. It
is the men, on a customary basis that participate in the
village panchayats (grass-root level governments), it is
the men that traditionally do the labor for the house,
the village and their families. It is the men who make
all the decisions-including the work vs. school decision
regarding the children, mortgaging of property, etc.
. . . But I’m sure, that they too will
eventually realize that if they need the money and their
women can get it easily . . . then why not? So
I’ll beat her a little less today so that she doesn’t
complain tomorrow to those jibbery-jabbery friends of
hers and we can get that loan, and finally that landlord
will be off my back and we can keep that cow. . . The long term
benefit of any society, agreed as you said is for men and women
to stand up as equals. But the long term benefit of an under-developed
society is for the women to first realize and prove that
she is an equal."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Chronicle of Higher Education Article

Chronicle of Higher Education
Section: INTERNATIONALVolume 54, Issue 10, Page A35
By Karin Fischer
To Connect With Foreign Students, Champlain College Taps Into Technology

Some colleges are bringing foreign students into their classrooms through video and computer hookups. One professor's experience at Champlain College, in Vermont, shows how a little ingenuity and a lot of persistence can go a long way.

In 2003, Gary Evans Scudder Jr., a professor of history, thought it would be a great idea to connect his senior class on world issues with foreign students at a campus in Dubai then owned by Champlain. He cajoled the college's information-technology staff members to set up a secure online discussion forum, and the global-modules program was born.

The concept is simple: For four weeks during a semester, students at Champlain and a partner institution overseas tackle shared readings, then discuss the material online. The focus is usually thematic, so as not to limit the discussion to specific courses.

After that first success with Dubai, Mr. Scudder scouted out other interested universities, sometimes by simply sending out blanket e-mail messages to key departments. Champlain students have discussed peace activism with Austrians, women's issues with Moroccans, and Aristotle's concept of friendship with students at a college in Israel.

Mr. Scudder says the conversations have opened students' eyes to new ways of seeing the world. For example, one discussion centered on a controversial cartoon of Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper, with Jordanian students explaining why they found the depiction offensive. "I could have talked about that in class every day, and it wouldn't have had the same impact," says Mr. Scudder.

His work has also had a broader impact at Champlain. The college has adopted a new core curriculum that integrates his global modules program. Beginning next spring with the freshman class, all students will take one course a year that includes a module. This fall Mr. Scudder, who recently won a campuswide teaching award, has been given time off from his classroom duties to travel the globe recruiting new partners.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Africa and the Middle East

Champlain College, as part of its twin goals of embedding the Global Modules approach in our new core curriculum and the college becoming a true facilitator and promoter of a global network for student dialogue, has given me the semester off and the resources to expand our network of partner institutions. Even though it seems like I just stepped off a plane, I will be turning around in a week and embarking on the longest trip of the semester. In the space of four weeks I will be visiting the University of Jordan and Princess Sumaya University in Jordan, Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates, Kenyatta Univesity and Moi University in Kenya, and Uganda Christian University and the Islamic University in Uganda to run workshops and meet with interested faculty members, administrators and students. Part of this reflects our vision of having a wide variety of voices represented in our Global Modules discussions. Even more, however, it expresses our desire to have a very strong presence in Africa and the Middle East, two areas that are all too often ignored or vilified in the international press. While we have a growing network in these two parts of the world, we are always looking for new partners. If anyone has any suggestions or contacts we would love to hear from you.

Gary Scudder

Pazmany Peter Catholic University

The process of finding new GM partners is an odd one. There is a lot of thought that goes into picking out countries and universities, but some of it is just a process of adapting on the fly. A few days before taking off on the last trip I almost cancelled the Hungarian leg of the trip because I didn't think it made sense as I was balancing out the cost of the trip and my initial perceptions of the reaction I was getting from a couple Hungarian universities. I actually contacted my travel agent about just flying back early, but in the space of a couple hours I heard what it would cost to change the flight, and found a more affordable hotel, and received a couple very hopeful emails. As it turns out the Hungarian leg of the journey ended up being remarkably productive and Hungary may end up being a foundation of the expanding network. I've already talked about one of the universities, Corvinus.

