Students discuss perspectives gained from terms abroad

by Alyssa Mehra | 1/19/16 8:28pm

The seventh annual Student Forum on Global Learning, which took place this past Monday, gave students a opportunity to reflect on world perspectives they gained during time they spent off campus. The event attracted students, professors, Upper Valley members and high school students from Kimball Union Academy and St. Johnsbury Academy — private schools in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Opening with a keynote address by associate professor of anthropology Jeremy DeSilva, the event was split into two sessions, with four presentations in each session.

DeSilva spoke about discovery, developing a curiosity about the world and bringing that curiosity to Dartmouth. He drew parallels from his recent discoveries of two new species in South Africa to the self-discovery students experience in the process of gaining a world perspective.

“My science is operating at a level of the origin of species and this amazing thing students do, becoming global learners and becoming part of the global community, is very much an exercise in discovering individual selves,” DeSilva said. “I really wanted to impart this message of curiosity and exploration and this idea that there’s a lot more out there still to do and learn and many more discoveries yet to come and here’s evidence of that.”

Students who wished to present at this forum needed to apply last fall, and were notified before winterim of their acceptance. The forum accepts applicants who are undergraduate or graduate students at the College. Students were then sorted into groups based on the themes of their off term experiences, program manager of the Dartmouth College-American University of Kuwait program Elizabeth Hindmarsh, who helped coordinate the event, said.

Tim Rizvanov ’17, whose presentation was named “Maximizing Experiential Learning through the D-Plan,” said his group met once before they presented to iron out details such as presenter order and how much time each presenter would speak.

Kripa Dongol ’16, who worked on the same presentation as Rizvanov, said that the D-Plan allows students to have more control over their experience and do more with their time.

“Don’t be afraid to get out of Dartmouth,” Dongol said. “I know it can be terrifying to not be [here], to not see your friends and to be gone for so long and miss out on everything. But the world is bigger than Dartmouth, and there’s so much to explore and the connections you have don’t really go away.”

Natalie Cantave ’16 spoke as a panelist in a presentation titled, “From Here to There: Examining Social Impacts on Immigrant & Refugee Communities.” Cantave discussed her internship in New York City in which she studied how social networks and social capital affected health outcomes for West African immigrant communities.

From the internship, Cantave said she learned that disparities, though visible, are often easy to forget about. She said that she hopes people attending the presentation make a conscious effort to understand different perspectives.

The forum included a poster session in the Russo Gallery by the Paganucci Fellows, students who spoke about their consulting work for a Beijing education organization, the Dandelion School.

The event was hosted on Martin Luther King Jr. day. DeSilva said that the theme of world perspectives aligned with the holiday, as widening worldviews can help people appreciate the similarities between each other, a characteristic that King embodied.

“He was so gifted at seeing the world in a much broader space than a lot of his contemporaries did,” DeSilva said.

Dean of the College Rebecca Biron gave the closing address. She spoke about how cultivating a global perspective requires attention both on a grand scale and also on the “tiny, intimate and personal” level.

“We should all travel everywhere, because as individuals, we have very limited ability to grasp the impact of large scale dynamics and networks of other people and especially of large numbers of people,” Biron said.

Ten students and two teachers came from Kimball Union Academy to the College in order to learn about the global community and listen to student perspectives, Kimball Union Academy student Arthur Hwang said. He added that he enjoyed the presentation called, “A Kilometer in Their Shoes: The Importance of Respect and Cultural Understanding in Research,” because he related to one of the presenter’s perspectives of having a complex ethnic identity. The presenter, Andres G. Mejia-Ramon ’16 talked about his experiences living in both American and Mexican cultures.

Ashley Kehoe, associate director of the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning’s Experiential Learning Initiative, said that the forum carves out a day for students to reflect on their experiences and give them meaning. Kehoe introduced DeSilva at the star of the day’s events.

“Dartmouth is really good at giving students experiences,” Kehoe said. “Something that I think we have a lot of potential to do more of is this reflecting on those experiences and helping students see that connection between the different things they’ve done while at Dartmouth.”

Amy Newcomb, Dickey Center for International Understanding’s student programs officer, said that often students returning from rewarding off terms or study abroad programs immediately got thrown into the shuffle of Dartmouth life without an opportunity to share what they had learned. She noted the value of sharing the deeper reasons to work abroad with other students. She said feedback from students who wanted to share their experiences with others led to the forum’s creation.

Kehoe said that she hopes students grasp the importance of both experience and reflection, especially “how powerful they can be when put together.”

“The experience in and of itself is valuable, but actually taking the time to reflect on the experience is really what draws it out,” Kehoe said. “Developing a world perspective isn’t just about going places but really about the attitude you bring to the places you go.”

The forum was a joint effort by the Office of the Provost, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, the Dickey Center, Dartmouth Center for Service, the Rockefeller Center, the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Research, Dartmouth College-American University of Kuwait program, Dean of the College, DCAL, the Office of Residential Education, Center for Professional Development, Tuck School of Business’ Center for Leadership and the Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education.