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The Value of Learning Off Campus

When Rachel Finklestein ’08 traveled to Ecuador last fall and volunteered as an art teacher with La Escuela San Jose de Calasanz, a school for disabled children, teens and young adults, her experiences extended well beyond the classroom. She spent time with the students in a variety of settings, she said, teaching them ways of communicating and living with their disabilities.

While there, Finklestein created an independent study project that illustrated her experiences and lessons learned in Ecuador. “This project documented the over-arching experience of disabled youth in Ecuador, the use of art as a tool of self-expressions and the varying modes of communication within a population,” she said.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Finklestein will be one of 25 Smith students who will discuss their experiences learning beyond the classroom during the Smith Elects the World Conference in the Campus Center. The conference was established to explore the relationship between formal classroom education and learning that takes place in off-campus programs, such as Praxis internships, study abroad and community service.

In five concurrent panels, beginning at 4:10 p.m. in various Campus Center rooms, students will describe how their studies at Smith have shaped their off-campus endeavors and how those experiences have enriched their academics at Smith.

Alexandra Ferrara ’09 will talk about her experience as a Praxis intern with the Corporate Council in Africa. Margaret Purnell ’08 will discuss her work on an archaeological dig in Northumberland, England. Others have traveled to Florence, Italy, Geneva, Hamburg, Germany, Tanzania, Peru and Mexico.

Equally as important, many Smith students remain closer to home, tutoring students at the Gerena Community School in Springfield, for example, or assisting students in inner-city programs.

These students’ stories underscore the significant contribution their off-campus learning experiences have on their liberal arts education.

The student panels will be followed by a faculty panel at 5:10 p.m. in the Campus Center Carroll Room. A reception, open to all, will follow the event at 6 p.m.

Smith Elects the World is sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College, the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty, and the Career Development Office.


11/1/07   By Eric Sean Weld
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