The other Hungarian university is Pazmany Peter Catholic University. You take a pleasant forty-five minute train ride out of Budapest to the village of Piliscsaba. Finding the right train station can be a bit iffy in Hungary because at some of the stations signage is at a minimum. Instead of a series of signs that run parallel to the tracks, you often only have one sign that is facing towards the front of the train (so it benefits you to sit up in the front of the train). I kept getting out of the train at each stop to see if I could spot the sign. Luckily, the stop for the university, Pazmaneum, was very well marked and had a quaint little station, which you walked through and right into the university itself. The university has a very intimate feel, about the size of Champlain itself, with a very strong liberal arts tradition. I had a series of great meetings with Marton Beke from the international program, Gyorgy Domokos, the Vice-Dean for Foreign Affairs, Kathleen Dubs from the English department, and Karoly Kopasz, a student who works with Marton Beke. Kathleen Dubs had some wonderful ideas for Global Module themes, including using portions of Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings for a Global Module focused on perceptions of "the other." This really made me happy because literature is a wonderful fit for the Global Module approach. Karoly Kopasz was tremendously excited about the project and was checking out the new GM website while we were having the meeting. He couldn't wait for me to get back to the states to get the official OK so that he could get other students at the university to post on the general discussion forum.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Corvinus University

The first university that I visited in Budapest was Corvinus University. It has a long and storied and fascinating history. For a long time, under Soviet rule, it was renamed Karl Marx University and there is still a statue of Marx in the main part of the building. The building itself is very historic. It is located right on the Danube, on the Pest side, and it used to be the old customs house. There used to be a train track that ran right through the middle of the building (where Marx is sitting now). After the fall of the Soviet Union it was named Corvinus in honor of a scholarly Hungarian king of the fifteenth century (a golden age in Hungarian history).

Corvinus is very excited about the Global Modules project, especially in the economics, business and history departments. We should have at least a couple GMs up and running with them in the Concepts of Community classes this coming spring semester. I think they are so excited about the project because of Hungary's own struggle to join the EU and to fashion a more lasting connection with the rest of the world. In one of the many meetings I had with faculty members and administrators, I also had the chance to sit down with some doctoral students in economics, and I think they were the most excited of anyone. They were suggesting GM themes during the meeting and started emailing me more ideas before I had made it back to my hotel.

University of Alcala

The University of Alcala is located in Alcala de Henares, which is around thirty minutes outside of Madrid by train. The university itself is beautiful and has a history that stretches back centuries. Oddly, it was all but dead for much of the 20th century and was brought back to life mainly by the efforts of the people of Alcala de Henares who refused to give up on their dream of breathing new life into the school. Thank goodness they did. While some of the buildings are surprisingly modern, others have the same look, on the outside anyway, that they did in the 15th century. In some places the architects have melded brand new buildings onto older structures, but even they have allowed the older buildings to dominate. Most of their buildings, even the ones five hundred years old, are wireless or soon will be – the challenge of which our own IT folks could understand. The university has something around eighteen-thousand students, but has the feel of a more intimate college.The campus is full of beautiful old courtyards, often hidden behind five hundred year old facades. One administrative building has a fa├žade dating back to the time of Charles V. Once you go through the gate you enter the first of three linked courtyards, each one progressively older. In one of the courtyards there is an idyllic tree-covered corner that is simply referred to as the Philosopher’s Garden.

