MA TLP 2019–2020
Culture Shock: Migrations, Exile, and the Refugee Crisis
How can we understand the origins and complexities of current migrations so that we can better understand the needs of affected populations and design workable solutions?
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), there are 68.5 million people displaced from their homes around the world. Of those, 28.5 million are refugees cast out of their home countries and/or active asylum seekers. How did this crisis come to be—and what do we need to know to make progress on this critical global issue? This transdisciplinary course will explore the question: How can we understand the origins and complexities of current migrations so that we can better understand the needs of affected populations and design workable solutions?
In the first segment of the course, students will explore the origins of voluntary and forced migrations over the course of history and into the present. Through a wide variety of readings and documentary films in English and world languages—and, most importantly, conversations with stakeholders in all aspects of the issues—we will employ design-oriented processes to examine the causes of different migrations (such as wars and conflicts, violence and persecutions, environmental issues, political instability, and lack of economic opportunity) and consider their impacts at local, regional, national, and global levels.
The first segment will culminate in a collaboratively-created mobile exhibit on the migration crisis which will include informational exhibits (some of which may be online), oral histories, documentary theater pieces and other types of artistic performance, and other products of understandings that course members determine are appropriate to share their findings.
In the second segment of the course, students will apply their newfound skills and knowledge and skills to create solutions to the problems they defined in their initial explorations. Working in partnership with organizations such as Kiva and the International Rescue Committee, students will design and implement solutionary projects toward progress on issues facing migrants and refugees. Given the double-block nature of the course, students will likely be working off campus for extended periods.
The final phase of the course will actually take place in the spring semester when students complete their capstone project at the end of their senior year. Students in the Transdisciplinary Leadership Program will design a project that addresses a social issue of their choosing in partnership with an organization outside of MA. This capstone project will commence in the third quarter as an extension of the course, and it will be an opportunity to demonstrate the thoughtful and nuanced way that they have learned to analyze issues and design creative solutions.