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The College of Arts Sciences

Anthropology Launches New Engaged Learning Curriculum

March 6, 2017

This fall, the Department of Anthropology will launch a new curriculum in engaged learning. Three new courses have been designed to help students make the most of off-campus experiences whether they are part of a program of study abroad, service learning, or engaged research and teaching. Students will engage with the diverse community on campus and in Ithaca in order to hone vital skills in intercultural communication and reflection.

Thanks to the Global Cornell and Engaged Cornell initiatives, Cornell students increasingly take part in a variety of off-campus learning opportunities. Anthropology’s new curriculum responds to the pressing need for better student preparation in advance as well as a greater emphasis in helping students to process their experiences after returning to campus. Rather than develop a single course, the Department has created a comprehensive wrap-around curriculum that helps students to develop their capacity for cross-cultural thinking over the course of their time at Cornell. The aim is to provide a space in which students can develop basic skills, hone more advanced techniques, and then sediment their experiences into the values of global citizenship that will serve them long after graduation.

This new curriculum builds on the Anthropology department’s deep experience with communities around the world and sustained reflection on the challenges and possibilities of cross-cultural encounters. The courses will leverage the expertise of its internationally-oriented faculty to train students broadly for any experience that asks them to navigate connections with diverse communities, whether across the globe or in our backyard. The curriculum offers a rigorous approach to the concept of engagement while also providing the practical skills that students need as they move into new contexts.

Hayden Kantor, the Postdoctoral Associate for Global Engaged Learning will teach the first iteration of these courses next fall. Dr. Kantor received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell in 2016 and has been developing this new engaged curriculum in conversation with campus and community partners over the course of this year.

The three classes will co-meet during the fall semester, providing students at different levels an opportunity to mentor and learn from their peers. Active learning is a hallmark of the program. Students will engage in placements on campus and in the Ithaca community, and will collaborate to produce and revise their research.

“There are few skills more critical to success in our globalized world than the capacity to appreciate human diversity, to understand its sources, and to navigate its complexities, whether at home or abroad. Whether your future lies in business, law, medicine, or any other field, you will have to figure out how to collaborate with people whose world views are profoundly different than your own. These courses will teach students how to do that.”

The courses are open to students from all majors and colleges. While its recommended that students take the three-class sequence, they are also welcome to enroll in any single class. The courses provide preparation for any type of study abroad or engaged learning experience at Cornell.

These engaged learning courses emphasize the benefits of applying an anthropological lens to intercultural engagement. Students will have the opportunity to hone the craft of ethnographic observation and interviewing through projects on and off campus. They will also develop the habits of reflexive writing that are essential for meaningful personal growth. Students will create ePortfolios to share their research and reflections and will have the opportunity to revise their ePortfolios as they progress through the course sequence.

ANTHR 1900 - Global Engagements: Living and Working in a Diverse World is geared towards first- and second-year students interested in partaking in engaged learning programs during their time at Cornell. This course introduces these students to the principles and practice of engagement through service placements in Ithaca. Community partners include The History Center of Tompkins County and TST BOCES. Students will develop their ethnographic skills through research projects. They will also make a plan for partaking in engaged learning during their time at Cornell.

ANTHR 3901 - Going Global: Preparing for Engaged Learning is a half-semester course designed for students departing for study abroad or other engaged learning programs at Cornell. Students will research the history and culture of their destination. They will hone their ethnographic skills through conversation groups with international graduate students at Cornell, organized by the English Language Support Office. This will give students a chance to practice their ethnographic interviewing skills and consider what it is like to study in a foreign academic environment.

ANTHR 3902 - Coming Home: Making the Most of Engaged Experiences is a half-semester course designed for students returning from study abroad and engaged learning programs. Students will have an opportunity to consider how their experience has impacted their identity and grapple with “culture shock.” They will revise their portfolios and articulate a vision of global citizenship that they will carry forward beyond their time at Cornell.

The development of this new curriculum was funded by the Office of Engagement Initiatives, the Global Cornell Initiative, and the College of Arts and Sciences’ Academic Innovation awards.

Dr. Kantor said, “Across campus and in the Ithaca community, this is a moment characterized by a real energy for collaboration and a momentum for developing meaningful engaged learning opportunities. We have a chance to make anthropology feel relevant for our students in a pedagogically innovative way. We aim to provide our students with the anthropological tools to put what they’ve learned into practice in the context of the engaged learning experiences offered at Cornell. I can’t wait to work with our first cohort of students next fall.”

The Engaged Learning Committee includes Hayden Kantor (Anthropology), Adam T. Smith (Anthropology), Stacey Langwick (Anthropology), Viranjini Munasinghe (Anthropology), Sofia Villenas (Anthropology) , Darlene Evans (Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines), and Elliott Shapiro (Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines).

Visit Engaged Anthropology and  Engaged Learning Curriculum to learn more.