In a series of meetings that stretched over two days I met a number of faculty and administrators, including the Dean of Humanities, the Assistant Dean of Economics, the Director of International Relations, and the Chair of the Modern Languages department. All of this was organized by Carmen Flys Junquera who is a very big supporter of the GM program. Her parents are Spanish but she was raised in the states. She moved to Spain in the 1970’s and has been here ever since - her own experiences with two different cultures probably explains her fascination with the GM program. If she as good an ambassador for the GMs as she is for the university we’ll have no trouble succeeding here. Alcala is interested in embedding the Global Modules in several courses as an experiment for the upcoming spring semester, but they are already talking about signing a memorandum of understanding and expanding to more classes next year – maybe even taking the same approach that Champlain is doing and actually embed them in key courses. They also have an interesting bonus credit program where students can get one, two or three credits for taking on unique assignments, and Alcala is talking about using this approach for a one-credit course that would just be the Global Module itself. This might actually be a possible approach that Champlain could use as it explores ways to bring the GMs into the extracurricular realm. Carmen thinks that immigration would be a great GM topic because the Spanish (like a lot of European countries, and the US for that matter) are dealing with their own immigration issues.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Al Akhawayn University

Al Akhawayn University has around twelve-hundred students and is situated on a beautiful campus. It reflects the European feel of Ifrane, Moracco although it also has a striking mosque right in the center of campus. They are very interested in international education and have a great academic reputation, which drew me to them in the first place first as a potential partner for Champlain’s Global Modules project. In addition, even though the main languages spoken in Morocco are Arabic and French, the language of instruction at the university is English – which is another reason why they are such a good fit. Al Akhawayn's Bouziane Zaid actually ran a Global Module on women’s issues with my friend Bob Mayer from Champlain and it was a tremendous success. Over the last year we talked repeatedly about ways that our two universities could work together and I finally decided that it would be best to come here for more serious discussions, and I think I’ve made a great choice. The professors and administrators have been very supportive and we are actively working on putting together a series of Global Modules relating to Champlain's Concepts of Community class for the upcoming semester.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Global Module Partner - Zayed University

I thought this would be a good forum to talk about some of our partners in the growing Global Module network. One of my goals in the next few months is to solidify our working relationship with a core group of international universities. One of the institutions that has been most enthusiastic in its support is Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates.

I'll share a little information about Zayed from their website:

"Zayed University was established in 1998 by the federal government of the United Arab Emirates to educate U.A.E. National women. It has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai led by a single administration, and offers similar programs on both campuses. Zayed University currently enrolls approximately 3200 National women.

Zayed University is based on an international model of higher education. It is organized academically into five colleges - Arts and Sciences, Business Sciences, Communication and Media Sciences, Education, and Information Technology - and the primary language of instruction is English. The University expects its graduates to be fully bilingual in English and Arabic, proficient in the use of computing technology, and strong in quantitative and research skills. It expects them to achieve significant intellectual and social development. It also expects its graduates to be well-prepared professionals ready to become leaders in government, business, civil society, and family life. The graduates of Zayed University will help shape the future of the United Arab Emirates."

I was fortunate enough to spend a few days at Zayed in April, and I was extraordinarily impressed by the students, faculty and administrators there. The meeting was arranged by Leila DeVriese and she did a great job setting up two full days of meetings. I was able to meet with two different classes and the students were wonderful. They all wore the traditional black abaya (although they also had much nicer cell phones than I'll ever own), but were very worldly and tremendously interested in greater contact with the rest of the world. I threw the floor open for discussion and asked them what topics they would choose for Global Modules and they had really interesting ideas. To me they were a microcosm of the whole experience in the U.A.E. - right on the boundary between the traditional and globalizing worlds. For this reason (one out of many) they are wonderful partners for the Global Module network.

Since then Leila (and her husband Todd, who also taught there) have gone back to the U.S., but I've been in constant contact with folks like Habibul Haque Khondker, Matthew Maclean, James Piecowye, Daphne Selbert, Rebekah Carlson, Lena Jayyusi, Ron Hawker, Yunsun Chung-Shin, Peyman Pejman and Rafael Reyes-Ruiz. We're in the process of planning Global Modules for the upcoming fall semester.

Please let me know if you're interested in getting involved.


