Image supplied by Linda Miller, associate professor of English

How do ‘Berg students expand their understanding of history, sustainability, writing, economics and culture?

Each year students join faculty in short-term global study through the Muhlenberg Integrated Learning Abroad program. During the previous semester, students meet as a group to build a foundation for study. The class introduces students to the subject material, so that when they begin their abroad experience, they have the core knowledge to launch their research and study.

This May, students joined President Randy Helm, professor of history, in Greece; Rich Niesenbaum, professor of biology and director of the sustainability studies program, Marten Edwards, professor of biology, in Costa Rica; Jack Gambino, professor of political science and co-director of the philosophy & political thought major, and Mohsin Hashim, professor of political science and director of the Dana Scholars program, in Bangladesh; and Dawn Lonsinger, visiting assistant professor of English, and Linda Miller, associate professor of English, in the Italian Alps.

MILA courses allow students the chance to experience study abroad in a targeted, immersive environment. With a trip duration under two weeks, students can enjoy the benefits of global education without sacrificing class options during an academic semester or missing out on summer internships and research opportunities.

President Helm’s class studied and then visited ancient archaeological sites and viewed historic artifacts, building upon what Helm calls a high-impact approach to immersion learning.

“This isn’t tourism; the approach is much closer to fieldwork,” says Helm. “There’s academic and intellectual rigor and substance involved in this travel experience. Immersion is a fantastic way to learn, and tying immersion into classroom work is an area where Muhlenberg excels.”

The students who visited Costa Rica extended the 16-year collaboration between Muhlenberg College and the citizens of Las Juntas. Each participant embarked on sustainability and community service research projects designed to work with the needs of the community and the existing town infrastructure.

Those who traveled to Italy were engaged in writing about place, a topic particularly well-suited to a MILA experience. The students lived and worked in Schloss Brunnenburg, a castle in northern Italy, itself a region that boasts a diverse cultural and linguistic background.

This was the fourth MILA trip to Bangladesh, where faculty and their classes work with the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies. The independent non-profit non-governmental agency institute houses experts on sustainable development policy research and implementation.

“Global civic engagement is a significant element of the course,” says Hashim. “As global citizens, how should they be invested in global climate change and its effects throughout the world. What we consume and produce here has real consequences on the lives of people far, far away. This is not a science-based course; it’s a livelihoods-based course that shows how our lives are interconnected.”

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