International students get deeper understanding of campus, community, country thanks to grant funding
September 13, 2011
U.S. history was brought to life for international students during a study tour of Washington, D.C.
Transitioning to college and life in the U.S. is getting easier for international students thanks to a $300,000 grant from The Teagle Foundation. Dickinson received the funding in March 2010, along with Bucknell University and Lafayette College, as part of a cooperative project to enhance diversity and diversity education.
Dickinson is applying the grant to several initiatives, including its Summer Institute for International Students, which provides international students with a deeper understanding of American culture and history, the liberal-arts learning environment and opportunities to improve their English speaking and writing proficiency.
This summer, Dickinson implemented a bridge program with two new courses for international students. The first course, American State and Society, introduced students to the tenets of governance and elements of historical and contemporary identity and culture in American life. The curriculum, designed by associate professor of political science Andrew Rudalevige, emphasized discussion, collaboration, analytic writing and a diverse array of reading, from presidential speeches and the Declaration of Independence to a Sports Illustrated article titled Loving Baseball.
Students also participated in study tours of Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and attended a minor league baseball game. In the course syllabus students were instructed, “Bring a baseball cap, if you have one!” They explored everywhere from the U.S. Capitol to the Gettysburg Battlefield to the Dickinson College Farm.
“It’s one thing to read about the Constitution and its importance in American life, but it takes on new meaning when you sit with congressional staff and talk about the president and Congress and their battles over foreign policy,” said Rudalevige “It’s one thing to read ‘The Gettysburg Address,’ but its words take on new resonance when you stand on Little Round Top and sense what people went through to preserve the Union.”
A second course titled, Writing for English Language Learners, assisted students, particularly those who are nonnative English speakers, in developing their language arts skills, with an emphasis on writing effectively for a variety of audiences and purposes. Experiential learning influenced student writing, with study tours to the Dickinson College Farm and U.S. Army War College.
“Through the Institute experience, students were empowered to contribute positively and collectively to the campus community—inside and outside of the classroom,” said course instructor Elizabeth Lewis, assistant professor of education. “For example, students learned first-hand about sustainability by visiting campus sites related to Dickinson’s initiative for sustainable living. Afterwards, they wrote reflections on how they may live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Through writing and other language arts experiences designed to bolster literacy skills, students connected personal experience with academic success,” she said.
The Teagle grant also will help Dickinson enhance its MANdatory program, which was piloted in the fall of 2010 to assist male students of color with leadership development, and explore curricular revisions that would focus on diversity in the U.S.
The Teagle Foundation provides leadership for liberal education, mobilizing the intellectual and financial resources that are necessary if today’s students are to have access to a challenging and transformative liberal education.