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Bringing the World to the Classroom

Undergraduates in Michael Dorsey's International Environmental Issues course were recently treated to two special guest lectures, one in Switzerland, the other in South Africa, and they never left Hanover. The teleconferences were hosted by the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL).

Michael Dorsey and his class
Michael Dorsey (far left) and his International Environmental Issues class participating in a teleconference on January 26. (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

On January 26, the class participated in a teleconference to talk with Thomas Kalaris, chief executive of Barclays Wealth Management, and also spoke with Patrick Bond, professor and the director of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Kalaris was in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting, while Bond was in Johannesburg, South Africa, following the proceedings of the World Social Forum (WSF) meetings taking place in three locales this year, in Venezuela, Mali, and Pakistan. Bond and Dorsey have taught together, and Kalaris is a Dartmouth parent.

Incorporated in 1971, the WEF is an international organization comprised of the world's 1,000 leading companies. According to its Web site, it is "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas." Its annual meetings cover topics such as maintaining sustainable development, creating a global education framework, and addressing climate change.

The WSF, established in 2001, represents social movements, NGOs, and other civil society organizations. Its annual meetings, usually held at the same time as the WEF's, foster discussion among participants as they work to develop international relationships to address a variety of topics including human rights issues and capitalist globalization.

Dorsey, assistant professor of environmental studies, believes that connecting his students to current global events adds to the value of his course, and it provides a front-row view of how international institutions work and agreements are conceived.

"As we examine the nature of international environmental policy-making, we need to be cognizant of the world's leading venues that gather key decision-makers together," he says. "Gatherings like the World Economic Forum and the World Social Forum, while informal and not legally binding, forge ties and relationships among influential participants. These relationships can have consequences for global environment and development policy."

Craig Rubens '06, says, "This teleconference offered us a human connection. It's easy to do all these readings and then talk in class and never have any context for the topics. Having experts to talk to who are worlds away proves that the problems we're addressing do exist in the world we live in, and that they are being discussed in a forum much greater than a Dartmouth classroom."

James H. Austin V. '07 adds, "I believe it is very important, as well as an honor and a privilege, to have a dialogue with the people who are living what we are reading about in class. We were fortunate to have two people with very different opinions to ask questions of, and the teleconference brought our class to an interactive level with concepts and arguments in a way PowerPoint presentations and even video clips cannot."

By SUSAN KNAPP

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Last Updated: 12/17/08