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News for the Santa Monica College Community
  October 01, 2012

Using the Global Theme in the Classroom

SMC professors are using the 2012-13 global theme, "Poverty & Wealth, Want & Waste," in fascinating and sometimes very creative ways.


Sumaya Bezrati, Arabic

I am incorporating the theme into my Arabic 1 class. We discuss current events in the Arab world in class from time to time, such as the Arab Spring Revolutions and currently what is happening with the Arab Winter. We talk about what were/are the driving forces behind these demonstrations, including political climate and the rising food prices.




Franklyn Phillips, Art/Ceramics

I arranged for a screening for the entire campus of “The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz” and brought the documentary filmmaker Scott Petersen to speak on Sept. 20.  (We first screened the film last May just for the ceramics students and local community in advance of this school year’s global theme.) The film documents the rise from poverty of an entire village/pueblo in Northern Mexico that was dedicated to the ceramic arts.




Kathleen Motoike, English

I am incorporating the theme of "Poverty and Wealth, Want & Waste: The Unevenness of Globalization" into my English 1 classes.  The focus of the class readings is to consider new ways of looking at what seems to be an age-old problem, especially when the economic climate is making most of us feel we are barely keeping our heads afloat.

I'm using the textbook Brief Bedford Reader and the book The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz.

The first part of the class takes on the way we "see" things and how we can learn to see problems and solutions from different perspectives.

My students just looked at the problem of homelessness and why many programs are ineffective. 

  1. We brainstormed the common solutions.

  2. Then we brainstormed the reasons that people are homeless and discovered that blanket solutions are ineffective. We also looked at the population that is in most need – the invisible homeless – which includes families living out of cars and even students. I read an article about the homeless student population at UCLA – they live with friends in the dorms during the school sessions.  UCLA has set up a food closet so they will be able to eat. I also talked about homeless students in my classes at SMC as well as in the Los Angeles Unified School District system.

  3. Then I asked students to work in teams of four. The scenario: they are the directors of a nonprofit agency competing for a $100,000 grant to provide resources for the homeless during the winter month.  We added a scenario that Southern California is expecting harsh winters because of the changing climates.

  4. Each student in the group had a responsibility for writing 1-3 paragraphs as part of a proposal. One needed to get statistics of homeless in the Los Angeles area as well as any significant demographics.  Another student then researched and wrote about the needs of a particular geographic area to be targeted (students got to choose whether they wanted to cover all of Southern California, Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, or any other city).  This student also wrote about the specific subgroups of homeless people – families, working people, students, children, vets, drug addicts, and so on.  The third student then wrote up the recommendations and how they would use the $100,000. They all recognized that it was not a lot of money, so they were looking at ways they could launch campaigns in conjunction with hospitals, churches, schools, and local businesses. The fourth student summarized the points.

  5. Groups presented their proposals in class with the other students acting as government officials, questioning the choices they had made.

  6. This activity served as a research/team building/brainstorming for individual essays on resolving homelessness.

We're going to be reading other essays out of the text (which I'll align toward looking at things in a different way). One of them is "Live Free and Starve" about the consequences of banning imports from countries that use child labor.

The Blue Sweater is about the founder of The Acumen Fund and her work with women in Africa.  The organization provides loans, with interest, to women who have community-based businesses, such as bakeries, water purification projects, etc.). There are also other micro-lending organizations, including FITE, a program started by Dermalogica with a similar charge.

The course will culminate in the students’ English 1 Research Papers. I'll work with teams to do initial research on countries known for high rates of poverty. The team will look at the need (as they did in the local homeless project). Then they can individually select a specific area to research and make recommendations. I will also offer the options for students to investigate and evaluate the effectiveness of micro lending in these countries. In the past, students have been interested in evaluating the efforts of some NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations).

I'm excited about this theme because it's good to get us all thinking about what can be done for others. 



Stuart Cooley, Renewable Energies

I may not call out the theme as it is named here, but suffice it to say that the pursuit of Energy Efficiency (EE1and EE2) and solar photovoltaics (PV1, PV2, and PV3) is a constant battle to encourage the adoption of infinitely renewable energy sources to meet our needs in a way that (we hope) does not exploit nations or peoples of their resources and future viability. PV modules are now equally valuable to developed nations as they have been for developing, rural communities otherwise devoid of electricity. And energy efficiency both streamlines our productivity, but also effectively "buys the world time" to wean off of non-renewables.

Sustainability Education draws some of its best learning from cultures and societies that start from a position of scarcity.



