Student Forum Explores Culture and Identity Abroad

Now in its seventh year, the Student Forum on Global Learning allows students to share what they have learned from cross-cultural experiences, including internships, fellowships, and study abroad programs. This year’s theme for the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, “Develop a World Perspective,” is what the panelists have been doing in far-flung settings, including India, Mexico, the Balkans, Peru, Morocco, Cuba, Kuwait, Namibia, and Nepal.

Olivia Samson '16, third from right, meets with a fire chief and community members in Lima, Peru, as part of a project promoting social change in emergency preparedness. Samson participated with Liz Lin ’16 and Ivy Shen ’16 in a panel at the Student Forum on Global Learning during Dartmouth’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. (Photo by Liz Lin ’16)

Jeremy DeSilva gave the opening address. The associate professor of anthropology recently made worldwide headlines for his participation in the discovery of a new human ancestor dubbed Homo naledi. Researchers exhumed more than 1,550 fossils from a South African cave.

De Silva noted that the first traces of Homo naledi were inadvertently found by a colleague’s 9-year old son, who picked up a rock that contained the vestiges of bone.

“The world is a big place and there is so much about ourselves to discover,” De Silva said. “Never stop being curious.”      

Eight different student panels offered variations on that theme. One, titled “Race, Identity, and ‘Foreign’ Study,” contrasted the ways Americans understand their identity with the lenses through which they—especially student researchers—are perceived abroad. W. Danielle Jones ’17 went to Cuba to research why some black writers—think Toni Morrison—are repeatedly taught in literature courses, and others are excluded. Too often, she says, people of color are lumped together as if they had a unified identity, but there are “nuances to that identity.”

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Students to Share Global Learning Perspectives

Student Forum on Global Learning Showcases Cross-Cultural Experiences

Video: Jeremy DeSilva Talks About Discovery of ‘Homo Naledi’

Jones learned that firsthand when she was standing outside her apartment in Cuba and a police officer asked to see her identification card. “I was stopped because I was black and I was stopped because I was thought to be Cuban,” she recalls. But when her card showed that she was an American student, the officer seemed surprised and kindly sent her on her way. “His tone completely changed because my Americanism trumped everything else,” she said.

On the other hand, because she speaks Spanish, she was often mistaken for Cuban, which gave her helpful access to the culture she was studying.

Other topics at concurrent sessions included inequality in the healthcare sector in both Boston and Peru, gender and development in India and the Balkans, and the importance of respect and cultural understanding in research. 

Poster sessions illustrated work by the Tuck School of Business' Paganucci Fellows bridging the education gap in China.