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March 16, 2014

Why Bother with Global Community Work?

by Dan Rodriguez

There are lots of reasons to encourage students to work and study abroad. I’ve discussed why I think this is important, as well as some of Northwestern Law’s international initiatives, on this blog. Today I encourage you to read my colleague Juliet Sorenson’s thoughts on this subject: The University as Global Citizen, published earlier this week on the Health and Human Rights blog.

Juliet and an interdisciplinary group of students—from the School of Law, Feinberg School of Medicine, and Kellogg School of Management—left yesterday to travel to Douentza, Mali, as part of the Access to Health program. Students in her Health and Human Rights class have spent this semester researching health needs and issues in Mali in preparation for this trip. Once in Douentza, they will work closely with health care providers and community leaders to develop and implement a meaningful, sustainable health intervention specifically for that community.

The Access to Health trip is one example of the type of international human rights projects Northwestern students will undertake during Spring Break. International Team Projects is another: under the supervision of a faculty sponsor, law students travel abroad to conduct research on topics of their choosing. The students work in teams to develop the research topic; prepare advance materials including extensive briefing materials on the country’s history, culture, and legal and political systems; and plan the logistics of field work. Once in country they interview government officials, legal scholars, policy makers, and business and civic leaders, and conduct other fact-gathering as required by the research scope.

This year teams will travel to Cuba, Chile/Argentina, Myanmar/Thailand, and South Africa, to explore questions including Constitutional rights to housing, human rights in the mining industry, foreign direct investment and entrepreneurship, banking, freedom of expression in journalism and filmmaking, and environmental issues.

These are excellent examples of the type of global experiential learning Juliet writes about, and they illustrate the role Universities can play in improving the lives of people around the world. It is, as she says, quoting John Masefield, “…one of the things that makes a University beautiful.”


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