A trip and the growth of human freedom
December 13, 2016
Dr. Umme Al-wazedi will take her students to India in 2017 on a quest to join education with experience.
The trip during spring break is one of three parts of the Women's and Gender Studies Learning Community (LC), designed by Dr. Al-wazedi and theatre arts instructor Dr. Jennifer Popple.
The other parts of the LC are a class in winter term and a service learning class in the spring term.
When designing the LC, Dr. Al-wazedi thought about the words of William Cronon, a noted environmental historian. He writes that one of the values of a liberal education is that "it aspires to nurture the growth of human talent in the service of human freedom."
"I have always asked myself, 'What does this education of freedom and growth look like?,'" she said. "For me, the freedom that students gain in my classes is that they learn more about themselves as an individual, as a part of their community and as a part of their country."
The focus of this LC is on Indian and Euro-American writers and directors of films and documentaries. In their winter class, students will read and see works that explore the identity of Indian women. They will consider the interaction of biological, behavioral and socio-cultural factors in women's lives.
The class will give students some context before they fly off to see for themselves the challenges that Indian communities face in managing education, health care, the environment, capital and families.
"The freedom students gain in my classes is that they learn more about themselves as an individual, as a part of their community and as a part of their country."
In India, students will visit Guild of Service, a domestic violence center in Delhi; Jaipur Foot/Knee Limb, a prosthetic limb manufacturing factory; and an organization in Jaipur that was started by an American student and now is run by women of Jaipur.
"The freedom students gain in my classes is that they learn more about themselves as an individual, as a part of their community and as a part of their country.”
Students will see how activist groups in India address problems in their communities, and how many Western organizations have been unsuccessful in those cases. If all goes according to plan, the students will meet grassroots workers.
During the spring service learning class, students will volunteer in the Quad Cities at places such as SafePath, a service for victims of domestic violence at Family Resources in Davenport, or the Quad Cities Allies for Immigrants and Refugees.
Throughout this LC, Dr. Al-wazedi anticipates that students will "integrate many forms of knowledge": fiction, non-fiction, activism, and service work. She hopes they will be able to contribute to the growth of human freedom and a more just world. Those are the ideals she hopes to inspire in them.