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New classroom partnering grants provide students with international experiences during the pandemic

Classroom Partners:

Faculty representing four Northwestern schools have received funding for seven projects with institutional partners on four continents

While the pandemic has thrown a wrench into student mobility and exchange on many levels, it has allowed Northwestern faculty to discover and embrace new ways to build, continue, and enhance collaborations with partner institutions abroad.

This fall quarter, through an open grant application offered jointly by the Office of the Vice President for International Relations and the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, faculty from across the university have the opportunity to propose projects for virtual global classroom collaborations. 

The “International Classroom Partnering Grant” awards $3,000 to faculty whose projects offer cross-cultural, global opportunities for student learning and engagement during the 2020-2021 academic year. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

So far, seven grants have been awarded to faculty in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and School of Social Policy and Education to create international learning opportunities with colleagues abroad.

Improving Health Communication and Leadership Decisions during the Pandemic

This fall, students are deepening their understanding of global health communication and leadership decision making through a new collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS). Kimberly Pusateri, a Lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies and Associate Director of the Master of Science Health Communication program, worked with NUS colleague Ningxin Wang to create a four-week workshop designed to help their students — together and through their different cultural lenses — analyze decisions made by global leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Students studying decision-making and uncertainty in Singapore will collaborate and share expertise with students studying health communication in the United States,” Pusateri explained. Throughout the workshop, students are guided to share specific concepts learned in their areas of study and tackle activities that merge the two disciplinary fields. 

Leading Global Change

This fall, through a SESP collaboration with Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, students from both institutions are working together to develop an inclusive global workplace plan for a multinational corporation. Students in SESP’s Masters of Science in Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) program “are preparing for careers as change leaders and practitioners who must design and implement solutions in a variety of organizations,” explained Lina Deng, Assistant Professor of Instruction in Northwestern's School of Education and Social Policy and co-instructor of the “Leading Global Change” course. 

In addition to conducting country-level cultural analyses, participating in cross-cultural virtual collaborations, and delving into global case studies, students will have access to guest speakers, including a faculty member from Peking University and the CEO of Fuyao Glass USA, Jeff Liu, whose company is used as a case study for the course.  

Fostering Graduate Student Connections

This winter quarter, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Professor of Political Science and the Crown Chair in Middle East Studies, will work with colleagues at Sciences Po in Paris and the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland to teach graduate students how to build and maintain effective international research networks in the social sciences. The topic of discussion of this network will be the politics of religion and race in transnational perspective.

“These are important skills that are rarely discussed in graduate training,” said Hurd, who recently hosted a joint online webinar with the Graduate Institute and Sciences Po. She found that working virtually with her colleagues supports her ongoing collaborations with the International Research Network on Contextualizing Radicalization: The Politics of Violent Extremism and significantly enhances her students’ experiences and scholarly connections. Hurd will implement her grant activities through her graduate seminar, “Religion, Race, and Politics: Global and Imperial Perspectives.”

Supporting Multilingualism

This coming spring quarter, Rifka Cook will connect her “Spanish 121-3, Special Topic: Gastronomy and Identity” students with peers from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to practice their second language skills. Throughout the course, both student groups will participate in language exchange and interviews centered around identity, lifestyles, and cultural and culinary traditions. Cook intends for this collaboration to strengthen her students’ Spanish language skills while simultaneously increasing their global awareness and cultural knowledge. 

“My teaching is designed to ensure that students are equipped to use the foreign language not only professionally but also as a way to reflect on their own culture and others’,” said Cook, Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, who expects 16 students to participate from each university. 

Collaborating for Justice

A classroom partnership between Addis Ababa University Law School (AAU Law) in Ethiopia and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights will explore issues surrounding international access to justice. Building upon a 50-year relationship between the two universities, this newly designed law course will examine the development and support of civil and criminal legal aid programs in the United States, Ethiopia, and Somalia. 

Throughout the term, teams of Northwestern law students will collaborate with faculty and students in Ethiopia and Somalia to examine legal aid development in the targeted countries and determine if programs measure up to domestic and international standards. “Students will then jointly formulate recommendations for the continuing support and improvement of legal aid programs in those countries,” said Thomas F. Geraghty, Interim Director for Pritzker's Center for International Human Rights.

A unique twist on this collaboration is that Mizanie Abate, Associate Dean and Director of Research at AAU Law, will be in residence at Northwestern beginning in January 2021 as a Fulbright Scholar and participate in the course.

Reimagining Ongoing Collaborations

Longtime collaborators Isabelle Alfandary of Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 and Northwestern’s Alessia Ricciardi, Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature and Director of the Program of Comparative Literary Studies, plan to use their classroom partnering grant to switch gears this academic year. In Winter 2021, Alfandary and Ricciardi will supplement their jointly organized annual Summer Institute of Psychoanalysis with a co-taught graduate seminar on Literature and Philosophy, emphasizing the works of Derrida and Agamben. The Summer Institute, with its focus on advancing global discussions of the relationship between psychoanalysis and culture, attracted students from around the world in 2018 and 2019, but was canceled in summer 2020 due to the pandemic.

In an effort to continue existing collaborations and provide students with an international and interdisciplinary learning experience similar to the one offered through the Summer Institute, Ricciardi plans to use her co-teaching opportunity with Alfandary to “offer students access to as many international scholarly opportunities as possible.” 

Understanding Different Cultural Approaches

In Spring 2021, undergraduate students in the intermediate Chinese language class 121-3 will be paired with students from National Tsing Hua University's Global Program in Taiwan, which enrolls students interested in global engagement and leadership. Wen-pin Hsieh, Assistant Professor of Instruction, and Coordinator of the Chinese Language Program, and Licheng Gu, Professor of Instruction — both from Northwestern’s Department of Asian Languages and Cultures — will co-teach the course, which has been adapted to allow students to collaborate synchronously despite the 13-hour time difference.

“Culturally differentiated attitudes toward education and family will be the theme of peer discussion and joint class projects,” said Hsieh. These will be complemented by an NTHU faculty member’s guest lecture comparing U.S. and Taiwanese perspectives on academic achievement and its impact on family relationships and society.

The course will culminate in a joint capstone project, presented in English and Chinese, in which students will provide their shared perspectives on how cultural values regarding personal development and academic achievement differ in Taiwan and the U.S.


Faculty members interested in learning more about the grant and how to apply can contact Kim Rapp, Assistant Vice President of International Relations at Northwestern.