Stags in the World
The express purpose of a Fairfield education is the development of global citizens, young men and women who are at home in the world and confidently engage in cultural circumstances with an open mind and the capacity to empathize with others. Throughout the past year, students and faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences exemplified this tradition of learning by traveling the globe and participating in international initiatives that exposed them to new cultures, the importance of humanitarian action and a wealth of learning opportunities.
Africa: Tanzania and Zanzibar
In July, Fairfield University students traveled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Machui, Zanzibar for the service-learning course African Politics. Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka, associate professor of politics, led students Riley Barrett '17, Sarah Greenwood '17, Meaghan Hamilton '17, Adrienne Sgarlato '17, Zavon Billups '18 and Michael Harding '18 on a two-week service-learning trip, where they carried out research projects ranging from the examination of gender inequality in education to the role hip-hop plays in shaping East African youth culture.
"I truly feel privileged to have been offered the opportunity to immerse myself in the Tanzanian culture,” said Harding. “This trip was not about Americans helping the Tanzanian people ‘develop’ or ‘progress’ in any way shape or form, but about cultural immersion and exchange at its most authentic and pure level."
South America: Brazil
This past January, Alexandra Martin ‘17 traveled to Brazil with Dr. Ashley Byun, associate professor of biology, to work with Projeto Tamar, a Brazilian non-profit organization owned by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation that protects sea turtles from extinction on the Brazilian coastline. While working with Projeto Tamar, students help dig artificial nests, transfer loggerhead turtle eggs and patrol the beaches at night to protect nesting mothers. They also conduct independent research projects that include monitoring nest temperatures and gauging the effects of urban lights on hatchling orientation. Martin is the first Projeto Tamar intern to be selected from Fairfield University.
During the summer of 2015, students enrolled in Dr. Janie Leatherman’s Politics of Humanitarian Action course partnered with Scholars at Risk (SAR), an international network dedicated to protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom around the world, to investigate the case of Dr. Mohammad Hossein Rafiee, a retired Iranian chemistry professor imprisoned in Tehran who was arrested without warrant and sentenced to five years in prison for “spreading propaganda against the system by giving interviews to media who were against the state.” Scholars at Risk raised their concerns about Professor Rafiee’s welfare and the repercussions his circumstances might have on intellectual discourse in Iran.
Determined to help the cause, the humanitarian action students were divided into four teams to research ways to advocate for Rafiee’s release. In addition to traveling to New York City to meet with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, the class prepared a 50-page background report for SAR on Dr. Rafiee’s case that included avenues for advocacy in relation to several key stakeholders. By September 2016, Rafiee was released on medical furlough due to poor health and was allowed to recuperate at home. Clare Farne Robinson, Scholars at Risk Advocacy Director, stated that the students’ efforts were “instrumental in moving Dr. Rafiee's case forward, and perhaps most important, they provided much-needed hope to his family.”
This semester, the College of Arts and Sciences announced the launch of the Bellarmine Scholars program, an initiative that provides intellectually curious liberal arts students with a unique opportunity to study in Florence, Italy during their sophomore year. Outstanding students within the College of Arts and Sciences are nominated by faculty to participate in the program based on academic excellence and classroom engagement exhibited during their freshman year. Fifteen students have already been accepted into the fall 2017 pilot program and will spend the upcoming semester advancing their studies at Florence University for the Arts.
Once abroad, students will participate in an interesting and challenging suite of courses that offer an in-depth introduction to Italian culture and explore the role that cultural heritage plays in customs and lifestyles. In their "Cultural Introduction to Italy" course, students will visit different areas of the country from Cortona to Sicily and learn about the diverse lifestyles, history and artistic cultures of the various regions. Students will also participate in community engagement actives intended to further expose them to local citizens and regional activities. For more information, visit fairfield.edu/bellarminescholars.