Saturday, May 5, 2007


OK, it's not the most exciting topic in the world, but assessment is a key part of any educational program. In addition to qualitative feedback from students, Champlain has been using a simple twelve question assessment questionnaire to provide quantitative data. Both our international and American students were encouraged to answer the questions. The questionnaire is broken into thirds. The first four focus on the Content Experience, the middle four deal with the Group Experience, and the final four relate to the Cultural Experience. The following results are our latest and were gathered during our spring 2007 semester that ended in April. In every question the students overwhelmingly Strongly Agreed or Agreed with the statements. Even though we continue to brainstorm ways to improve the experience, the feedback that we are getting back from students makes us optimistic that we are on the right track.

Global Module Assessment
Spring Semester 2007

1. I feel that I now know more factual information about the topic we covered than I did before participating in this Global Module.
Strongly Agree – 39.4%
Agree – 55.3%
Disagree – 5.3%
2. I am now aware of a greater number of perspectives on the topic we covered than I was before participating in this Global Module.
Strongly Agree – 60.5%
Agree – 39.5%
3. I believe that I will be better able to evaluate media representation of this topic and to contribute more effectively to a classroom or social discussion about this topic because of my participation in this Global Module.
Strongly Agree – 36.8%
Agree – 55.3%
Disagree – 7.9%
4. I will probably try to find out more about the cultures that I encountered during this Global Module.
Strongly Agree – 35.1%
Agree – 54.1%
Disagree – 10.8%
5. The introduction (getting to know you) activities we did enabled me to feel comfortable with my group by the time work on the actual project began.
Strongly Agree – 52.6%
Agree – 36.8%
Disagree – 10.6%
6. The technology provided made it easy to communicate my thoughts and ideas to the other members of my group.
Strongly Agree – 62.2%
Agree – 35.1%
Disagree – 2.7%
7. Group members from both locations actively contributed to our project in a productive manner.
Strongly Agree – 36.8%
Agree – 44.7%
Disagree – 18.5%
8. I believe that I will be a better group member in other classes or on future projects because of my experiences during this Global Module.
Strongly Agree – 37.8%
Agree – 56.8%
Disagree - 5.4%
9. I now feel more comfortable when others don’t agree with my opinions or perspectives.
Strongly Agree – 24.3%
Agree – 59.5%
Disagree – 8.1%
Strongly Disagree – 8.1%
10. I believe that I will be more tolerant when others have trouble accepting or understanding my view on a particular topic.
Strongly Agree – 37.8%
Agree – 59.5%
Disagree – 2.7%
11. I feel more comfortable communicating electronically with people from other countries or cultures than I thought I would have before participating in this Global Module.
Strongly Agree – 42.1%
Agree – 52.6%
Disagree – 5.3%
12. I believe that I will now feel more comfortable communicating face to face with people from other countries or cultures because of my participating in this Global Module.
Strong Agree – 34.2%
Agree – 57.9%
Disagree – 7.9%

Choosing a Topic

In many ways the key to running a successful Global Module is choosing a great topic. You want a topic that is meaningful and that addresses issues that are important to the course - and also to students and their lives. A good topic will inspire debate and will lead to an examination of bigger issues. It should force students to question some of their cultural or regional stereotypes - it should "tweak" them a little. At the same time, it should avoid a contentious argument because that would prove counterproductive. Topics like globalization or the environment or women's rights or terrorism have proven to work very well.

To facilitate the discussion we usually have the students read and discuss a common short text. This introduces the topic and gives the students a common experience and vocabulary. The text should be short - preferably a journal article, a chapter from a book, newspaper articles - and it helps if it is online so that it is easily accessible for our international partners. For the Global Module on Woman as "the Other" we had the students read the introduction to Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. For a Global Module on inequality we had the students read an article on the Grameen Bank. A chapter from the book Freakonomics inspired a conversation about the implications of naming. That said, the common text doesn't have to be a text at all. When we discussed ecological impacts we had the students go to a website that calculated how big a person's ecological footprint was. A short film or piece of art would also work.

I'd like to use this blog as an area for exchanging ideas. Are there any suggestions for other possible Global Module topics? Please feel free to post suggestions using the comment feature.



