By Lise Wagnac
As a liberal arts college, Bryn Mawr has provided students with an array of courses to choose from as part of their educational experience. Whether it is in Art History or Chemistry, students are advised to diversify their learning experience by choosing classes outside of their comfort zone. A new program, called the 360º, is extending the learning experience outside of the classroom and creating new way of defining academic experience here at Bryn Mawr.
360º builds on Bryn Mawr’s mission of providing students with a history of learning experiences beyond the classroom, in addition to the rigorous academics found within. Students participate in a cluster of courses focused on a particular problem, theme, and experience. The 360º consists of five components: (1) diverse experience for students and faculty, (2) focused on a theme or question, (3) engages students and faculty in interactive ways, (4) encourages students and faculty to reflect on different perspectives, and (5) allows participants to share their experience with the rest of the community. The course allows for students to expand their learning experience here at Bryn Mawr while unifying the community even more.
This semester, a group of faculty and students explored “contemplative traditions” in a 360º course cluster that explores the history, science and practice of meditation and other mindful practices. This course cluster is composed of three classes plus an independent study that allows for students to take a full 360º in the topic. The course also included a trip to western Japan in late September/early October, in addition to shorter trips to sites in Pennsylvania and New York. The goal of this cluster is to provide students with a unifying learning experience that includes methods that extend beyond campus. It is taught by Haverford Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, Hank Glassman; Bryn Mawr Professor of Chemistry, Michelle Francl; and Bryn Mawr Professor of Psychology, Marc Schulz.
“Contemplative Traditions” was broken down into four courses as followed: (1) The History and Rhetoric of Buddhist Meditation, (2) Silent Spaces: A History of Contemplation in the West, (3) Listening to Mind and Body: The Psychology of Mindfulness, and (4) and an independent study course created by each student. The cultural discourse of meditation, historical perspective of the tradition, and the psychological analysis added onto the 360º perspective students are receiving throughout the course.
In Spring 2012, students will have the opportunity to participate in two new 360º clusters. One will focus on human development, education and culture in Sub-Saharan Africa, while the other is centered around sustainability.
The first 360º, Learning and Narrating Childhoods, consists of a cluster of three courses, as well as a key trip to the Titagya school in rural Ghana. The Titagya school is a non-profit organization that promotes early childhood education opportunities by building and operating schools in northern Ghana. Each course in this 360º will add a layer of perspective for students to build a lens with when they take the trip to Ghana. The courses are taught by Director of the Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program, Alice Lesnick; Chair of the French and Francophone Studies Department, Pim Higginson; and Professor of Psychology, Robert Wozniak.
The three specific courses that are included in this cluster will be: (1) Literacies and Education, (2) Culture and Development, and (3) Teaching the Postcolony: Schooling in African Fiction. In Literacies and Education students build the framework of understanding the marriage of education and literacy to culture. In Culture and Development students focus on human development in cultural systems. In the last class, students are given the opportunity to learn about cultural narratives that may add to educational processes in post-colonies. The holistic approach of the course will provide students with a 360º view of human development, education and culture in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In Sustainable Cities, students will work with professors from the Mathematics, Growth and Structure of Cities, and Education departments to look at the challenges urban and natural environments encounter, including climate change, population growth, and extreme socioeconomic disparities. The mathematics component of this cluster provides an interesting twist in the way of thinking about sustainability quantitatively. The courses are taught by Professor of Mathematics, Victor Donnay; Senior Lecturer in Education, Jody Cohen; and Professor of Growth and Structure of Cities, Carola Hein.
The Sustainability 360° will include the following courses: (1) Building Green: Sustainable Design Past and Present, (2) Educating for Ecological Literacy, and (3) Introduction to Math and Sustainability. “Our goal is to educate students about sustainability so that they can in turn educate others,” said Jody Cohen. After the completion of the courses, students will be able to share the information they learned and in turn educate the rest of the community about the benefits of sustainability.
Both clusters are exciting additions to the course load here at Bryn Mawr. Students who are interested in either of the Spring 360° clusters should talk to their Dean while there is still time to preregister.