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Our popular program in southern Africa helps our students understand the global aspects of environmental problems. Each fall term, 16 Dartmouth undergraduates gain hands-on experience with issues of population, land and water use, ecotourism, and resource management in a developing country.
The ENVS Africa Foreign Study program takes place in the nations of South Africa and Namibia in Southern Africa. The broad theme of the program is the interplay between social and economic development and environment conservation, particularly in the context of natural resource use and management. We approach these issues from the interdisciplinary perspective of Environmental Studies, integrating insights from the natural and social sciences. The overarching theoretical construct of the program is that of the Social-Ecological System (SES), which represents the importance of understanding both social and biophysical processes.
The program gives us the opportunity to learn about environmental issues in the unique ecological, historical and cultural milieu of Southern Africa. One advantage of the Southern Africa region as the site for this FSP is degree to which these countries have experimented with different models of natural resource management. An additional advantage is the degree to which we directly engage with local partners on the ground to explore these models.
Thus, the learning experience on our FSP is very different from that in a classroom setting. The pedagogy of the program emphasizes active and participatory learning. The responsibility for learning resides equally with the students and the professors. A primary way in which students will engage with the sites we will visit is through conducting research as an environmental problem-solving tool. This research is both empirical and literature based. Through the research process, students are expected to be co-producers of new knowledge. An important part of this idea for us is that we will engage with local systems and partners as active participants, rather than just being “education tourists.” This perspective requires that we be responsible and productive participants in each of the systems that we enter on the program.
Primary Intellectual and Personal Challenges of the AFSP
(a.k.a. our core values and principles)
Shift from passive to active learning – be a participant
Take intellectual and personal ownership of the FSP experience. Become a co-producer of knowledge
Synthesizing different ways of learning and knowing (empirical and theoretical)
Tolerance and patience for ambiguity, complexity and frustration
High expectations of personal maturity and accountability
Stepping out of your Dartmouth comfort-zone
Academically, the ENVS AFSP consists of three courses, which constitute a normal term’s worth of academic credit. The overall theme of the program is consistent across these courses. Each course implements this theme via different assignments and activities and across multiple sites in South Africa and Namibia.
ENVS 40: Human-environmental interactions, governance, and strategies for environmental conservation in South Africa.
ENVS 42: Research on conservation and development in Southern Africa through the application of two complementary lenses: personal experience and the academic literature
ENVS 84: Culminating experience: Social-ecological research in Namibia applying skills learned in 40 and 42, as well as at Dartmouth.
During much of the program students and faculty will be traveling and camping in safari tents. Students will also experience short rural homestays.
There are few formal prerequisites to participate in the ENVS Africa FSP. The program benefits from having diverse perspectives among the student participants, and all majors are welcome to apply. What we do look for is individuals who are prepared to engage in a rigorous field-based educational experience. We do ask that you take one of the following courses in preparation.