By HELEN PLOTKIN
When Hendrix introduced its major in International Relations and Global Studies 10 years ago, the College considered it critical for its graduates to develop a broad understanding of global issues.
“Our students need to have a good look at the global picture if they’re going to work and live in the 21st Century,” Dr. Ian King, chair of the IRGS oversight committee, said at the time.
Dramatic changes in the global picture over the past decade have magnified the need for cross-cultural understanding.
Hendrix President J. Timothy Cloyd said he believes developing a global mindset is vital to becoming an educated person.
“I don’t think it’s possible to be a person educated in the liberal arts without not only developing some sense of our identity as global citizens, but also experiencing cultures and people with world views that are different from our own,” President Cloyd said. “Understanding that there are really diverse world views and cultures is a way of realizing that your own world is not the universe – that your take on the world is one perspective among 100.”
The best way to develop an understanding of different world views and other cultures is through hands-on experience, the hallmark of an engaged liberal arts education. Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning provides a framework for structuring meaningful international experiences.
Dr. Mark Schantz, director of the Odyssey Program, believes that the program’s focus on engaged learning is part of the reason interest in international travel and global studies has grown at Hendrix. He cites the variety of travel-study programs available in Summer 2007 as an example: three faculty-led trips to Africa, a new summer semester program in Costa Rica, an entrepreneurial studies trip to China, and an art tour of Italy, among others.
“This kind of stuff was not happening at Hendrix 10 years ago,” Dr. Schantz said and statistics from 1997 support his assertion. Ten years ago, 26 Hendrix students were enrolled in study-abroad programs. This year, 57 Hendrix students are enrolled in study-abroad programs and 89 students are currently signed-up for study abroad programs in 2007-08.
Since the Odyssey program began awarding grants for projects in 2005, more than 80 Hendrix students have receiving funding for projects that include travel outside the U.S.
“We want to lead the way with new ideas of how to connect overseas travel with classroom work and have a concrete result from the experience – a film, a paper or some other kind of project,” Dr. Schantz said.
Students traveling abroad can often earn credit for Odyssey projects in categories other than global awareness, Dr. Schantz said. “The (summer 2007) trip to South Africa involves undergraduate research. Many of our trips involve service,” he added.
Hendrix students complete active learning projects in at least three of the six Odyssey categories: artistic creativity, global awareness, professional and leadership development, service to the world, undergraduate research and special projects. Each graduate receives an Odyssey transcript outlining his or her projects, in additional to an academic transcript.
“The interesting thing about the way this has emerged at Hendrix is that Odyssey provided a framework, a pedagogical basis – but the ideas have sprung from students, faculty and staff,” Schantz says. “We were intentional about creating an environment in which this can grow. The result is more creative than what we can plan – there is an art about this.”