Experiential learning is a growing part of a BSU education. Dr. Diana Fox, professor of anthropology and the department’s chairwoman, knows the value of this approach first hand. For years, she’s taken students to places like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to work with local residents on issues such as natural resource conservation, gender discrimination and cultural heritage management.
Specifically, Dr. Fox and her students over the years have focused their attention on the community known as Fondes Amandes, and its reforestation project. The experience is valuable for the students, but has also contributed to the community. Professor Fox’s devotion to the cause and the people of Fondes Amandes resulted in her being presented with the Tacuma Jaramogi Award, which is named for the beloved co-founder and community organizer, who died in 1994. While she and the students were in Trinidad in March, they were featured in a TV news report, as well as a newspaper story in the Trinidad Guardian.
Instead of resting on her accomplishments, Dr. Fox is looking to strengthen her commitment to the Trinidadian community. The natural culmination of her years of work in the region would be a field school, Dr. Fox said, a place where BSU students and faculty could conduct longer-term research and prove to the local community that BSU is a committed partner they can count on long term.
“The idea of a field school is really to be in one space where you develop research skills that are reflective of your discipline, and you in some way apply those skills to some sort of project,” Dr. Fox said. “We don’t have an established international and interdisciplinary BSU field school, and every semester my inbox is flooded with emails inviting my students to join other universities’ field schools,” she said. “Through my work with Fondes Amandes the idea emerged that this would be an ideal place for a field school.”
The tour Dr. Fox led to Trinidad in March was part of a service- and social justice-oriented course that explored the practices, attitudes, values and worldview associated with the work of the local residents working on the reforestation project. While in Trinidad, Dr. Fox and the students worked alongside community members to ascertain the dynamics of gender roles and leadership, community cooperation, and the relationship between forestry practices and water management. Students contributed to community goals and projects while working on their own research that related the course experiences and materials to their specific majors and areas of interest.
Last year, Dr. Fox spoke with President Frederick W. Clark Jr. about the idea of establishing a field school in Trinidad. He sent a group of administrators to study the feasibility of the idea. They also explored the possibility of establishing a student-exchange program with the University of the West Indies. (Story and photo by John Winters, G ’11, University News & Media)