I-Seminar: Creating an inter-and-multi-disciplinary learning community

The Center for Diversity and Global Engagement (CDGE) began a new initiative to promote and support an interdisciplinary and multidimensional learning culture. Our goal is to have students and faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds and points-of-view engage in dialogue within and across our interdisciplinary programs. The Center launched I-Seminar – a regular space and time when different interdisciplinary programs or multidisciplinary departments come together to share ideas on relatively incomplete but mature IS projects.

The inaugural event was attended by 40 participants – students, faculty, staff and community members. They came together to discuss issues surrounding “Natural Resource, Politics and the Environment”.

Beginning the conversation was Ben Bestor, a senior International Relations (IR)-Political science major, who outlined the factors that explain the differential success of China and India entering the African oil industry. Using research that drew from  international relations, international economics and business he argued that “differential success is due to differences in the Chinese and Indian domestic political systems”. More specifically, he hypothesized that Chinese entry efforts have been comparatively more successful due to differences in the following factors: (1) motives of entry (security vs. profit considerations) and (2) perceptions of China and India among African states.

Emmy O’Malley an IR- Economics major presented a political economy model of natural resources abundance and economic, social and political interdependence. Building from rebel recruitment theory, she utilized game theory and regression analysis to examine the interaction between a resource-rich and resource-poor state. Her tentaive conclusions are that  resource abundance incentivizes cooperation. Cooperation is characterized by the exchange of payoffs and resources. The result is economic and political interdependence.

Finally, Casey Henry, a Anthropology major and Environmental Studies minor presented “Integrating People into the Conservation Model: A Study of Cuyahoga Valley National Park and a Symbiotic Relationship between Conservationists and Sustainable Agriculture” She argued that the American conception of wilderness as a place void of human influence ignored people’s role in nature. Only in recent decades has the National Park Service begun forming partnerships with local communities and landholders through a park model that is inclusive of human subsistence. Cuyahoga Valley National Park provides a unique example of a wilderness area co-existing with small working farms. She examined CVNP in the context of the National Park Service and the relationship between the park and the Countryside Conservancy, a farm advocacy group that leases farms within park boundaries to individuals using ethnographic interviews.

Individually, these presentations were student attempts to cross the boundaries of two or more disciplines. O’Malley and Bestor showed us how intertwined political and economic factors are to understanding the consequences of natural resources like oil.  On further reflection, Henry’s presentation urged us to think more holistically of natural resources – how human systems exist and effect nature as we know it but also how natural systems affect us. Any notion of conservation should recognize the symbiotic co-dependence of nature and socio-economic-political systems.

The next I-Seminar will be held in Babcock Dining Hall on Thursday Feb 17th. The topic is
“Tradition, Modernity and Drugs: The Amish, the Amyrna and the Quecha”. Please see the CDGE Wiki for more info.

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