Students present cross-cultural experiences in forum
Over winter break, Mary Peng ’15 traveled to rural Beijing with several other Dartmouth students to teach English to the children of migrant workers. At the fifth annual Student Forum on Global Learning on Monday, Peng and dozens of other students spoke about cross-cultural experiences that ranged from domestic internships and research opportunities to international service trips and study abroad programs.

The forum revolved around the theme of “a time for positive and vigorous action” and consisted of student-led sessions moderated by faculty. The 2014 forum differed from previous years’ in its emphasis on graduate and professional student participation, said assistant director of undergraduate advising and research Jill Savage, who co-chaired the event and sat on its planning committee. The presentations have also grown more diverse over the forum’s five years, with students presenting on many different types of opportunities. This year’s forum also included a visual exhibition of research. In a presentation titled “Our Most Powerful Tool: English,” Peng discussed her involvement in the Dandelion Project, which aims to bridge the education gap between children of migrant workers and their wealthier urban counterparts in China. Peng and several other Dartmouth students visited the Dandelion Middle School in rural Beijing. The group worked with teachers to improve students’ English skills and better prepare them for college entrance exams. “It was a transformational experience for me to see the huge inequality that exists within China,” she said. “When we visited the students’ homes, we were shocked to see these kids, who were so grateful for our help, living in the middle of wastelands without water or a heating system.” Dickey Center student programs officer Amy Newcomb said that organizors chose to host the forum on Martin Luther King Jr. Day after realizing that there was no structured activity specifically aimed to attract students during the day, Newcomb said. “With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s values of global citizenship and deliberate reflection on our actions, we thought it would be appropriate to launch the forum on MLK Day,” she said. Every fall, the event’s planning committee solicits student proposals about cross-cultural experiences in the U.S. and elsewhere. After reviewing submissions, the committee attempts to identify common threads among proposals and urges some students to collaborate under a shared theme to produce a final, joint presentation. In the process, students work with a faculty moderator whose research focus often aligns with their own experiences. Kate Bradshaw ’14, who worked with two other students on a presentation about global health in Peru, Rwanda and Tibet, said she enjoyed sharing her experience conducting a survey about pesticide use in Peru’s Mala Valley. Bradshaw carried out the research project after participating in last winter’s Global Health Case Competition, which tasks teams of students with generating solutions to a complex global health problem. Kaila Pedersen ’14, who presented about volunteering in the field of education, said she concentrated on how the non-governmental organization hosting her internship in Bosnia and Herzegovina employed peer-to-peer learning in some of its programs. Bonita Chen ’16, who attended the event, said she found the forum’s timing to be appropriate, as the presentations enabled students to learn more about other cultures and broaden their viewpoints. “I just wish more people would come to these events, and perhaps particularly those who are not from multicultural backgrounds,” Chen said. Rockefeller Center program officer Vincent Mack, who co-chaired the forum with Savage, said he appreciates the fact that students recognize the privilege they have in enjoying learning opportunities outside the classroom and are willing to share their experiences. Several College offices, including the Tucker Foundation, Rockefeller Center and Office of Off-Campus Programs, collaborated to organize the forum, Newcomb said.
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