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Study Abroad Trifecta: Dismantling Disciplinary Boundaries

Authors: Mukila Maitha*, Harper College, Nellie Khalil, Harper College, Jose-Cristian Martinez, Harper College, Richard Johnson, Harper College
Topics: Geography Education
Keywords: Study Abroad, Panama, Latin America, Community Colleges
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Agreeing with the premise by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) that interdisciplinary collaboration opens up new opportunities for understanding and innovation, Harper College faculty from Biology, English, and Geography offered a cross-disciplinary study abroad program to Panama in June 2019. This program consisted of semester long coursework in the United States followed by a 11-day field experience in Bocas del Toro province and Panama City, Panama. Students could choose one to three courses that met general education and graduation requirements for social science (introductory Geographic Information Systems (GIS)), life science (foundational environmental science), and humanities (English). This paper discusses how faculty integrated their curricula to infuse the perspectives of their respective disciplines and the theme of social justice from Harper College’s Global Leaning Outcomes (GLO) into the program. Biology students learned to ask spatial questions when conducting water quality tests in different environmental settings, English students used ArcGIS Online Story Maps to demonstrate their understanding of the banana and cacao production in Bocas del Toro province following visits to local cooperatives, GIS students gained a deeper understanding of the ecological processes behind the data layers in some environmental mapping exercises, and all students learned about the challenges and opportunities facing the Naso indigenous community during a stay with a family near the town of Changuinola. This program led to the development of coherent themes across the three disciplines, a field itinerary that aligned the course outcomes, and a set of best practices future programs.

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