Academic Program

This is a ten-week program based primarily in Dwesa-Cwebe, a nature reserve in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.  A cohort of 15-20 Penn State students, faculty and staff live and study in the Reserve for the length of the program and are joined at various times by staff and students from Eastern Cape universities and the University of Cape Town.  The program offers a suite of courses co-taught by the staff from the various universities and combines class work with research and service learning programs in the nature reserve and in the surrounding communities.  These projects are developed out of faculty and student research interests, and incorporate activities that benefit the Reserve and its neighboring communities.

The benefits for both the African and the American students are enormous.  Most students learn better in a hands-on environment and the Parks and People program presents a perfect opportunity to learn theory and practice together.  More important, is the opportunity for developing global awareness and building global competency—working collaboratively across cultural and linguistic boundaries.  Again the immersive and collaborative nature of the program presents an ideal venue for building this level of understanding and cooperation.

Students are motivated to join a program such as this for a variety of reasons and have a personal set of goals they wish to accomplish.  In addition, we have a number of program and educational objectives we wish to accomplish and, as a result of participation in the program, we expect that students will:

1)      Gain experience in working in a cross-cultural setting, learning how to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers.  At the same time, students will gain experience in teamwork and the development of leadership skills.

2)      Understand the interaction of cultural and natural processes in issues of ecosystem management and social and economic development, appreciate different cultural perspectives on these issues and place local processes in a regional or global context.

3)      Obtain field experience and integrate practical field work with theoretical knowledge.

4)      Participate in faculty or graduate student-led research projects.  Gain research experience and understand the role of academic research in helping to address ecosystem, conservation and community development challenges.

5)      Use their academic training in a service project that will materially benefit local livelihoods, contribute to reserve or ecosystem management, or develop educational materials for local communities or reserve visitors.

The specific courses change from year-to-year, but they include a combination of natural and social science courses taught by individual faculty, an integrative course taught by all of the faculty and a course on global citizenship–for a total of 15 400-level credits.  There is an optional 1-3 credit Reflections course taught in the following fall semester.  Students who take all 18 credits can also apply for the minor in Science, Society and the Environment of Africa.

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