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Timothy Reese Cain

This concluding contribution to the special issue on the Ethnography of the University Initiative based at the University of Illinois locates the project at the intersections of several of the main currents in modern higher education: the push for undergraduate research, calls for critical inquiry into higher education, an interest in pedagogical communities and excitement over technological innovation. It further identifies the challenges facing EUI as it enters its second decade.

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Siobhan B. Somerville

This article offers a first-person account of the author's experience teaching an undergraduate course on local queer culture, using her own campus as the site for primary research. The course asks how students might understand the role of Midwestern public universities in the production of queer culture. And how might such knowledge revise understandings of queer culture and its locations, both in the past and in the present? The author describes the course design, the goals of introducing undergraduate students to two scholarly methods (archival research and ethnography) and a number of original research projects undertaken by students.

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Priscilla Fortier

This article describes the findings of an undergraduate Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) course in which students examined the university's efforts to improve the racial climate of the campus. These institutional efforts are intended to create a more comfortable environment for under-represented minority students who often comprise a significantly smaller group on campus than in their home neighbourhoods and high schools. Many minority group students experience isolation and discomfort connected to a lack of 'ownership' of campus spaces and traditions, which tend to be monopolised by white students. In my EUI class, which was sponsored by the Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA) at the University of Illinois (U of I), under-represented minority students focused their ethnographic projects specifically on campus-sponsored programmes intended to facilitate interaction across racial and ethnic groups. Of particular interest to students were programmes related to residence halls and campus social spaces. The findings presented here indicate that campus-sponsored programmes to increase race awareness that depend upon students' voluntary participation may be less effective in bringing students together than required classroom-based programmes and informal interaction through shared extra-curricular passions.

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Catherine Prendergast

This article reports on the multi-year collaboration between the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) at the University of Illinois and the University's Rhetoric Program, a required first-year writing course. I argue that this collaboration was successful in large part because the goals of writing programmes in American higher education settings – teaching the process of research, inviting students to see themselves as producers of knowledge and fostering collaboration between peers – are highly consonant with principles of EUI. Indeed, my own history with EUI reflects the parallel commitment of Writing Studies and the methods and goals of EUI. I suggest that EUI can serve as a powerful model for universities if they seek to place undergraduate student research writing at the core of their mission.

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Claire Cororaton and Richard Handler

This article documents and analyses the uneasy, if not contradictory, relationship between service learning and liberal arts thinking in an undergraduate programme in Global Development Studies (GDS) at a North American University. As an undergraduate, Cororaton participated in a service-learning project to build a greenhouse in Mongolia; at the same time, the curriculum of her major (GDS, a programme directed by Handler) was developing a critique of such service projects, focusing on their lack of political self-consciousness. The authors contextualise the story within the university's ongoing attempts to enhance its global profile.

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Chaise Ladousa

This article explores representations emergent in discourse about service learning in an effort to understand what gives the notion special value. A job presentation of a candidate for dean of faculty, articles published in a college newspaper, descriptions posted on a college website and commentary offered in an interview with a student demonstrate that representations of service learning are salient in multiple contexts and presuppose the potential to transform the lives of everyone involved. This article identifies one of the discursive constructs making transformation possible – even inevitable – in reflections on service learning, and uses the construct to explore how it shapes a single instance of service learning's failure.

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Bonnie Urciuoli

Service learning and other engaged scholarship programmes ideally operate in an academic framework to enhance student understanding of citizenship and community engagement. In reality, given the constraints on institutional budgets, such programmes are likely to be underfunded and academically understaffed. Structured as choices on an institutional menu, programmes are routinely touted as transformative though what they transform may be indeterminate. The ways in which such programmes are presented encourage students to interpret transformation as personal experience, valued to the extent that students can do good in the world by acting as agents of progress, solving problems for people imagined to need their expertise, ideally in exotic settings as unlike students' routine lives as possible, while students develop skills and connections useful in their post-college careers. This construction of engaged scholarship readily lends itself to institutional promotional language but can undermine students' effective action in actual projects.

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Jason Hickel

Participation in development projects in the Global South has become one of the most sought-after activities among American and British high school graduates and college students. In the United States this often takes the form of Alternative Spring Break trips, while in Britain students typically pursue development work during their 'gap years'. Development projects offer students a way to craft themselves in an alternative mould, to have a 'real experience' that marks them off from the cultural mainstream as 'authentic' individuals. The student development craze represents an impulse to resist consumerist individualism, but this impulse has been appropriated and neutralised by a new logic of consumption, transforming a profoundly political urge for change into a form of 'resistance' compatible with neoliberal capitalism. In the end, students' pursuit of self-realisation through development has a profoundly depoliticising effect, shifting their attention away from substantive problems of extraction and exploitation to the state of the inner self.

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Kearsley A. Stewart

Interest in short-term international placements in global health training for U.S.-based medical students is growing; the trend is mirrored for global health undergraduate students. Best practices in field-based global health training can increase success for medical students, but we lack a critical framework for the undergraduate global health field experience. In what ways does an undergraduate field experience in global health resemble a medical student's first international health elective? Is it more similar to a study-abroad programme or a service-learning experience with a focus on personal development, civic responsibility and community engagement? This article suggests that an undergraduate global health field experience contains features of both the international medical elective and a traditional service-learning programme. I analyse a case study of a short-term U.S.-based undergraduate global health project and explore the intersections of research, professional training and service learning.

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Gudrun Willett

In a three-year ethnographic study of a selective U.S. liberal arts college, it was found that educational development efforts contributed not only to changes in teaching but also to cross-college collaboration and the development of a sense of community. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the college created a learning centre and new educational development activities that spoke to faculty members' needs and college interests. Following these changes, increased collegiality could be seen in collaborations among college employees, and in the educational development activities themselves, resulting in increased interest in educational development. These institutional changes were only made possible because of the college's relatively democratic governance structure, relatively high levels of faculty members' power on campus, and an environment in which ideas and practices could be challenged and re-conceptualised (at least by some employees). Ultimately, this paper argues for more attention to the interrelationships between campus collegiality, teaching and learning, and power in institutions of higher education.