"The internet and jumbo jets are shrinking the world.” Dr. Rebecca Kuhn uses one of her college professor’s favorite quotes to sum up how the world is increasingly becoming a more connected place. With that connectedness in mind, Dr. Kuhn is now leading the newly established Episcopal Global and Social Studies Department.
The concept of global studies is becoming more important in independent schools across the country. According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the purpose of an independent school education is to provide a pathway to global citizenship for students. NAIS offers the following best practices for schools:
For many years now, Episcopal faculty have found meaningful ways to introduce students to other perspectives. Recently, Spanish students from Colegio Bristol in Madrid arrived for a two-week cultural exchange. This is the sixth year of the Spanish exchange program, which was established by Dr. Victoria Alvarez and former teacher Erena Messina. In addition to the Spanish exchange program, Episcopal’s Julien Prevost has organized a French exchange and Science Department Chair Sarah Pulliam has led an exchange to Chile.
Dr. Kuhn says schools across the country are gaining a deeper appreciation for travel as they become more intentional about incorporating these experiences into the actual classroom curriculum. At Episcopal, there are multiple opportunities for curricular-based travel. For example, British Literature students have the opportunity to explore what they have learned by participating in a trip to Scotland and England. History teacher Clara Howell reinforces what AP History students have learned with an opportunity to travel to Europe. In a similar fashion, Latin teacher Michael Posey takes students on a trip to Rome.
To provide students a truly authentic perspective on what life is like in other cultures, Dr. Kuhn and department staff are purposeful when organizing travel opportunities. During exchanges, students and faculty stay with host families in their homes, rather than a more generic hotel. When host students are in Baton Rouge, the same arrangements are made with students staying with Episcopal families. These experiences help students develop an appreciation for other cultures and encourage them to love their neighbor, including their similarities and differences. Episcopal’s Douglas Robins wrote an article last year about his experience hosting a French exchange student. Click here to read Reframing Normal.
In addition to enriched exchange programs, the Global and Social Studies Department is incorporating global themes into everyday lessons. Students have the opportunity to learn more about political components of the global environment through the Global Conflicts and Diplomacy course. Outside of the classroom, numerous students participate in a three-day Model United Nations program each spring, where they represent other countries and learn more about parliamentary procedures. In Social Studies, faculty are more intentional about global concepts or even how local history was impacted by global events. Two new courses are also being offered by World Language teachers this year to more fully immerse students in the cultural components of a society. Francophone Film Studies is being taught in both French and English and Spanish Ethnomusicology is being taught in Spanish and English. Another new addition to the global experience this year is French in Lower School. New French teacher Albina Denisyuk joined Episcopal this fall. Denisyuk previously studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France and served eight years as a Language Assistant in French public schools. She joins a vibrant staff of experienced language teachers, who are passionate about sharing their language and culture with students.
When developing the new department, faculty and administrators made a point to think globally AND locally – a term they call “glocalizing”. “To understand Louisiana you have to put it in a global context,” says Dr. Kuhn in reference to the state’s eclectic cuisine, music and culture. She says it is important to present students with a global perspective while maintaining an appreciation for local culture.
Dr. Kuhn says that exploring the world matters. She points to entrepreneurs, scientists and even marketers as examples of the many people who must understand different cultures and perspectives in order to accomplish their goals. The new Global and Social Studies Department is another great example of how Episcopal students are being prepared for college and the world.
Last year, Episcopal student Mason LaFerney shared his experience with the Episcopal language program in a post entitled A Snapshot of Spanish at Episcopal. Click here to read it.
For more information on Episcopal’s Global and Social Studies Department or travel opportunities available, please contact Dr. Kuhn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 753-3180 x1322.