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New faculty-driven programs to Bhutan and Guatemala

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    Bhutan    Courtesy of Kevin Vose
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    Bhutan    Courtesy of Kevin Vose
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    Guatemala    Courtesy of David Trichler
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    Guatemala    Courtesy of David Trichler
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    Guatemala    Courtesy of David Trichler
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Program Director: Kevin Vose, Associate Professor, Chair of Religious Studies

The program combined a study of history, religious studies, and environmental policy as students traveled throughout the country, gaining perspective regarding the relevance of religion, history, and architecture.

Bhutan has remained largely independent and has self-consciously pre- served its religious and cultural identity. The actual impetus to create a program there came from a student, Henry Lewis, who spent a month studying at the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS), of the Royal University of Bhutan. He suggested we develop a summer study abroad program just at the time Sylvia Mitterndorfer was putting out a call for proposals to faculty for new programs. I sketched out a program built around studying Bhutan’s form of Buddhism and their development model, known as Gross National Happiness, that would be based at CLCS and travel to some of the most important Buddhist temples and sites.

Among the terrific things about the trip was forming relationships with our host faculty, who study and teach Buddhism at a university, but who have had very different life trajectories. Tshering Dhendup, a Buddhism professor and academic dean, has been a monk most of his life, studied at one of the top monastic academies in India, and then got a PhD to top it all off. Our main host at CLCS, Sonam Nyenda, grew up at a Buddhist temple built in the twelfth century, the son of a lama who is the 42nd in a lineage of Buddhist masters that can be traced to the origins of Buddhism in Bhutan.

I went on a study abroad trip to the Himalayas as an undergraduate and had a very much transformative experience — it is why I do what I do now. I wasn’t trying to make future Buddhism scholars of our students, but hoped they would make connections with the extraordinary culture, religion, and people that would change if even slightly their ways of looking at the world and their places in it.
— Prof. Kevin Vose


Program Director: Professor David Trichler, Director of Operations for the Global Research Institute

The program was a field study in Guatemala to help students systematically explore how development theory has shaped development practice through embedding with a local rural community and with local partners CHOICE Humanitarian in the Sikabe region of Guatemala.

We made a first-of-a-kind journey to the Central American nation of Guatemala. The impetus for this course was to offer students a hybrid opportunity to explore the ideas that shape development policy, discover where policies have worked and where gaps remain, and to actively assist in a development project. Before departing for Guatemala, students learned about the principles that have driven development over last 50 years. To become a development practitioner, it’s not sufficient to study. You must put ideas in action and observe the impact on lives and communities.

This course was made possible through an innovative partnership between the Reves Center for International Studies and the Global Research Institute. The product was a blend of Reves’ push to create new models of applied study abroad opportunities for a range of students, and the Global Research Institute's goal to serve as a hub for outstanding global research experiences. While many students participate in study abroad through Reves programs, and others become summer fellows with the Global Research Institute, the list of countries they visit is skewed toward developed nations. This course offered a unique combination of theory and practice in a developing nation. In addition to supporting the course design, Reves provided generous scholarship support, helping to broaden the reach of the class. The students partnered with throughout their trip and were supported by the Reves Center for International Studies.

Each student came seeking a different outcome, but the intensive mix of study and on-the-ground activity forged the group into a team. Students from an array of departments such as biology, chemistry, government, and data science, saw the course as a timely opportunity to participate in study abroad.

The short time commitment between semesters even drew student athletes and transfer students.
— Prof. David Trichler