The Global Reach of the Liberal Arts
The future of the liberal arts may depend upon on its proponents' capacity to embrace new technologies and develop innovative curricula in order to stay relevant in a fast-evolving, increasingly interconnected society. The course Re-Envisioning Diasporas exemplifies Swarthmore's willingness to engage with progressive academic structures to maximize teaching and learning in the classroom, while staying true to its liberal arts foundation.
The course explores questions of nationality, globalization, race and ethnicity, and gender and sexuality, through the unique lens of global diasporic communities. The syllabus focuses on how displaced peoples worldwide confront these difficult questions while living in a perpetual state of "elsewhere."
Its innovation is well illustrated by the incorporation of technologies and media, such as Youtube, Skype, Moodle and Wiki blogging, into the heart of the academic experience. Of course, its intercontinental scope, having been co-developed and team taught by faculty and for students at Swarthmore and Ashesi University in Ghana, also makes for a groundbreaking academic experience.
Swarthmore professors Sunka Simon and Carina Yervasi, and Ashesi Professor Mikelle Antoine co-teach the course to students on both continents, with the support of Michael Jones, director of the Swarthmore Language Resource Center, who manages the technology resources that keep the groups in close contact. A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to encourage collaborative online international learning supported the development of the course.
This is only the most recent collaboration between Swarthmore College and Ashesi University, which was founded by Patrick Awuah '89. Ashesi is the first liberal arts college in Ghana, its mission is to "educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate within our students the critical thinking skills, the concern for others and the courage it will take to transform a continent."