Centre College students are given summer internship and research opportunities in Southeast Asia
The Centre Experience often extends beyond campus, providing a world of opportunities to engage in a global classroom. This summer, eight students are taking advantage of the study abroad, internship and research experiences that are guaranteed as a part of the Centre Commitment.
Thanks to the Henry Luce Foundation, Centre has received a four-year grant of $400,000 to help fund these internships and research studies in Southeast Asia as part of an initiative called the Luce Initiative in Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE).
“Each student receives up to $4,000 to cover travel, lodging and other expenses associated with their experience in Asia,” Director for Corporate and Foundation Relations Elizabeth Graves said.
Many of the students have taken LIASE-related courses, like Asia & the Environment Lab in fall 2016 or traveled with Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Kyle Anderson and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Brett Werner to Thailand during CentreTerm 2017. Others went with Assistant Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience Aaron Godlaski and Assistant Professor of Biology Matthew Klooster to Borneo in May 2017 before starting their internship or research.
“The LIASE project at Centre is accomplishing what it was designed to achieve: enthrall students with the cultures and languages of East and Southeast Asia, increase their knowledge of environmental issues in the region, animate student desires for activism and involvement, and make sure students have every opportunity to go to Asia to make a strong contribution,” Anderson said.
According to Graves, the number of stackable learning experiences students could partake in as part of this grant will expose them to things like foreign language, environmental studies, Asian humanities and conservation biology.
“One primary purpose with this grant-funded project was to scaffold the kinds of high impact practices that Centre emphasizes, by having students participate in multiple experiences, building on each other,” Werner said.
“These high-impact practices include study abroad, research, internships, service learning, intensive language study, linked courses and project-based learning,” he continued. “We knew that having multiple high-impact experiences that build on each other would make students more capable to seriously engage with large and complex issues like sustainability in Asia.”
During this past CentreTerm, 23 students and two professors traveled to multiple locations in Thailand.
According to Anderson, the students in Asia have almost a year’s worth of preparation for their internship or research studies.
“Combining the CentreTerm course, the other experiences associated with this scaffolded experience, and the summer internship, students will have engaged long-term with a country for more than a year,” Werner said. “In this case, students will have investigated Thailand’s culture, language and environment, while working closely with and developing great connections with Centre faculty and our partners.”
“Not only do these students have long-term interest and connections developing in these countries, they also know what it takes to study and work internationally, which is important for Centre graduates,” he added.
Out of the eight students who are interning in Southeast Asia, Ellen Tyra ‘19 will return to Myanmar for an internship with the Parami Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Yangon.
She will be assisting with community outreach, potentially recruitment, consulting on curriculum and helping prepare the Parami Institute for the upcoming fall semester.
Tyra was interested in this initiative even before coming to Centre.
“It was intriguing, as that country had been the subject of my research and interest in high school,” she said. “I continued to ask about it, and when given the opportunity to visit the institute and take part in the first days of classes with the students, I was amazed.”
“It was encouraging to see, and I wanted to be a part of the whole progress that Myanmar’s education was making,” she continued. “Hopefully, I will be able to open a new door for bright students and aid with the reinvigoration of higher education in Myanmar.”
This summer, she is looking forward to making connections with the people she meets through the Parami Institute.
After an unforgettable experience in Thailand during CentreTerm, Brandon Schweder ‘18 will return to the country this summer to research aquaculture practices at the Kamphaeng Saen campus of Kasetsart University.
In addition, Schweder, a biology and environmental studies major, started an organization on campus called the Centre Sustainable Oceans Alliance, which approaches ocean sustainability through biological, chemical and economic lenses.
While in Thailand, Schweder hopes to develop his language and literacy abilities in Thai that he gained during the Centre Summer Language Institute last year.
“Communicating in a foreign language teaches an individual to more confidently express themselves in unfamiliar environments, which is an important life skill,” Schweder said.
“I consistently try to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. When you overcome fear, you open your mind to the intricacies and beauties of the world. You lose old prejudices and gain new perspectives. I can ask for nothing more,” he concluded.
by Kerry Steinhofer
June 6, 2017