WMU News

Foreign educators learn more about America in Kalamazoo

June 21, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- What better way to learn about a society and culture than to be immersed in it?

That's exactly what 18 foreign educators who teach about America in their homelands are preparing to do when they attend a six-week Fulbright Summer Institute at Western Michigan University July 1 through Aug. 12.

During the institute, the visiting professors and scholars from 18 countries, including Bulgaria, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Poland and Venezuela, will retrace the historic migration routes along four waterways that greatly impacted the development of America. The waterways they'll study are the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Using the theme, "Rolling on the River: Waterways to Diversity in America," the institute will include a four-week academic residency program and a two-week study tour. Dr. Katherine Joslin, director of the institute, also directs WMU's American Studies Program. She says the theme was selected because waterways were instrumental in the development of many aspects of contemporary American culture.

"We'll be taking a look at how waterways opened the country to cultural and political developments in constitutionalism, reform, religion and literature," Joslin says. "It was along these waterways that some of the salient features of our culture occurred, such as the encounters of people of different races, ethnicities and nationalities; reform movements; and the growth of the industrial nation."

The institute's schedule, which focuses on a different waterway each week, will feature lectures, performances and readings by more than 28 WMU faculty members from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, art, comparative religion, education, English, geography, history, political science, sociology, Spanish, theatre and women's studies. Topics of discussion will include the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, architecture, the auto industry, the religious practices of Mormons and the impact of Valley Girls on teen image.

Following the four-week academic program, participants will tour such sites as the Amish countryside; the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; Niagara Falls; Colonial Williamsburg; Washington, D.C.; and Ellis Island and Harlem in New York City. Also included in the travel itinerary are a canoe trip down the Kalamazoo River and an architectural boat tour of downtown Chicago.

The 2000 Fulbright Summer Institute in American Studies for University Educators is funded by a $172,000 grant from the U.S. State Department and is designed to improve the quality of teaching the culture and society of the United States in international universities. WMU is one of 10 American universities selected to host a Fulbright Summer Institute this year. The other host universities include Boston College, Louisiana State University and University of Illinois at Chicago.

Joslin says WMU was invited by the United States Information Agency to renew its grant based on the success of its summer institute last year.

"Our institute offers foreign educators a wonderful opportunity to learn what American society and culture are like so they know what they are teaching," Joslin says. "It plays an important role in helping to establish cultural understanding and strengthening ongoing relationships between countries."

For more information about the institute's activities, contact Joslin at (616) 387-2086 or <katherine.joslin@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Pauline Oo, 616 387-8400, pauline.oo@wmich.edu

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