The contemporary world presents us with longstanding and novel challenges. Political Scientists understand that solving our energy, environmental, health, conflict, economic, education, and community problems requires not only technical but also political solutions. The Department of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island seeks students interested in understanding the domestic and international political environment in which these challenges reside.
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Nicolai N. Petro, a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island, has received a Fulbright research grant to study the role of the Russian Orthodox Church while living abroad in Ukraine.
A Transformative Class Experience
For nearly two weeks this past January, ten Political Science students and twelve nursing students joined URI Professor Maureen Moakley on the annual class-trip to the Dominican Republic. The primary focus of the group was participant observation of the political and social environment in the Dominican. From working at camps with displaced Haitians, to attending lectures by local scholars, to watching the delivery of vaccines to children who often receive no medical attention, the trip inspired many students to call it a life changing experience.
Some of the activities differed to suit the special interests of the Nursing and Political Science majors and the students benefitted from hearing about the alternate experiences of their peers. For example, the Nursing students visited a rural prenatal clinic in Las Mantas to observe clinical work. The Political Science students went to a Bateau, a place for displaced Haitians now living in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Moakley best put it, “many Haitians preserve their culture in areas that are within the Dominican Republic.”
The Political Science student spent time doing service work at a literacy center, helping teach subjects such as math, writing, and reading. Near the literacy center the students were taught how to plant essential crops that would provide a staple food sources. Students also participated in many interactive classes with people that live in the Bateau Libertinage, a community right on the boarder of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. One student described her experience as transformative, “we learned more from them than they could have possibly learned from us.” She further revealed that experiencing conditions with “no running water and no electricity” was an irreplaceable “culture shock.”
When the students ventured back to the U.S., many reflected on the different lens through which they now could see the world. One student was struck by the community oriented culture; people had incredibly strong connections to others that lived in the local area. “In the U.S. we often can go a whole year without having a real conversation with our next-door-neighbor.” Considering the cultural differences another student offered the motto of an elder, “ ‘once you can walk you can carry yourself in life'...this is a far cry from the lifestyle of your average American.”
Story Written by Anthony Davidson, Political Science undergraduate
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