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Cities in Transition

On a June afternoon in Beloit, WI, Beloit College faculty members disperse to various sites in the city to explore the potential for using these in experiential learning assignments.  Later, they draw on the visits to the sites to create assignments for courses students will take in China, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Russia as well as in Beloit. In the courses, the students will observe, explore, and analyse the cities in which they are studying. Course readings will give them a theoretical framework for their work, while writing assignments will push them to think what and how they are learning.

The Cities in Transition project was developed at Beloit College to help study abroad students escape the “bubbles” or foreign student communities that are often a feature of the study abroad experience. Such bubbles often increase the difficulty of making meaningful connections with the study abroad host site. The larger aim of the project, however, is to maximize study abroad’s learning potential by giving the students the tools that are needed for intercultural and experiential learning. Depending on the course location, volunteering or self-designed projects enable students to deepen their engagement with their host cities around topics of immediate interest to them.

Cities in Transition courses taken along with other courses at the host site include:

  • Chinese Cities in Transition:  for students studying at Henan University (Kaifeng, China) and Shandong University (Jinan, China)
  • Dakar in Transition:  for students studying at the Baobab Center (Dakar, Senegal)
  • Moscow in Transition:  for students studying at the Russian State University for the Humanities
  • Quito in Transition: for students studying at Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador

Additionally, modular courses are in development for students studying abroad in the Spanish-speaking world. 

Zan Noodles
Photo by Zan McGreevey ‘09 for her project on a family-owned Muslim restaurant in Kaifeng.

Cities in Transition courses offered in Beloit:

  • Nicaragua in Transition:  Microcredit and Health:  interdisciplinary course using Beloit as an arena for exploration of the course topic.  One-week visit to Nicaragua over spring break.  Offered every second spring. Will next be offered in spring 2011.
  • Elements of the Cities in Transition pedagogy also have been incorporated into pre- and post-study abroad courses, First Year Initiative seminars, and political science courses.

Cities in Transition courses have been developed with the support of a Beloit College special initiatives fund, a gift from a private donor, a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to integrate study abroad into the curriculum, and the Fulbright Program, which brought Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Darren Kelly to campus for the 2008/09 academic year. The courses have been discussed in several publications, including an article by Donna Oliver (Russian) on Moscow in Transition, appearing in the fall 2009 Beloit College Magazine, and book chapters by Nancy Krusko (Anthropology) and Daniel Youd (Chinese) appearing in Integrating Study Abroad into the Curriculum: Theory and Practice Across the Disciplines, Elizabeth Brewer & Kiran Cunningham (Eds.), Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2010.

Workshops and seminars held to develop the course pedagogy:

  • Beloit, 2008 - Participants: Elizabeth Brewer (International Education), Ibou Diallo (Baobab Center, Dakar, Senegal), Fatim Louise Dia Djack (Baobab Center, Dakar, Senegal), Marina Dobrovolskaya (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia), Marion Fass (Biology), Natalie Gummer (Religious Studies), Ellen Joyce (History), Darren Kelly (2007/08 Fulbright Scholar in Residence) Sylvia Lopez (Spanish), Nancy Krusko (Anthropology), Josh Moore (International Education), Belen Norona (Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador), Donna Oliver (Russian), Jan Motyka Sanders (Arcadia University Program in Athens, Greece), Pablo Toral (International Relations), Larry White (Psychology), and Daniel Youd (Chinese).  Martyn Smith (Religious Studies, Lawrence University), conducted a session on electronic mapping while Amy Sarno (Theater Studies) led a session on conducting field research.
  • Moscow, 2006 - Participants: Marion Fass (Biology), Susan Cleverdon (External Affairs), Eszter Kato (Jószef Eötvös Kollegium, Hungary), Darren Kelly (IES, Dublin), Nancy Krusko (Anthropology), Chuck Lewis (English), Ed Mathieu (History), Olga Ogurtsova (Russian), Donna Oliver (Russian), Charles Westerberg (Sociology), Daniel Youd (Chinese), and Elizabeth Brewer (International Education). 

Moscow Toilets
This photo was taken in a faculty workshop in Moscow looking at different aspects of the city including Public Health.

  • Beloit, 2005 - Participants:  Lillian Baer (Baobab Center, Senegal), Sonja Darlington (Education), Suzanne Eckhardt (ESL), Darren Kelly (IES Dublin), Scott Lyngaas (French), Josh Moore (Baobab Center, Senegal), Donna Oliver (Russian), Catherine Orr (Women’s and Gender Studies), Margaret Rennerfeldt (Dance), Guadalupe Uquillas (Resident Director, Beloit Ecuador Program), and Carsey Yee (Shanghai course instructor, fall 2005), Daniel Youd (Chinese) and Elizabeth Brewer (International Education). 

Beloit Bungalows
This photo was taken during a mapping exercise in the city of Beloit.

Workshop to bring the Cities in Transition pedagogy into the First Year Initiative and assess the extent to which this enhances student agency:

  • June 2010 with support from an ACM FaCE grant and in collaboration with Coe College and Lawrence University.  Beloit College participants:  Natalie Gummer (Religious Studies and project director), Kristin Bonnie (Psychology), Josh Hall (Economics), Susan Rice (Music), Amy Tibbitts (Modern Language and Literatures), Carol Wickersham (Sociology and Liberal Arts in Practice Center) and Elizabeth Brewer (International Education).