NYT gives first study abroad innovation award to WMU faculty

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Harrison and Palmer peering out from the back of a Jeep while traveling in India last year.

Palmer and Harrison

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Two Western Michigan University faculty members have earned the inaugural New York Times inEducation Award for Innovation in Education Abroad, which recognizes the most innovative incorporation of The New York Times into an education abroad curriculum.

Dr. Jennifer Harrison, assistant professor of social work, and Dr. Timothy Palmer, professor of management, received the award for how they are incorporating the Times into the Social Justice and Sustainability in India course they co-teach.

Harrison and Palmer co-developed the course. Harrison is co-principal investigator for the Interprofessional Peer Evidence and Education for Recovery program with WMU's College of Health and Human Services and Palmer serves as director of WMU's Center for Sustainable Business Practices.

"This prestigious award given by The Forum on Education Abroad and The New York Times is a fitting testament to the creative and meaningful ways that Palmer and Harrison, individually and collectively, have designed academically rigorous study abroad programs that promote global awareness," says Dr. Lee M. Penyak, WMU director of Study Abroad.

Innovation award

The Award for Innovation in Education Abroad recognizes the year's most original, creative example of how The New York Times news, content and archives can be used to enhance education-abroad learning before, during or after the education abroad experience.

It was announced by the Forum on Education Abroad and the Times during International Education Week, Nov. 12-16.

"Among a diverse pool of submissions, yours stood out to the selection committee for its use of the Times as both an intellectual and material resource and for its clear and careful integration into a strong and well-planned interdisciplinary course curriculum," the forum said in announcing that the honor would go to Harrison and Palmer.

The duo are using the Times in two ways. First, students read Times content to complement academic publications as research for a course paper they are preparing. Then, students recycled the newspaper by creating origami baskets out of its newsprint, and are carrying the baskets to India in December and will use them to collect materials they will share with one of the recycling microenterprises they will visit during their sojourn.

India study abroad course

Narrow mountain road in India with tall mountains in the background.The faculty-led Social Justice and Sustainability in India course is taking place this fall semester and includes a trip from Dec. 8 through 22 that will take students to such Indian cities as Bangalore, Hubbali and Delhi. An interprofessional, three-credit-hour class, it allows students to gain both a business and health services perspective.

Harrison says the overall aim is to expose students to the spectrum of inequality across India while giving them the skills to critically analyze the degree to which social workers, business professionals and others are playing just and sustainable roles in society.

She adds that India is a suitable backdrop for the course because the country has the fastest-growing free market economy in the world and is on track to become the third largest economy by 2020. But at the same time, she notes, India struggles with such challenges as poverty, hunger, toxic air pollution in its urban centers, and health and human rights issues.

"Getting students out of their typical campus environment and questioning their assumptions about culture and their area of study is often the first step to a deeper discussion of social justice and sustainability at home and abroad," Harrison says.

"When we visit companies, nongovernmental organizations, and programs that focus on nutrition and youth trafficking, India becomes a huge classroom that helps us all learn about another country while learning about our own. This informs our work on advancing sustainability and justice and accepting our responsibility as global citizens."

To learn more about the innovation award-winning course, visit The New York Times website or Forum on Education Abroad website.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.