Jillian Anderson, Business

This theme is incorporated into my Introduction to International Business class. For example, each semester begins with exploring the positive and negative effects of globalization from the perspectives of various stakeholders. Students learn about how the migration of what may be perceived as lower-skilled manufacturing jobs from advanced industrialized countries translates into new higher skilled employment opportunities in other countries. That has tremendous monetary benefits for those workers and their countries, provides access to better quality and reduced priced items, influences geopolitics, reduces crime, and encourages peaceful attitudes toward those perceived as more affluent.

Throughout the course, students learn about the inter-relationships between culture, ethics, government policies, cross-border business activities, and day-to-day business operations while learning how to apply various managerial decision-analysis frameworks. In doing so, students learn to be mindful of globalization, rather than being myopically focused on an immediate region when making business decisions.


Salvador Carrasco, Film Studies

In the History of International Cinema and in the Representation of Ethnic Minorities in Cinema courses, films that tackle the current global theme are screened and discussed. Specifically, the movies are “Los Olvidados” (“The Forgotten Ones”), the 1950 Mexican film directed by Luis Buñuel, and “In a Better World,” the 2010 film out of Sweden directed by Susanne Bier.

Likewise, in Advanced Digital Production and in Directing the Short Film classes, I encourage students to choose scenes to reinterpret and to make original short films about our inexhaustible global theme this year.



Brenda Antrim, Library

I’m using the theme as a search for orientations I’m teaching across the curriculum, if the instructor hasn’t already assigned a topic.  I’ve used it for History, Speech, English and Economics research orientations.  Also, several of the classes I’ve done orientations for are using it as a theme. For example, I did an orientation for an English 1 class that is looking at The Grapes of Wrath using the SMC theme as a prism through which to analyze the story.

The orientations are single-session workshops where the instructors bring their classes over to the library and the reference librarians teach the students how to use the catalog and databases. It’s a hands-on practicum, so it works best when the students have a topic to search for, and if the instructor doesn’t give them one, I use the SMC theme. We teach workshops across the curriculum and the theme works well for all the various classes. The students respond positively too.


Zeny Baduel, Graphic Design

I am one of the faculty members who went on the SMC China study trip this summer and did an independent study on Advertising in China. I have always intended to incorporate the global citizenship theme in my graphic design classes for the fall semester.

In my Corporate Branding class, I assigned my students to find a nonprofit organization that deals with the alleviation of poverty and hunger, and to redesign their corporate identities/logos (since designing logos is part of what the students do in this course).

The presentation and the discussion that ensued were educational and meaningful because the students learned of the many nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles County (and the world) that raised awareness and visibility of this global problem while influencing public policy.

Later in the semester, I'm planning to assign another project using the global theme to students in my Digital Illustration class – possibly a poster design that visually illustrates the issue of  "The Unevenness of Globalization."


Gina Ladinsky, English

I am employing the theme by incorporating into my English Fundamentals classes how poverty, wealth, waste and want tie into "social identity," which is the focus of my students' writings and readings.

I selected readings that connect to the global theme by doing some research. For example, NPR had a great series last spring on living at the poverty level. One particular article posted on National Public Radio was on a single mom, who went back to community college to change her life. She tells how DIFFICULT it is to be a mom and go to school and also to work.

I did further research and found another article, in Mother Jones, titled "Waste Not, Want Not" by Bill McKibben. Other readings are more traditional readings by the usual suspects, but I selected them because they fit the theme as well.




Walter Meyer, Art History

I incorporate the theme into my lectures, looking for works of art that provide a historical framework. For instance, Gauguin’s images of Tahiti and Tahitian women highlight the complications of gender, class, race and privilege. As we move to contemporary art, many artists deal with the disparities directly as a subject in their artwork.  I also bring in the issue that art is inherently an elitist activity; the objects that become cultural artifacts often were made because of inequality and for those who are privileged.

Lastly, my final project requires students to work in groups and propose an idea for an art exhibit that relates to the global citizenship theme and to both write a paper and do a YouTube presentation, which are posted on one of my YouTube channels.



Michael Kerze, History

I generally close my History 2 classes by looking at consumerism and the effect of "spiraling desire" in consumer culture. I focus especially on a fascinating example in which Buddhist monks in Thailand “ordained” trees to save them from a Japanese firm that was clear-cutting forests to make millions of disposable wooden chopsticks.




Julia Norstrand, English

I will be reading Good People with my English 1 students this semester, a recent play (2010) by David Lindsey-Abaire about an unemployed middle-aged woman in the Boston area. The play is a powerful reflection on class inequality in America and speaks articulately to our historical moment.

