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Pitzer En Route
Responsibly Engaging the Unfamiliar

Carol BrandtPitzer College doesn’t expect students to conform to a certain identity either in Claremont or abroad. It gives them space to be who they are while helping them engage people and ideas very different from what they are familiar with in order to challenge that identity—to “startle them into alertness,” as writer Virginia Woolf said. They become skilled at connecting in dialogue with a plurality of people and hearing new narratives that challenge them to rewrite their own stories, to re-examine what they often take for granted in their everyday lives in the U.S., and to see the world and their lives in it from a perspective of greater possibility.

Educational philosopher Maxine Greene said that the more continuous and authentic personal encounters can be the less likely categorization and distancing will take place. People are less likely to be treated instrumentally, to be made “other” by those around. And, in turn, they may experience a sense of freedom for association and possibility that comes from engaging different people as who, not what, they are. Through the Study Abroad program, students are regularly obliged not just to observe or encounter the unfamiliar but responsibly engage the unfamiliar—to make meaning from that engagement and to know better who they are as a result.

Pitzer faculty have particular talent for imagining these creative learning environments. In Spring 2007, the first groups of students will be selected to participate in Global Communities Seminars that link courses taught on campus in the Spring semester with courses taught abroad at our Study Abroad sites in the summer. Professor of Psychology Mita Banerjee, for example, will have students in her “Children at Risk” course in spring conduct field research with children in settings in Southern California. In the summer, she will teach a course with selected students in Botswana focusing on children orphaned by AIDS. Key to the paired courses is the notion of excellence in undergraduate research conducted with a view to understanding that research within different sociocultural contexts at home and abroad. While in Botswana, seminar participants will also take a course on “Entering Communities Abroad: Language and Culture,” taught by the faculty of the Pitzer in Botswana program. Students will live with host families in Gaborone.

Working across disciplines and across cultures, Professors Katie Purvis-Roberts (Chemistry) and Cheryl Baduini (Biology) are supervising the first latitudinal Pitzer Undergraduate Research Abroad Project (URAP) on water pollution. Jenny Aleman Zometa ’07 completed water sampling at the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology in Costa Rica this summer as part of the Joint Science Department- funded summer research projects and is now in Pitzer in Botswana doing a similar project as her Directed Independent Study Project in the Okavango Delta. Results will be published in Pitzer Study Abroad’s new on-line Journal of Undergraduate Research Abroad scheduled to debut in Spring 2007.

Philosopher Merleau-Ponty writes about routes being given to us, “an experience which gradually clarifies itself, which gradually rectifies itself and proceeds by dialogue with itself and others.” International students doing “study abroad” at Pitzer are en route, focusing on community-based engagement and research that helps them explore issues in the U.S. On exchange from the University of Adelaide in Australia, Jonathan Burrows joined a team of Pitzer students to help with relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Waseda University students from Japan will be examining slices of American life through a new course on “Directed Research in American Culture,” taught by Instructor Lissa Petersen. The course will combine ethnographic research with an internship in local organizations including sites such as the Jocelyn Senior Center, Oakmont Elementary School, Foothill AIDS Project and the Claremont After School Program.

In Fall 2007, eight to ten students from Kobe Women’s University (KWU) Department of Global-Local Studies will spend seven months at Pitzer exploring Claremont and Los Angeles with a focus on humanitarian aid organizations. To celebrate this inaugural year of the program, KWU has generously provided a full scholarship for a Pitzer student to attend a Humanitarian Aid Seminar in Summer 2007 in Kobe, Japan.

We thank the many alumni that have contacted us over the past year with recommendations for connecting with community projects or undergraduate research possibilities abroad, including Margaret Ann ’94 and Henry ’91 Escudero now in Panama, David Wells ’79 with contacts in Thailand, and Anne Klemperer ’89 in France. We welcome the opportunity to hear from more of you; please contact carol_brandt@pitzer.edu and visit our new and improved Web site at

—Carol Brandt, vice president
for international programs