Students merge studies on campus and abroad through the International Bridge Course program
Assistant Provost Maureen Forrestal and Dean of Global Initiatives Rebecca Bergren wanted to help Gettysburg students connect their off-campus studies with their academic passions. “Students often return from study abroad with new academic interests, or with a new, comparative understanding about an issue they have studied back on campus,” said Bergren, “and we wanted to ensure that we had the resources and formalized guidance to support them.”
In 2012, the two submitted the idea for a pilot International Bridge Course (IBC) program to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of a larger student research proposal. That October, they learned that the Mellon Foundation had approved the proposal—making it one of the first gifts to support global initiatives as part of the Gettysburg Great Campaign.
Through the IBC program, students pursue three-semester long projects in the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences under the guidance of a faculty mentor. In the first semester, the IBC Scholars develop a project, create a bibliography of texts, and conduct pre-departure research on campus. While abroad the following semester, they conduct international research in archives, communities, and out in the field—communicating regularly with their mentors throughout the process. When they return to campus, their mentors guide them in a culminating independent research project or Senior Capstone that showcases their findings.
To date, Gettysburg has sponsored a total of nine IBC Scholars. Three of their stories are included below.
In search of a place: intersections of gender, sexuality, place in Weimar Berlin
A double major in German Studies and Spanish and Latin American Studies, minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and active member of Gettysburg’s ALLies organization, Ann Sasala ’15 has both a personal and academic interest in pushing the boundaries of gender binaries and identity.
At Gettysburg, however, it was Sasala’s participation in ALLies that encouraged her to learn more about transgender identity and theory. In 2012, she was one of seven students who drafted a recommendation to faculty regarding ROTC course credits in light of military policies for transgender service members. “I started really educating myself about trans* issues,” she recalls, and was pleased to find a connection with her academic research in German Studies. “Germany is really where the concepts transgender and transsexual were first identified.”
Sasala became fascinated by gender nonconformity during the Weimar Republic—particularly in the places and spaces in which people were free to explore their identities. Last fall, she worked with Assistant Professor of German Studies Kerry Wallach—who has written extensively on the Weimar period—to develop a reading list for bi-weekly meetings.
This activity has been beneficial for both of them. “Through Ann’s research,” Wallach notes, “we have discovered several important theorists and texts that were previously unknown to me. In other words, working with Ann on this project has benefited my own scholarly development.”
The second IBC Scholar from German Studies, Sasala is currently conducting archival research in the Staatsbibliothek (Germany’s state library) and at the Schwules Museum (Gay Museum) in Berlin, and has visited the original sites of Berlin’s famously gender non-conforming night club, the Eldorado.
Beyond the Solu-Khumbu: aspirations of Sherpa youth
An avid outdoorsman, Joshua Ginder ’15 first became interested in Sherpa culture after reading about Sherpa mountaineers in Jon Krakauer’s bestseller, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. Through his study abroad program, Ginder decided to merge this passion for the outdoors with his coursework in Anthropology and Globalization Studies, and applied for the IBC program to study the economic and environmental impacts of the mountaineering industry on the Sherpa community.
Now abroad in Nepal, Ginder is learning first-hand about Sherpa culture, and has met a number of Sherpa youth who have left their native Solu-Khumbu region to pursue a university education or venture into other careers. Hearing their stories, he is eager to learn more. “How has (the mountaineering culture) shaped their identity?” he asks. “What does it mean in today’s world—especially for them as young up-and-coming scholars, doctors, engineers, and performers?”
Working with his faculty mentor, Associate Professor of Anthropology Matthew Amster, Ginder hopes to produce an ethnographic film capturing the sentiment of these Sherpa youth. He has prepared for the experience through coursework in ethnographic film, South Asian religion and culture, and anthropological theory and fieldwork methods. You can learn more about Ginder’s semester abroad—and view some of his incredible photography—on his blog.
Women’s participation in the French Revolution
“Cultural anthropology, in a sense, is a modern record and analysis of history as it happens,” said Ava Muhr ’15, double major in History and Anthropology. As she studies abroad in Nantes, France this semester, Muhr’s IBC project merges these fields to explore women’s participation during the French Revolution, historical and academic conceptions of their roles, and public understandings of gender and civic engagement today.
Under the guidance of her project mentor, Professor of History Bill Bowman, Muhr is reviewing primary sources at the National Library of France and the University Library in Nantes that describe and debate women’s roles during this period. She’ll also conduct interviews with present-day educators, citizens, and feminist groups to better understand how these historical depictions affect contemporary conceptions of gender. These modern-day understandings of gender are crucial, she says. “That is not to say that it must be a correct understanding of history, but rather the engagement of people with their nation’s history in the process of identity making.”
Muhr has prepared for her trip with courses in historic, fieldwork methods, and French language. She plans to draft a culminating research paper from her work, and ultimately intends to pursue graduate programs in museum studies.
Growing the internationalization effort
The IBC program has already garnered donor support. Shortly after the College received the Mellon grant in 2012, Dean for Global Initiatives Rebecca Bergren spoke at a Gettysburg reception to discuss and celebrate the College’s global initiatives. She told the participants about the IBC program, and lamented having to turn down qualified applicants to the program.
Richard and Lorraine Foltz ’79 were in the audience that day, and took Bergren’s words to heart. Having lived abroad for several years for Richard’s work, the Foltzes knew the value that an experience abroad can provide for students. They approached her after the program and made arrangements to support one more IBC Scholar—effective immediately.
Bergren and Forrestal matched the Foltzes with Ginder (above), and the three have remained in contact during his semester in Nepal. “We have enjoyed following Josh’s blog detailing his experiences this year,” said Lorraine Foltz, “and are hoping to meet him on campus soon.”
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Christine Shanaberger, associate director of communications/coordinator of presidential communications 717.337.6806
Posted: Tue, 15 Apr 2014
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