WMU News

Foreign educators come to Kalamazoo to learn about America

May 13, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Foreign educators who teach about America in their home countries will learn about the United States firsthand this summer during a six-week institute at Western Michigan University.

Professors and scholars from 18 different countries including Belarus, Croatia, Botswana, China, Nepal and Zambia will come to WMU June 26-Aug. 6 to participate in the Summer Institute for the Study of the United States for International Professors and Scholars.

The institute is funded by a $170,000 grant from the United State Information Agency awarded to WMU faculty members Dr. Katherine Joslin, director of the American Studies Program; Dr. John Saillant, assistant professor of English; and Dr. Brian Wilson, assistant professor of comparative religion.

Designed to improve the quality of teaching about the culture and society of the United States in international universities, the institute includes a four-week academic residency program and an escorted tour of significant historical and cultural sites in the Midwest, Northeast and South Central regions of the United States.

According to Joslin, the academic residency portion of the course will cover the cultural, political and social development of the United States and the rewards of a diverse society. Faculty for the program will come from a variety of University departments and programs including American studies, black Americana studies, art, women's studies, anthropology, comparative religion, education, English, geography, history, music, sociology, theater and political science.

"What really appealed to the USIA about our proposal was its interdisciplinary nature. We bring together faculty from 15 different departments or programs and three different University colleges, as well as individuals from across Kalamazoo," says Joslin. "We interweave all these areas to show how they affected American culture and history."

Using the theme "Rolling on the River: Waterways to Diversity in America," the institute will focus on the four waterways that greatly impacted the development of America -- the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The course will show how human migrations along these waterways created the diverse texture of the country.

"Waterways were instrumental in the migration and settlement that built the nation," Joslin explains. "Along these waterways occurred some of the salient features of American culture including the encounters of peoples of different races, ethnicities and nationalities; reform movements; and the growth of the industrial nation. When you take a look at a nation from national, regional and global contexts, you see how waterways tie all these together."

Following the four-week academic residency, institute participants will spend two weeks touring such sites as the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ellis Island in New York City, Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, Colonial Williamsburg and Washington, D.C. In addition, participants will experience the Chicago Fourth of July celebration, which will include speeches by Jesse Jackson Jr., a performance by the Chicago Pops and a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

For more information about the institute, contact Joslin at (616) 387-2086.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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