Dean’s scholars to travel to Chile

A new Living and Learning Community will send ten freshmen to Chile to learn first-hand about the effects of globalization.

The program, Dean’s Scholars in Globalization, houses the ten freshmen on the Mount Vernon campus. While living together, the students work with advisors to create a unique globalization minor and complete a collaborative research project about urban planning with architecture students from the University of Chile.

The two-year program culminates next July with a trip to Santiago, Chile, where they will work with the Chilean students to research issues such as gentrification, transportation, urban sprawl and overcrowding.

The University has 26 LLCs ranging from a sports fanatic community to an elections and campaign strategy community. The groups are designed to give students a unique living experience with people who share a common interest.

Globalization program director Elizabeth Chacko said her LLC is more academic than others. Dean’s Global Scholars will concentrate on Latin America and urban development.

Students in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences-based LLC reside in Merriweather Hall and will participate in a host of activities together, such as lectures, fieldtrips and films. Mount Vernon is home to another academic community, the Women’s Leadership Program, which will begin its seventh year; it offers 82 female freshmen the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills while concentrating on a specific discipline.

“We thought Mount Vernon was a good choice because it’s not as hectic as Thurston or Mitchell,” said Chacko, a geography professor. “We wanted to have an LLC that’s small and a special place.”

GW selected the program’s participants students based on applications that demonstrated a strong interest in global studies. Upon entering the program, each student received a free laptop with a web camera to allow them to communicate with their Chilean colleagues.

The University chose Santiago as the destination because it is one of the largest cities in the country and a prime place to study urban planning and sprawl. Chile is also safer than other Latin American countries, Chacko said.

The program’s money has come from the CCAS budget, but the program is seeking a grant from the Starr Foundation, which has a history of helping students learn about international issues.

To prepare for the trip, students are taking intensive Spanish courses. They will also take a seminar on globalization this semester.

The program’s following years are less structured; students have a chance to develop their own unique curriculums in global studies consisting of graduate courses, internships and other University resources.

After two years in the program, students declare a regular major in their school. At this point, Chacko said there is no major in globalization, but as more groups of students are added to the program, one may be developed.

Freshman Matt Plevelich said he did not expect to receive a free laptop from the program – it was a surprise for the students. He said he is especially excited to be able to go to Chile.

“I think it’s a pretty unique and exclusive opportunity,” he said. “And I’m not one to turn that down.”

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