Help Search Campus Map Directories Webmail Home Alumnae Academics Admission Athletics Student Life Offices & Services Library & Technology News & Events About the College Navigation Bar
MHC Home College Street Journal

Also in This Issue
Watt Warrior:
Emily Wheeler ’08

Global Explorers:
Nino Guruli
’07 and
Ally Neher ’07

Translating Ideas into Action: Lucia Morales Cariani ’08

MHC's Newest Students

News

Mount Holyoke College News and Events College Street Journal Vista

Winter 2005 / Volume 10, Number 2

Centers of the Universe
Building Bridges across Disciplines

 
Lauret Savoy, Director of the Center for the Environment

In assuming leadership of the Center for the Environment (CE) this fall, geology and environmental studies professor Lauret Savoy said, “the flavor I want to bring is that of bridging—across disciplines, across points of view, across structures that keep us from engaging in dialogue about ‘environment’ in our work, community, and lives. I want people to imagine ‘environment’ broadly—not just as surroundings, not just as the air, water, and land on which we depend or that we pollute—but as sets of circumstances, conditions, and contexts in which we live, work, and develop.” To this end, she has issued a call for ideas to the MHC community, seeking input on issues the center might address. Although new on the job, Savoy has agreed to undertake projects this year with the Five College Dance Department and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. This fall, in connection with an MHC production of Mac Wellman’s play A Murder of Crows, the CE cosponsored with the theatre arts department a panel discussion on the theatre of place.

Eva Paus
Eva Paus, Director of the Center for Global Initiatives

Likewise, the Center for Global Initiatives (CGI) develops curricular and cocurricular programming that spans a wide range of academic disciplines. “In addition to initiating new global education activities, which reach across the campus and beyond, the CGI coordinates the College’s existing internationally related offerings into a coherent and dynamic whole,” said CGI director Eva Paus. “The center’s work is cross-disciplinary by definition.” A prime example of CGI’s creative programming was the recent visit of Dr. Gro Brundtland, CGI’s 2005 Global Studies Fellow-in-Residence. A former director-general of the World Health Organization and former prime minister of Norway, Brundtland engaged the campus and the wider community on a number of issues. Among her many activities, she met with students in medical anthropology, economics, and geography classes; she discussed the challenges facing women who seek leadership positions with a group of local high school students; she addressed a standing-room only crowd on the problems, politics, and policies of global health threats; and she met with a group of Five College faculty for dinner and discussion of the new global health structures of government.

In spring 2006 the Center for Global Initiatives will launch the first in a series of biennial conferences on global challenges cosponsored by the New York Times Knowledge Network. In advance of the conference, The New Global Division of Labor: Winners and Losers of Offshore Outsourcing, eight professors from economics, politics, international relations, and computer science will team teach a mini-course for a large number of students on issues relevant to the conference. “We consider this course a pilot for a new teaching structure that will increase the educational value of large conferences,” Paus said.

  Lois Brown
Lois Brown, Director of the Weissman Center

The oldest of the three centers, the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts (WCL), has been a pioneer in cross-disciplinary programming, and Lois Brown, associate professor of English who became director of the center in July 2005, is continuing to engage a wide range of participants in WCL programs. This fall the center presented Law and Dis/Order, a series of lectures and panel discussions focusing on ways in which law contributes to notions of social order and also to civic disorder. Activists, historians, lawyers, and public intellectuals, such as Jonathan Kozol, Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Cristina Rathbone, Judge Joyce London Alexander, and James Bamford, engaged with students, faculty, and staff throughout the semester. Panel topics included law and disorder in and beyond Iraq; the U.S.’s treatment of war prisoners; resegregation of American public schools; the experiences, history, and global politics relating to women and prison; and the juvenile death penalty in historical perspective. In spring 2006 the center will present a series on historic, political, architectural, social, and civic acts of reconstruction. The series will feature a play, which the WCL and the theatre arts department have commissioned, that invokes themes of American post-Civil War reconstruction by New York City-based playwright Zakiyyah Alexander.

A key component of the Weissman Center is its Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program (SAW), which provides trained student mentors to assist their peers in improving their communication skills. SAW mentor Katherine Braucher ’06 enjoys helping students in a range of disciplines to write better and has found that her work has made her own writing stronger. “I see my role as a facilitator in the student’s writing process, not as an editor or critic. Working across disciplines can be a
challenge, but I find that to a large extent, the basic components of a strong piece of writing are universal,” she said. This fall, SAW and the Center for Global Initiatives created the SAW foreign language writing
assistance program, which helps students in advanced French, Italian, Spanish, and German classes write papers in those languages.

