Communication professor Ananda Mitra and Wake Forest documentary film student Kim Dryden presented at the International Association for Research on Service-learning and Community Engagement Conference last month in Baltimore, Md.
Faculty, administrators and students from colleges nationwide attended the conference.
Mitra shared information on planning international service-learning trips and preparing students to get the most of their study abroad experience. The talk included ideas for preparing students for immersion into another culture before the trip, responding to cultural and environmental experiences while abroad, and documenting the student experience after the trip.
For two years, Mitra has offered a six-week undergraduate summer study abroad course entitled “Culture and Communication in India: Sustainability vs. Globalization.” The class includes an optional student-developed Wake the Himalayas Service Learning and Community Engagement program supporting education in the Himalayan town of Leh. Students work with community partners, teach classes, engage in social and sports activities with the children and write reflection journals.
Dryden, a 2013 MFA candidate, traveled with Mitra’s group this past summer to produce, “Immersed in India,” a film documenting the journeys of the students in Mitra’s summer abroad course.
At the conference, Dryden showed film clips from her documentary, giving those who attended the presentation a chance to see and hear from the students while they are living and working in India. Students interviewed for the film talk about the benefits and challenges of learning through the ashram teaching method — experiencing a guided cultural immersion where Mitra and his family, who are originally from India, help the students more fully understand life in India.
Mitra, who is the director of the Wake Forest ACE Fellows Program for 2012-13, says successful service learning, whether abroad or domestic, requires thorough preparation so that students will gain the most benefit from their experiences.