Tag: study abroad

Geographer Kat Hannum Latest Dean’s Teaching Showcase Selection

College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) Dean Ravindra Pandey selected Kathryn (Kat) Hannum as the featured instructor this week for the Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Nominated by Department of Social Sciences Chair Don Lafreniere, Hannum will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Kathryn Hannum
Kathryn (Kat) Hannum Dean’s Teaching Showcase Selection

An assistant teaching professor of geography, Hannum’s expertise is in migration and nationalism. She recently published a book titled “Nationalism” (Routledge 2023) outlining how this global ideology is one of the dominant political forces in the modern world. Nationalism shapes geographical concepts such as territory, homelands, boundaries, and frontiers.

The World is the Classroom for Dean’s Teaching Showcase Winner

An exceptional scholar in the classroom, Hannum’s conception of “classroom” is very different from most instructors at Michigan Tech. As a geographer, she uses the world as her classroom. Hannum leads numerous study-abroad programs in Mexico and Costa Rica. She supports other programs in Wales and a domestic program where students travel across the United States on Amtrak.

In each of these programs, Hannum engages students to think critically about culture and their roles as global citizens in an increasingly interconnected world. She teaches about the impacts of tourism development and tourism-driven migration on regions, as well as how to promote sustainable tourism while understanding the role such development has on national, regional and Indigenous identities. In the rainforests of Costa Rica and the small Mayan villages of Mexico, she introduces students firsthand to the ways human actions impact the human and natural worlds, highlighting the interconnectivity and complexity of our globalized world.

Hannum believes strongly that when students travel, they can engage with the impact that humans have on the world in a deeply personal way. She employs journaling during her study away programs. Students write daily reflections on the lessons learned. They reflect on how their decisions impact the people and environments experienced on the trip.

She also uses social labs, in which students in the class give back to the communities they are visiting. In Mexico, these labs have included projects that support increasing beachfront access for locals in areas of increased exclusion due to tourism developments. Students examine ways to protect village life and culture, too.

Hannum’s Community and Global Focus Praised

Lafreniere praised the impact of Hannum’s teaching and scholarship. “Dr. Hannum’s focus is on supporting communities,” he said. “As a scholar-teacher, she challenges students not to just be consumers of knowledge, but to take their unique skills and passions to make the communities they visit more sustainable, vibrant places.”

Maria Bergstrom, associate dean for undergraduate education in the CSA, noted the importance of Hannum’s curricular innovations. “Michigan Tech students of all majors have benefited from participating in Dr. Hannum’s global classrooms — gaining a broader perspective and a better understanding of how communities are impacted as new practices and technologies are introduced,” she said. “The study abroad and study away programs developed by Dr. Hannum and others at Michigan Tech have also served as an inspiration for aspects of the new Essential Education program, particularly the Essential Education Experience, which seeks to provide similar community engagement opportunities for all undergraduates. We are grateful for her leadership in developing this type of experiential education at Michigan Tech.”

About the Social Sciences Department at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences offers bachelor of science degrees in AnthropologyPolicy and Community DevelopmentSustainability Science and Society, and Social Science, along with a bachelor of arts degree in History. Our graduate program includes masters and doctoral degrees in Environmental and Energy Policy and Industrial Heritage and Architecture (the only one of its kind in the world), and a master’s in Sustainable Communities. Plus, you can get a graduate certificate in Public Policy in by taking three courses in just one term.

Questions? Contact us at socialsciences@mtu.edu. Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for the latest happenings.

Melia Austin Takes on Costa Rica During Her Study Abroad Trip

Melia Austin
Melia Austin enjoys the view in Costa Rica

Melia Austin immerses herself in her learning. One example: is a trip to Costa Rica during the summer of 2022 with fellow Michigan Tech students interested in sustainability. Building on what they learned at Michigan Tech, they observed what Costa Rica has done to become more sustainable in terms of environment, ecology, water treatment, and more. Plus, Melia immersed herself in the Costa Rican community, where she practiced her Spanish and earned credits toward her minor in Spanish.

Melia said, “I wanted to use what I’ve learned in my Spanish classes to grow in my understanding of the world, and learn about sustainability inside and outside of the classroom.” Day trips around Costa Rica greatly enhanced her learning.

Immersed in Sustainability

The day trips brought sustainability to life. A visit to a natural hot spring showed how Costa Ricans benefit from this sustainable form of energy. They also hiked through a sustainable forest where they saw a quetzal. This is a rare bird found in Costa Rica. Sustainable forests give species like the quetzal places to thrive. The forest was not only environmentally sustainable, but also socially, and economically sustainable. As a result, Costa Rica is able to identify and manage the impacts of businesses and people on the environment and adjust accordingly to be sustainable. She noted that the rainforest and its management met the criteria of the three pillars of sustainability that they learned about in their classes.

A Quetzal bird.
Quetzal bird sits on a branch in the sustainable rainforest

There were lots Melia enjoyed during her time in Costa Rica. Melia’s favorite thing was “attending a conference about sustainability with graduate students and professors from different universities.” She was able to diversify her learning about sustainability by connecting with others from different universities. This enhanced her experience as she immersed herself in new opportunities to learn about sustainability.

Study Abroad Takeaways From Melia

When asked what advice she would give to students considering studying abroad she said, “You are at a unique point in your life where you have the freedom and autonomy to travel and learn new things that might change how you see the world. It might even change your future plans.” In Costa Rica, she learned to be independent and travel independently. She is applying those learnings in a gap year in Senegal where she volunteers on a hospital ship. Immersing herself in Senegalese culture and the hospital environment, her goal is to gauge her interest in a career in medicine.

Hot spring in Costa Rica with steam rising.
Natural hot spring in Costa Rica

Learn about Melia and the other Michigan Tech students’ experiences in Costa Rica on the Costa Rica blog. Michigan Tech offers a number of study-abroad options in Costa Rica, Cumbria, Mexico, and Wales.

Frontiers and Fortresses blogs summer school

Carlisle Castle, Carlisle, UK
Carlisle Castle, Carlisle, UK

This year marks the fifth year that Prof. Carl Blair has run the Frontiers and Fortresses summer study abroad program in Cumbria, England, and the first year that he has had the students blog their experiences.  The Track B summer program has just wrapped in Carlisle, their base of operations, but you can read all about the experience through the four-week experience on their Weebly blog.