Can We Make a Better World?

A conversation with Prof. William Vogele

Q. Could you tell us about the PMC First Year Seminars?

A. One of our main purposes in the first year seminars is help students cultivate skills of critical and creative thinking by tackling significant real-world problems. As a global learning community we also want students to be able to draw linkages between the global and the local. This fall semester, one topic among the First Year Seminars is "Can We Make a Better World?" The substantive focus of these two sections is the Millennium Development Goals. Adopted in 2000 by the United Nations the MDG set measurable and aggressive targets to address some of the world community's starkest problems - including halving the number of people living in extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education and achieving gender equity.

Q. How does Pine Manor College approach to the question of bettering the world differ?

A. We have many ways in which students act for positive change – including the “obvious” (but important) things like community service days and events. A more unique example involves how this goal is embedded in some courses. For example, each year Pine Manor students learning how to do social and behavioral research in the majors in Community Health, Psychology and Social and Political Systems engage with community partners to complete research on a problem or question the community organization has that will help them improve their work.

Q. Moving from research to practice - Can you please share some examples?

A. As we embark on these courses I reflect on the ways in which Pine Manor has connected with these issues for some time. One example is my own work in Central America. For several years I have worked on the progress of development and democratic change in Central America, in particular in El Salvador and in Honduras. I have made several trips to Honduras to work at an agricultural school for teenage boys operated by Los Proyectos El Hogar (www.elhogar.org). The boys at this school are from very rural, and very poor, families. They learn crucial skills in literacy, farming techniques and leadership. Key activities of the school are community development projects in which the boys teach what they have learned to create sustainable growth. The impact on the boys, their families and their communities is enormous.

Another example is the work of Bishnu Pariyar ('04) who founded and continues to lead the grassroots organization Empower Dalit Women of Nepal (www.edwon.org) . EDWON began humbly with a single women's group that brought together upper and lower caste women in a village with a single purpose - to improve their community's wellbeing. In the process, the standard of living increased, domestic violence decreased, more girls were able to attend school and health improved. EDWON now serves several thousand people in villages across rural Nepal. We will be hosting Bishnu here at Pine Manor this month, and I encourage all to come and meet her (click here for details)

Q. Conclusion?

A. The commitment of the Pine Manor College community to "make a better world" has enduring roots and practical consequences. We look forward to working with our newest students to continue that process.



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