The Weissman Center also runs the College’s Community-Based Learning Program (CBL), which offers action-based courses that “strengthen ties between students, faculty, and our neighboring communities,” said WCL director Brown.

While the centers create common ground among diverse fields of study, they also work with each other on programming. Last year, for example, the Weissman Center and the Center for Global Initiatives hosted a panel on international views of the U.S. 2004 election results. The WCL also cosponsored with the Center for the Environment a series titled Water Matters, which engaged artists, public policy experts, and environmental activists to discuss the political, social, and cultural dimensions of the world’s water. The idea for the series originated with a CE-sponsored faculty seminar on nonscientific perspectives on water, which prompted
faculty in a variety of disciplines to teach water-related courses, such as African Environments, Ecological Art: Imaging and Writing Water, and International Water Issues and Politics. “These courses might not otherwise be happening in the same year. Students can really be immersed in the topic across the curriculum. Breaking down curricular divides is crucial here,” said Karen Remmler, a former WCL director.

The MHC centers also enjoy fruitful collaborations with other institutions on campus. The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum is a key player in the centers’ cocurricular programming. In connection with Water Matters and numerous Weissman Center programs, for example, the art museum has mounted exhibitions, both from its own collections and elsewhere. “Collaborations with the Weissman Center and the Center for the Environment have been some of our most successful efforts to integrate the art museum into the curricular and cocurricular life of the College,” said museum director Marianne Doezema. The Center for the Environment hopes to work with the Botanic Garden and facilities management on a variety of projects, including documenting and protecting the campus’s rich canopy of trees. As part of a coalition that includes student environmental leaders, faculty from the departments of biology and earth and environment, and the Weissman Center’s Community-Based Learning Program, the Center for the Environment has also begun exploring the possibility of an organic farm.

Bridging the Campus and the World
The MHC centers actively promote opportunities for students to experience the world beyond the campus. The Center for the Environment looks forward to joining with campus organizations such as CAUSE, a student-run social justice and community outreach group. Also in the works is an expanded internship program that, along with traditional environmental organizations, will offer opportunities within such organizations as the Urban Ecology Institute and the Center for Whole Communities. “We want to work with people who are linking the social with the environmental,” CE director Savoy said. “The environment is the context in which we live our lives, and that includes how we interact with each other.”

Associate professor of politics and Weissman Center associate director Preston Smith, who coordinates the center’s Community-Based Learning Program, traces the College’s commitment to civic engagement to its founder, Mary Lyon; he believes that civic engagement “should be part of a Mount Holyoke education.” CBL gives students the opportunity to engage with organizations and individuals in the community. Smith has long been involved in the neighboring city of Holyoke and draws on his familiarity with community organizations there to find enriching CBL opportunities for students. Smith recognizes that “the more a community organization gains from a CBL experience, the more invested it is in the relationship with the class and the more a student gets from it.” To maximize the effectiveness of CBL, he has created a series of workshops for students to prepare them to work knowledgeably and effectively in the field.

Center for Global Initiatives director Eva Paus has made increasing opportunities for students to work and study abroad a major priority. “Immersion in another culture and country provides unique opportunities for students to understand the world through a different lens and to question their own assumptions and beliefs,” said Paus. “The College’s ultimate goal is for each student to have had a learning experience abroad by the time she graduates.” In addition to taking a semester or year abroad, students can take January Term and summer courses abroad, collaborate with faculty on research at foreign universities, and have international internships. The CGI works with the larger MHC community—including alumnae, parents, and friends—to institutionalize internships that provide connections and experiences beyond those offered by typical internships available to student populations elsewhere.

As we move into the twenty-first century, it is increasingly clear that knowledge is not contained within artificially imposed boundaries. Intellectual hubs such as the Weissman Center and the Centers for Global Initiatives and the Environment help scholars transcend disciplinary limits and enhance their educational experience.


On the MHC Web:

Center for the Environment

Center for Global Initiatives

Weissman Center for Leadership

Vista - Winter 2005 Index

Home | Directories | Web Email | Calendar | Campus Map | Search | Help

About the College | Admission | Academics | Student Life | Athletics
Offices & Services | Giving | News & Events | Alumnae | Library & Technology

Copyright © 2006 Mount Holyoke College. This page created by Donna Cote and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on January 4, 2006.