Campus News

Update: CBB Foreign Study Program Awarded Mellon Grant

Story posted February 28, 2002

The trustees of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have awarded Bowdoin College, in collaboration with Bates College and Colby College, a $490,000 grant in support of foreign study.

The grant will support the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) Off-Campus Study Program over the next three years.

Colby, Bates and Bowdoin work in partnership to run study-abroad centers in Cape Town, South Africa; London, England; and Quito, Ecuador. The centers offer a wide variety of courses designed to make full use of the instructional and cultural resources of the regions.

The CBB off-campus study program was launched in 1999, with funds from a 1998 Mellon grant. In addition to creating an excellent academic program, CBB has built a strong collaboration among Colby, Bates and Bowdoin. To date, 300 students and 25 faculty members among the three colleges have participated. As a rule, students are in their junior years.

"The collaboration among Bates, Bowdoin and Colby has been immensely productive in opening up exciting opportunities for faculty to teach in new contexts and to collaborate with colleagues in other institutions," said Craig McEwen, Bowdoin's dean for academic affairs. "It has also created challenging and high quality off-campus study opportunities for our students that simultaneously connect them to other societies and to the curricula at their home institutions."

Paul Franco, professor of government at Bowdoin, is Bowdoin’s representative to the CBB London Steering Committee. His initial involvement stemmed from a sense that for many students, study abroad experiences amount to nothing more than tourism, and are academically worthless. “My hope was that CBB might offer an alternative model for a study abroad experience that was academically rigorous and directed students to a more profound engagement with the culture and society of the place they were studying in,” he says.

“This hope was confirmed,” says Franco, “when I myself directed a program in London on British political theory and practice. Subject matter and site completely meshed, and my students and I developed a sense of common purpose and camaraderie that are only rarely achieved on our home campus. It was an unforgettable experience

CBB faculty and students come from varied disciplines, and courses have been offered abroad in anthropology, art history, biology, English, ecology, government, history, mathematics, performing arts, sociology, and Spanish language.

“It was a pleasure to see the CBB students develop a real understanding of tropical ecology over the course of three months in Ecuador,” said Nathaniel T. Wheelwright, Bowdoin professor of biology. “They peaked when we were in a remote corner of the Amazon Basin, where they delivered professional seminars on their independent research projects – in Spanish.”

Participating students receive instruction by both CBB faculty and local scholars. Courses are given at the program's three centers, as well as at the University of East London and Cape Town University. Local field trips are integrated into the courses.

Students also interact with local families, and do community service and internships.

In Cape Town, CBB students tutor high school students in basic science, work in an HIV awareness campaign, and help communities grow cash crops.

“Working with grass roots organizations and with South African young people in the community has been a life changing experience for most of our students,” said Randolph Stakeman, associate professor of history and director of the Africana studies program at Bowdoin. “As one student said to me, in Cape Town your purpose in life, perhaps for the first time, becomes clear. By living with, and indeed becoming a part of the host families, students have gained an insight into South Africa that simply cannot be duplicated by going to live with other Americans or international students.”

In Quito, students work at local schools, an orphanage, a children's rights organization, and a center dedicated to rehabilitating prostitutes. In London students volunteer in local business, government, media, and arts organizations.

Funds from the Mellon grant will be used to strengthen and solidify the management of the CBB program through support of its central administration office (located at Bowdoin), which is charged with integrating the resources, expertise, and common goals of the three institutions.

The grant will support efforts to build and broaden connections between the three campuses and London, Cape Town and Quito. Increasing student enrollments, maximizing educational opportunities at the off-campus locations, making the program financially viable, and funding ongoing program evaluation are also important goals of the grant.

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