I am a supporter of the campus-wide themes and always incorporate something in my curriculum to address them. May I suggest that a campus wide forum of some kind be considered to allow students to express themselves in a cross-curricular situation – near the end of the semester, perhaps, to fuel enthusiasm?




Ofunne Obiamiwe, Art
I teach Art 10c, a digital art class, and have been thrilled to incorporate the global themes in the past years. We will be watching several documentaries, including "The End of Poverty," "Gasland," and "Sweet Crude."

For the final assignment, the students will be asked to create a short film or mixed media work in response to the global theme. To further expand their horizon, I also encourage them to attend protest marches whenever possible. As an activist, these themes make teaching even more enjoyable!


Amanda Roraback, History

In the History of the Middle East class, this theme has been quite prominent. On the first day of class students were shown a map of the Middle East (as well as parts of Central Asia and the Maghreb) with Gross Domestic Products listed for each country.

We've been analyzing how varying income levels have played a role in uprisings and fundamentalist movements (Yemen especially) and, on the other end of the spectrum (Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE), how wealth has mollified the population. In Tunisia (the first of the Arab Spring countries to rise up against the government), now-deposed president Ben Ali maintained his authoritarian position by funneling money from tourism into the infrastructure. When the money stopped flowing due to the fallout from the 2008 global economic decline, young people who had been educated in state-sponsored schools saw bleak futures. Among those disaffected youths was Bouazizi, the overly educated young street vendor who burned himself to death sparking the Arab Spring revolts. 

We've had long class discussions regarding the latest wave of uprisings, ostensibly in reaction to the anti-Muslim film, "Innocence of Muslims," determining that much of the frustration was economically motivated. 

We'll be incorporating the role of economics in Middle East affairs for the rest of the semester (each student is required to keep a current events journal covering a country or a theme in the Middle East). 

Later in the semester I'll also be giving a talk on this subject as part of the History Department Speakers Series.



Amber Katherine, Philosophy

In my introduction to philosophy courses, in the unit of ethics, my students debate the merits and problems with global citizenship. This year they will watch the excellent documentary called “The End of Poverty” in order to inform their essays on this year’s theme.


Christian Lozada, English

I love the theme because I was going to introduce articles in my English Fundamentals classes leading up to the election about America, which includes income inequality and achieving the American Dream.  Since it's a pre-college-level class, the articles are more models for writing than anything else, but at the same time, we get to discuss the works briefly to make sure we're on the same page about content.  So far this semester, class discussions have at times connected explicitly with the theme "the unevenness of globalization," with students addressing the issues of outsourcing jobs for cheaper products here.



Lynette Shishido, Business

The theme is addressed in our Introduction to Business classes when we discuss globalization, factors of production, comparative advantage, economic systems, Gross Domestic Product, etc. In addition, we bring in current news events on this subject as it relates to the course. Globalization is also covered by our other Introduction to Business courses, taught by Joy Tucker, Sal Veas, Fran Chandler and Marcella Kelly.





Josh Kanin, Film Studies

I have incorporated our 2012-13 global citizenship theme into my History of International Cinema course, which I teach every semester. In the unit on "Third World Cinema," my students have an opportunity to view and discuss two films whose subjects coincide with our current theme – “Pixote,” a 1980 Brazilian film directed byHector Babenco, and “Tsotsi,” a 2005 South African film directed by Gavin Hood.




Diana Engelmann, English

I have been teaching the global theme as one of the major issues covered by the texts we analyze in English 1 for many years now.  Our main textbook, "Writing About the World," includes essays and stories from every continent as well as from American scholars, economists, and organizations such as Oxfam.

The class also covers two novels that deal with wealth and poverty, globalization, environmental issues and waste: "Tortilla Curtain" by T.C. Boyle and "Woman at Point Zero" by El Sadaawi, an Egyptian woman writer and scholar.  

In regards to consumerism, the environment and waste, I have been teaching Don DeLillo's "White Noise" for eight years now in my Contemporary American Literature course.


Terri Bromberg, Art/Glass Sculpture

The final assignment for my glass sculpture classes is for students to create a mixed media piece, including glass, to relate to the theme. I hope to put several pieces from the class in the student show. I leave it up to the interpretation of the individual students.

We do a little brainstorming in class about ideas. We have done this in past years with previous themes, and it has worked out well. I have one student working on sculpting emaciated, crouching figures, which surely can illustrate poverty. He could sculpt a rotund figure in contrast. Sometimes the connection might be more in the implied meaning or verbal explanation, and not just the visuals.


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