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  March 01, 2013

Dossett to Take a Global Citizenship “Bath”

English professor Gordon Dossett will be taking a sabbatical next fall to England to study Bath Spa University’s approach to global citizenship – surprisingly similar to SMC’s. Here is what he intends to do.

By Gordon Dossett

“Global Citizenship 101:  What the Heck Is It?”

That was the title of a presentation on opening day, five years ago. Most of the campus community couldn’t answer the question then. Since then, we have had professors and students answer it in different ways. It is about being a citizen. It is about overcoming international hegemony. No, it is about international business. No, it is about art, music, and dance – culture across borders. At times the competing outlooks have led to some disagreements on campus. And the whole discussion has left many students and professors blithely unaffected.

As then-faculty leader of the Global Citizenship Initiative – and that panel discussion five years ago – I believe a global perspective is invaluable. I believed in it before we were debating and defining global citizenship. 

Twenty years ago I led two study abroad programs – one a semester-long program for 50 students to England, another a summer program for 26 students to Ireland. Students returned transformed. Those students embodied then what the college vision embraces today: “Changing lives in the global community through excellence in education.”

My sabbatical has been designed to look at another institution’s effort to answer the question of what global citizenship is. Leaders at Bath Spa University, in southwest England, believe that critical thinking is at the heart of global citizenship. 

Bath Spa University, a public university with a high percentage of first-generation students, offers several key parallels to Santa Monica College that benefit this project. In January 2012 the university appointed Dr. Christina Slade as vice-chancellor (a position equivalent to president).  As President Dr. Chui L. Tsang did at SMC, she urged her campus to consider its relationship to global issues. After an intensive effort this past spring, the university adopted a two-year certificate program in global citizenship, set aside 10 student scholarships to help fund international travel and created a global citizenship course to be first offered in 2013.

University leaders are determined to urge students to think deeply about global issues – not just in its two-year certificate program, but also across the curriculum and especially in writing courses. Because the university’s efforts offer a remarkable parallel to SMC’s efforts of five years ago – efforts in which I played a central role – Dr. Slade has offered strong support for this sabbatical project. 

For my sabbatical, I will study key aspects of Bath Spa University’s inaugural Global Citizenship course; interview and observe exemplary writing professors to gain insight into ways in which they promote critical thinking linked to global issues; observe and conduct tutorial sessions in the university’s writing center to understand challenges and hands-on approaches to promoting critical thinking and global citizenship; and attend two Royal Shakespeare Company performances and visit sites important to British literature.  

Dr. Robin Shields, professor of international education, will serve as my chief contact and collaborator.  Dr. Shields, who recently received a “Rising Star” fellowship in recognition for his scholarship and teaching, will teach the new course in global citizenship.

My sabbatical will offer me an invaluable professional development opportunity. Although I revise my classes to encourage my students to think deeply about global issues, I am not able to observe professors in another country and see firsthand how those students respond. Further, the project is tied closely to curricular development, informing how I teach writing and global citizenship and perhaps suggesting course development. Such development enhances skills that I developed as Chair of the Curriculum Committee.  Also, as a professor of English, I have little opportunity day-to-day to hone skills I developed when I earned my doctorate in higher education. These skills can benefit the campus because they provide a way of measuring outcomes, something increasingly important as the college seeks to base strategies on evidence that our students are learning because of particular strategies.

In addition, I will be conducting a formal study. Community college faculty rarely has opportunities to collaborate with university faculty, especially those in another country.  Such international research is important because it offers the potential to reveal cultural biases and new ways of learning and teaching.      

Finally, this project will enable me to benefit professionally from travel. Although I have been to the United Kingdom several times, I have not done so since 1995. Because British culture ties in closely with my day-to-day teaching, the travel will benefit me and my students in many ways. In addition to enabling me to study firsthand the learning of people in a different culture (mentioned above), the project will enhance my teaching of British literature.  

Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace and home to the Royal Shakespeare Company, is nearby, so I will be able to see current interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays by this preeminent company. I am teaching English 15 – Works of Shakespeare – in the spring, and I regularly teach a play of Shakespeare in my English 2 classes, so my students will benefit from accounts of recent interpretations. Further, I regularly teach English 6 – British literature from 1800 to the present. Bath is the location of Jane Austen’s works, and Romantic writers William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge wrote in the Lake District, again not far away. I plan to go to the Lake District and the Jane Austen Centre – places I haven’t visited – and incorporate the experience into English 2 and English 6 classes. 

 

""Bath Spa University

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