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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Intercultural Learning Programs in the United States Provide Global Perspectives for Students

Students work on archaeology project at Green Oaks

Study abroad trips are opportunities for students to get on-the-ground cultural and linguistic skills that they may not learn in a classroom. Living and working abroad can also influence educational and career choices. In recent years, however, many students were unable to participate in study abroad; the pandemic limited overseas travel. A National Endowment for the Humanities grant, “Local Contexts, Global Connections: Revitalizing Immersive Cultural and Language Study at Home,” along with the Stellyes Center for Global Study and other sources, funded four-week summer research projects in 2022 that provided students with experiences typically associated with study abroad.  Additional programs are planned for summer 2023.

Archaeological Survey at Green Oaks

Katie Adelsberger, professor of environmental studies, and Danielle Fatkin, associate professor of history, often spend their summers in the scorching heat of Egypt and Jordan on archaeology projects, but this summer they traded sun and sand for sun and soil much closer to home, at the Green Oaks Field Station, located 20 miles from Galesburg. 

The professors introduced a group of eight students to the hands-on skills of marking a site, digging and analyzing the soil, and sifting through dirt to see what might turn up. Using lab equipment, they also learned how to identify and date the objects they found.

“Being at Green Oaks gave us the opportunity to think about soil formation,” said Adelsberger. “We’re thinking about landscape, the history of this place and how that informs where we would look or where we wouldn’t look to see where an archaeological site might be located.” 

Some students relished the opportunity to learn firsthand about archaeology and the type of work involved. Kaile Williams ’23, an anthropology and sociology major and archaeology minor, found that the project solidified his future career goals. “I wanted to see if this is really what I wanted to be doing. I’d like to be a field archaeologist,” Williams said. “The potential to find something is exciting. It’s fun to look through things and learn how to do good field work.”

Roots on Angel Island: Immersion & Research on Early Chinese Immigration to the United States

Weihong Du, associate professor of Asian studies (Chinese), led a group of seven students on a two-week trip to the San Francisco area to examine early Chinese immigration, particularly through Angel Island, a historical entry point for Asian Americans.

Prior to the trip, the students immersed themselves in the topic through research and reading. While in the Bay area, they attended private lectures and a workshop and visited historical locations of Chinese immigration and museums. They also interviewed some descendants of early Chinese immigrants.

“The students were able to learn about the subject through the lenses of political activism, oral history, archival research, law, poetry, hands-on exploration, and dialogue,” Du explained. 

“I wanted to expand my historical knowledge on immigration through the West Coast,” said Annika Miller ’23. “It is crucial to understand the United States immigration process from the early 20th century. I really enjoyed interviewing descendants of immigrant families and writing up their stories for publication on the Angel Island Immigrant Stories website.” (

Feminist Approaches to Museum Studies

Greg Gilbert, professor of art and director of the art history program, led students on an immersive museum trip to Chicago, where they also met with Meg Duguid, a prominent feminist curator and director of the art gallery at Columbia College.

“I chose to participate in this program because as a museum studies major, feminist approaches to museum studies are highly relevant to my academic area and future career,” said Wilder Myslivy ’23. “I wanted the opportunity to learn more about the subject while working with my advisor and a group of my peers.” 

“Some of the most valuable learning experiences were studying the different theories and philosophies of feminist curating and the important social justice mission of feminist art exhibits,” said Gilbert. 

U.S./Mexico Border Asylum Advocacy

Robin Ragan, professor of modern languages (Spanish), took five students to the U.S.-Mexico border to work as advocates for asylum seekers. The students helped the asylum seekers in various ways, including providing food and basic necessities, helping them understand transportation, translating supporting documents for asylum cases, and providing logistical support to a variety of volunteer agencies.

Juan Jimenez ’23, a native of Ecuador, also participated in the program.“I came to the United States under different circumstances, but leaving your home and moving to another country is a harsh experience. No one really wants to leave home. It felt really good to be able to help others because I was in their position once–-I didn’t speak English, I didn’t know anything about the American way of life. Now I’m seeing the journey from a different perspective and I’m understanding the realities of immigration and how asylum seekers are discriminated against.”

“I feel it’s my responsibility as an educator to prepare students to engage with the debates and dilemmas of our day,” Ragan said. “I also want them to see the real-world use of their language skills in pressing contemporary issues. In a nutshell, knowing Spanish gives them an entry into meeting resilient, inspiring people and the ability to put their skills to use for the greater good.”

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Printed on Sunday, June 23, 2024