Friday, May 4, 2007

Woman as "the Other"

Over the years Champlain has run many successful Global Modules, with themes such as globalization, images of the self, terrorism, peace activism, ecological impact, and the freakonomics of naming. However, the Global Module that has most consistent resonated with students centers around a topic that we call Woman as "the Other."

We have the students read and discuss the introduction to Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. Simone de Beauvoir spoke of society being structured around the needs of man as "the One," with women left to adapt in their status as "the Other." After the students have come to grips with de Beauvoir's main argument, we then break them up into virtual groups - for instance, if we're pairing with a university in Jordan the groups would be half-Jordanian and half-American. The students then discuss ways in which women are "the Other" in their respective societies, as well as determining similarities and differences between the two cultures. In addition, the groups need to come up with specific proposals for improving the situation for women around the world.

The approach, as with all the Global Modules, is straight forward and simple, but has inspired extraordinary conversation. One female Jordanian student, when talking about the challenges that women face, proposed, “Our society is built on the notion that we’re dependant units: objects that can not exist without being attached to a main CPU.”

A Moroccan woman wrote, "Simone de Beauvoir is totally right in her definition of women as "others" in many societies. In my country Morocco, for instance, women are seen in different way from men. Women do not have the right to laugh or speak loudly. They should come back home at an early time and respect certain rules. In other words, they have to talk, behave, interact in a special way completely different from the male."

When asked to prepare specific suggestions for improving the lives of women a Global Module featuring students from Al Akhawayn University in Morocco and Champlain College in Burlington proposed solutions such as improved education, expanded political participation, and the involvement of NGOs and the United Nations. One group suggested an answer that was closer to home: "I believe that we need to start with women themselves. The most important thing to evaluate is the way they perceive themselves as “women”. A woman who thinks that she is worthless without a man or that the he has a better status or abilities than her in any field will never be equal to him even if given the conditions of this equality. The mentality is the most important, and the most difficult, thing to change. In our society, there are still women who think that their husbands have the right to hit them and who believe that if it happens it is their fault. This is dangerous and sad, and this is what should be changed. Women need to be aware of their rights and of the injustice they live in daily."

One of the things that we always stress in the Global Module program is that it is not intended to be "colonial" - that is, the goal is not to convince our international friends that everything is better in the U.S. All we ever want is dialogue. Often it is the American students who have the most eye-opening experience, both in regards to learning more about the rest of the world but also in coming to terms with their own cultural blinders. One American student, when discussing the wearing of the hijab, commented, "I have to say that, as an American Woman, I have never been more embarrassed by my culture's inability to understand and appreciate the richness of such a diverse and intriguing area of the world. For me, the Hijab is a symbol of not only cultural identity, but an image of pride in one's beliefs and the pure love for faith. I see nothing "wrong" with the idea of covering, and believe that Western cultures need to open their eyes and understand the reasons behind it, rather than being antagonistic and narrow minded."

Often you'll find students, on both sides of the virtual divide, question their own cultures but, in the end, decide that their own tradition is the one with which they feel most comfortable. If anything, their tie to their own tradition is stronger because they have now discussed different world views. In education we call this concept committed relativism - they are gaining an appreciation of the rest of the world, but have committed to their own foundation beliefs. Here a Jordanian student, while discussing the hijab, wrote, "well, though I am an arabic muslim 20 year old, hijab still puzzles me. Is it about being modest? being conservative? and if the case is either, why the hijab in specific? why can't we just dress properly and humbly?? However, I have come to the conclusion that it's not the most important issue in Islam. Islam is a religion of values and morals, and it seems that most people have forgotten that, girls now think that if they wear the hijab only then that's it, many of them do dress extravagantly even more than unveiled girls , because they want to express the point that the hijab is not a sign of poverty. I truly believe that all muslims should study their religion, and their holy quran instead of being blind followers. If you want to do something, then do it for the right reasons." Essentially, she is criticizing her fellow students for wearing the hijab for the "wrong" reasons.

As the Global Module project expands at Champlain, the Woman as "the Other" theme - as well as other gender-related topics - will continue to be a key component.