Letters to the editor

Make research part of the student experience

I agree with Doug Cohen’s over-arching notion in “Striking the right teaching-research balance” (Oct. 17, p.4) that this is a critical time for the University to determine how it will reconcile teaching and research. He gives workable suggestions on how to accomplish this, and his responses are made with a comprehensive understanding of the problem.

Many universities, along with GW, are engaged in this struggle, but GW is unique because it has a high graduate student-to-undergraduate student ratio and it has a long history as a school focused on teaching excellence. In addition to congratulating Cohen and The Hatchet for this column, and adding my support for striking such a balance, I would add two suggestions.

Let the concept of research be expanded to include all disciplines and methods. For example, we traditionally think first of science research, then of social science research and then of less broad or less well-known initiatives. Let’s update our thinking to consider all fields of research and expand our initiative across disciplines to include everyone and move everyone forward.

Research is a cycle – from theory to methodology to design, implementation, analysis of results and informed praxis. New praxis generates new theory, and the cycle continues. All disciplines can benefit from being more invested in this research cycle.

Professors should engage students throughout their research processes and even mentor students while doing it. Everything from literature searches to applied logic to data analysis to dark energy astrophysics should be taught to students as part of their disciplines, as all students would learn to implement and benefit from the research cycle.

Research should be part of the student experience along with the faculty experience, and is an ideal mentoring opportunity. This may provide another bridge to facilitate the teaching-research balance, and provide alumni with a competitive edge of experience.

Peggy Kay is a professor in the department of religion.


Study abroad provides a wealth of benefits

While I agree with the “Make D.C. your study abroad destination” column (Oct. 13, p. 2) regarding the many merits of D.C. and its opportunities, my opinions differ in terms of the benefits of studying abroad.

Graduating on time is not an issue. By simply doing some minimum planning through meeting with your academic and study abroad advisers, you can study abroad, complete major requirements and possibly even graduate early. In fact, there are students who choose to study abroad for three semesters who still graduate on time.

Experiences abroad also benefit returning students in many ways. Former study abroad students get more out of their classes with experiences that help them put course work into a global context. Beyond campus, studying abroad makes students more competitive for internship and employment opportunities.

In our increasingly globalized world, international experience as well as foreign language acquisition are highly valued and sometimes even prerequisites. Study abroad therefore gives students and recent graduates that extra edge that improves their chances of employment.

Study abroad students from D.C. are still culturally and politically enriched, as they are exposed to new ways of thinking and unique cultural experiences that they could never hope to witness while on campus. Some study abroad students have the opportunity to experience history in the making. For example, those studying in North Africa and the Middle East last semester witnessed the Arab Spring unfold.

Study abroad is not, as the author claims, just travel. It’s an expansion of one’s world view. As first lady Michelle Obama said in her commencement speech to GW graduates in 2010, “In the end, the simple act of opening your mind and engaging abroad…can change your definition of what’s possible.”

Johanna Schneider, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a peer adviser in the Office of Study Abroad.

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