Different Languages, Shared Values: Partnering across Campus for Ethical Global Engagement

January 26, 2019

In yesterday’s post I shared how our selection, partnership, and preparation processes aim to support ethical global engagement at the Haverford College Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. Today, I focus on the ways in which the community-driven commitments of Fair Trade Learning are intersecting with our programming, existing partnerships, and faculty scholarship.

Later this week I’ll share more about how these kinds of commitments are developing at large institutions. Now that I’ve been at Haverford for two and a half years, I sometimes get the “this only works at small liberal arts colleges” feedback. But FTL practices and principles work across institutional types and sizes. The University of Minnesota, University of Dayton, and IUPUI have all made clear progress on many of these key questions.

At Haverford, change happens through consensus. The collaborations I describe here are reflective of scores of interpersonal conversations and committee decisions. One essential point is that three of the four examples shared below do not grow from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. Through conversation, we have had the opportunity to align with them. Once we align, we find ways to support students in summer internships and community engagement during the academic year. Here are four examples of what’s actually done, followed by an analysis of the common themes.

Assistant Professor of Linguistics Brook Lillehaugen cooperates with Zapotec language activists in the preservation and protection of the language. Through more than 15 years of cooperation and relationship, that network has produced the only open-access digital explorer of colonial Zapotec texts, (maintained by Haverford College Libraries) numerous journal articles, Zapotec instructional opportunities in schools and communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, and – most recently through another initiative at Haverford – a Zapotec language video documentary series.

Through a network that includes Guatemalan Human Rights Activists with decades of insight and experience, post-doctoral Fellow Alex Galarza is advancing The Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM) Digital Archive. The project aims to digitize, preserve, and provide access to over 3,700 case files of disappearances tied to Guatemala’s armed internal conflict (1960-1996). Haverford College Libraries are again fundamental in this work, supporting the creation and maintenance of the online space.

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies Helen White studies oil dispersants: the stuff used to remediate water systems after oil spills. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, huge amounts of chemical dispersant were put into the water. White worked with students on research in the Gulf. The results help policymakers understand that these chemical dispersants do not breakdown as quickly as previously believed.

Puentes de Salud supports the health of Philadelphia’s growing Latinx population and educates the next generation of policy makers and medical professionals about the structural determinants of health. We have partnered with Puentes through their Director of Education, Alexandra Wolkoff, who now officially dedicates 25% of her time to supporting courses in Health Studies and Spanish. During these courses, students complete projects (in the Health Studies senior capstone) and/or volunteer tutoring hours (in Intermediate Spanish) with Puentes.

Here are the themes I read across these partnerships:

  • They are community- and issue-driven. Looking through the list above, not one of these student experiences began with the goal of giving the student an experience. Instead, we aligned with faculty and community network mentorship to connect students’ interests with authentic concerns and projects.
  • They leverage campus resources beyond individual experiences or semesters. Both the Zapotec and rights archive cases align precisely with a considerable conventional infrastructure commitment of higher education: the creation and maintenance of libraries and archives. In the Puentes partnership we share commitment to an employee. The research in the Gulf was made possible in part through a National Science Foundation grant.
  • They connect at the core of the conventional work of higher education: research and teaching. These projects are good projects for us to do because they originate with a desire for the specific skills and assets that our faculty and their students can bring. I do think there are other ways of connecting ethically and I’ll share more about that in my next post, but the authentic skill and desire match is essential for project-based work.
  • The products of collaboration are community-connected and relevant. In the Puentes de Salud collaboration, our students produced a regional College guide tailored to the expressed interests of teenagers with whom Puentes works. The archives collaborations are accessible to community members. In both cases they have been accessed from diverse sites throughout the Americas. In respect to studying dispersants in the Gulf, what was needed there was new scientific knowledge, so conventional research production in peer-reviewed journal articles was vital for that issue and context!
  • Preparation for ethical engagement is deeply embedded in existing relationships. Students who apply to work with Professors Lillehaugen or White often learn about the projects because of exposure to related ideas in the courses they teach. The faculty and students have often been getting to know one another for quite some time. All of the individuals mentioned above – Galarza, Lillehaugen, White, and Wolkoff – have important and personally valuable relationships in the communities where the work is occurring. Through courses and mentoring they select students who will work thoughtfully with the programs – and they continue to mentor them and model ethical engagement throughout the experience. (I do have the luxury of working with [these] faculty and staff who are aware of their power, privilege, and positionality. If that weren’t the case, this mentoring wouldn’t work as I’m describing).

What I’m excited about here is that we were able to productively expand our locations of purposeful global engagement and learning not through the generation of new initiatives so much as through integration and collaboration with existing efforts. Not all of the faculty involved were using the language of civic engagement, service-learning, global learning, FTL, etc. (perhaps none of them were). But they were doing the work. It was less important to define the frameworks and rubrics than it was to acknowledge shared principles and commitments. Equally, at the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship we had to take the time to look across the landscape of faculty work and recognize that many faculty were doing research that is highly relevant to our mission and our purposes at the college.

Since identifying the values and practices we hold in common with these colleagues outside our center, several of them have utilized the FTL rubric to analyze existing partnerships, investigating questions at common pressure points. Those tended to be productive conversations, calling attention to issues and questions that don’t always arise naturally.

Yesterday I over-promised what would be in today’s post! Later this week:


Eric Hartman is lead author of Community-based global learning: The theory and practice of ethical engagement at home and abroad, Executive Director of the Haverford College Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, and co-founder of The Globalsl Network, a coalition advancing community-campus partnerships for just, inclusive, and sustainable communities.   

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