A Global Perspective on Policy

Published: Nov 15, 2002

A Global Perspective on Policy


While many UMBC students become accomplished researchers, not many have the chance to learn in an outdoor classroom with a stunning view of the Swiss Alps in the background. Every summer, the International Field Research Program in Culture, Policy and Practice, created by the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology and Health Administration and Policy, takes a small group of students to Switzerland to gain an international perspective on a variety of policy issues and to give students direct experience with social sciences field research methods.

The program is open to all students and, in the past, has accommodated a diverse group of students, from Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award winners and graduate students traveling as part of a larger research project to undergraduates looking for an exciting way to gain an upper-level elective. Now in its third year, the program, for the first time, is inviting faculty and staff from across the UMBC community to participate in one or both of the two one-week sessions and expects to have its largest student group ever.

“The origins of this program are in my own research in international health policy,” says Mary Stuart, chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who co-directs the International Field Research program with Joyce Riley, associate director for health administration and policy. “I saw how important it was to prepare our students to be active participants in the increasingly sophisticated global economy and to see how other nations address policy issues that we share in common.”

Students prepare for their trip through a course that meets seven times during the spring semester and allows them to gain background in qualitative research methods and Swiss society and culture. Once in Switzerland, students apply their new knowledge and conduct a series of field exercises that allow them to interact with Swiss culture while honing their skills in observation, interviewing and conducting opinion surveys. They also have the opportunity to visit places such as the World Health Organization, International Red Cross Museum and the United Nations.

The strongest endorsement for the International Field Research program comes from the student participants themselves. “No class, no homework assignment could ever teach me what I had learned on that trip,” says Anura Desai, whose many adventures in Switzerland included a visit to a refugee camp. “I truly felt like an international public health researcher, venturing out to any corner, in pursuit for my research. It was unbelievable.”

The 2003 Switzerland program for International Field Research in Culture, Policy and Practice will hold two sessions, June 16-22 and June 23-29. Applications and additional information are available at www.umbc.edu/happ or from Cathy McDonnell, ACIV Room 348, cat@umbc.edu, (410) 455-2342. For priority consideration, apply by December 10.





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