News & Events

Waubonsee Faculty to Use Philippines Seminar to Deepen Instruction

Sowjanya Dharmasankar
Dr. Timothy Draper
Kathy Westman

Three Waubonsee Community College professors have been selected for an opportunity to spend their summer gaining insight into the people, culture, history and current issues of the Philippines.

In June, Waubonsee Assistant Professor of Economics Sowjanya Dharmasankar, Associate Professor of Sociology Kathy Westman and Associate Professor of History Dr. Timothy Draper will travel to the Philippines as part of the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Short-Term Seminar to the Philippines through the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University.

The project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and led by Dr. Sue Russell, Professor of Anthropology at NIU.

The Waubonsee professors were three of only 11 educators from northern Illinois selected to participate in the study experience.

The seminar is designed to further the Fulbright-Hays Program’s mission of fostering international educational exchanges between U.S. citizens and those of other countries and NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies’ work of furthering international education through engagement with K-12 schools and community colleges in the Northern Illinois region.

While in the Philippines, the professors will have a full month to delve into the global issues, different cultures, geopolitics, and human rights issues in the archipelagic nation.

They will then bring the knowledge they amass back to Waubonsee, to share with fellow faculty and students to deepen educational programs, classroom instruction and independent study options at the college.

With her interest in sociology, Westman said she intends to use the seminar to investigate racial and ethnic relations among the Philippines majority Christian population and the ethnic minority Moro people, a majority of whom are Muslim, living mainly on islands, including Mindanao and Sulu, at the south end of the archipelago, near Malaysia.

“At this early point, I think my focus is how do ethnic-religious group behaviors create in-group positive feeling or group detachment avoidance to other groups?” Westman said. “I wonder what that looks like off paper and in the Philippines.”

Westman said she believes the experience will deepen her ability to teach on such subjects, particularly in classes, such as those dealing with race and ethnic relations, which can also include a number of native Filipino immigrants.

“Discussing this experience will benefit students beyond readings, film clips, group work and more,” Westman said.

Dr. Laura Ortiz, Dean for Social Sciences, Education and World Language at Waubonsee, said the faculty participating in the seminar intend to share their knowledge and experiences with other instructors, as well. At the beginning of the Spring 2016 semester, for instance, the three plan to facilitate a discussion session with colleagues tentatively titled “Human Rights Education in Global Perspective: From the Philippines to the United States.”

“Faculty play a critical role in the students’ holistic development,” said Dr. Ortiz. “Through their direct or indirect participation in this project, they will be better equipped to mentor our students on their journey to become global citizens and educated ambassadors of the United States.”


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