Public Policy 85 goes to Jordan and Israel

by Emilia Baldwin | 1/5/16 7:55pm

Economics professor Charles Wheelan ’88 led the third annual “Global Policy Practicum to Jordan and Israel” this past interim. The Rockefeller Center for Public Policy funds the annual trip, a component of the Public Policy 85 class, as part of the College’s experiential learning initiatives.

According to the blog published by the Rockefeller Center, the trip started in Israel, with students spending time in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Jaffa. The trip then ended in Jordan, where students spent time in the cities of Petra and Amman and visited the Dead Sea.

Wheelan said that this year’s trip focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with previous trips centered on economic reform in India and the Northern Irish peace process. He also said that the course hopes to inform and educate students on international topics.

He added that he thinks the trip is relevant to College President Phil Hanlon’s initiative to increase experiential learning as part of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy initiative.

Wheelan also said that he finds the idea of conflicting narratives within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict very interesting. The two sides possess different maps, accounts of events and histories, he said.

“Part of the value of being there is that you can listen to both sides, or even variations on the two sides and you understand why the conflict is so intractable because there isn’t even a common set of facts or a common history,” Wheelan said.

Wheelan said that he did not fully understand the conflict until he traveled to the area. He added that he did not particularly comprehend the magnitude of the fight between secular and religious thought in Israel and Jordan until after his visit to the area.

“There’s a huge battle for the ‘soul of Israel,’” he said. “They’re fighting about how the state should be and how it should function.”

Sarah Ogren ’16, a student on the trip who wrote a daily blog about the group’s time there for the Rockefeller Center, agreed with Wheelan. She said that she did not feel truly informed about the conflict until working on the ground in Israel and Jordan. She added that, while she was well-read on the conflict before attending the trip, meeting and interviewing people who live with the conflict daily strongly enhanced her point of view on the situation.

Most days of the trip were consumed by various meetings and tours, Ogren said, with the group meeting with a range of people from government officials to regular citizens from the area. For example, in Amman, Jordan, the group met with various heads and directors from the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she said. On another day, the group went on a tour of the ancient city of Petra. The group also visited the World Bank branch in Jerusalem, Israel.

Ogren added that the class started over the summer with reading assignments and will continue until later this week when the group will hand in a collective memo concerning what they think the United States’ role should be within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The students spent last fall reading texts relevant to the conflict to educate themselves as much as possible before going abroad.

The Public Policy 85 trip is only one way in which the Rockefeller Center helps to promote experiential learning at Dartmouth., Andrew Samwick, professor of economics and director of the Rockefeller Center, said. He also noted that other initiatives include the First Year Fellows program and the Policy Research Shop.

Samwick said that students have reviewed the Public Policy 85 trip positively since the first one to India two years ago.

“In my experience, students regard Public Policy 85 as one of the defining moments of their Dartmouth careers,” Samwick said.

Along with encouraging experiential learning, Samwick said that field work contributes to Hanlon’s hope for Dartmouth students to be citizen leaders.

“The exposure to policy challenges elsewhere in the world can inspire students to stay engaged in their lives beyond Dartmouth,” he said.