Central College News

Featured: Experience Matters

March 2, 2012

Just like their students, the faculty at Central College work hard. They deserve to spend winter break relaxing at home, or maybe on a beach in the Caribbean. But this year 22 faculty members chose to spend their winter breaks working. For several days in early January, they traveled to Merida, Mexico, where Central has a study abroad site, for a workshop focused on global learning. They slept in hammocks in the Mayan village of Tinum, picked corn in local fields, learned how to weave baskets, visited the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and engaged in discussions focused on culture and place.

The goal of the workshop was to create a learning community among this specific group of faculty members, as well as to explore the idea of global learning—and experience it for themselves. “If faculty members are going to be effective global teachers, they also have to be effective global learners, and that’s why the experiential component is so critical,” says Lyn Isaacson, associate dean of global education, who led the planning team that organized the workshop.

The trip included much experiential learning, such as visiting archeological sites and exploring the city of Merida, as well as academic readings, presentations and discussions on the culture, history and geography of the Yucatan. The attendees came from many different departments, which meant all the discussions were interdisciplinary, representing the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Guest speakers from the Merida community also presented on public health, biocultural reserves and the arts.

“We live in a world that’s interconnected and where the local and global connect in surprising ways,” said Isaacson. “We need to be aware of how that’s working, not just in a broad theoretical way but in particular instances.”

Already, the workshop has served as a catalyst for faculty as they plan their courses for this semester and next. Isaacson said there’s a heightened awareness about how to talk to students about their own global experiences. And some faculty members are already revising their syllabi. “One thing I’m certain about now is that I want to know more and understand better what it means to be global,” wrote one faculty member is an anonymous survey.

Isaacson said that the template for this workshop—embedded in a faculty learning community, experience-based, infused with discussion and academic readings—is one they would use for future faculty workshops. The college continues to be committed to global experiential learning, especially as the entire community, and faculty in particular, discuss and define what that will look like at Central—whether it will involve the curriculum, study abroad, international students or faculty workshops.

“To be educated in the 21st century, you really have to be thinking global,” says Isaacson.


See more photos from the trip: