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Internationalizing the Curriculum

Bringing an Internationalized Curriculum to PC

Providence, R.I.--Internationalizing the college curriculum can help address societal issues, creates added relevance to courses, and generates greater opportunity for students to study abroad.

Those are a few examples of what Dr. Paola Cesarini, assistant professor of political science, and Dr. Stephen J. Mecca ’64 & ’66G, professor of physics, said is possible when a course is combined with international issues.

The two Providence College faculty members discussed their views during a recent presentation co-sponsored by the Center for International Studies (CIS) and the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE).

Infusing International Experiences int​o the Curriculum was one of many events presented during International Education Week on campus. The week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Departments of State and Education and is celebrated in more than 100 countries.

The purpose of this event was to highlight work undertaken internationally by faculty members as a result of grants offered by the CIS. The purpose of the grants is to encourage and support faculty members in their efforts to internationalize the curriculum at PC.

Northern Ireland proves fascinating, relevant

Cesarini’s presented “The World’s Most Versatile Case-Study?: Incorporating Northern Ireland into the Political Science Curriculum and Beyond.” 

She said she chose Northern Ireland as an area of study because of personal fascination, its relevance to political science, its versatility, and for its study abroad potential.

Noting many divides that still exist in the country, including language, religion, history, and even its name, Cesarini said Northern Ireland’s many issues dovetail well with newly created political science courses--namely Human Rights, European Politics, and Transitional Justice.

In addition, she said the country’s many issues could be studied in several other disciplines at PC, including the Development of Western Civilization Program, English, history, theology, art, and social work.

Cesarini said the benefits of an international educational experience have been apparent to her since she was a college student. Noting her Fulbright experience, along with other international programs she has participated in, Cesarini said she has been wholly transformed by her studies abroad--something she believes is possible for PC students.

“I learned about new cultures, I mastered new languages and customs, and made wonderful friends who I am still in touch with,” she said. “Most importantly, I learned to look at things with new eyes and become curious about a whole new set of questions.”

Cesarini added that faculty also benefit from international experiences. “Internationalizing the curriculum is applicable to virtually every discipline, makes learning more exciting, and opens new doors to research,” she said.

A focus on problems

Mecca’s presentation, “Infusing a Developing World International Experience into a Physics Curriculum,” focused on the work he has done in Ghana with several students.

For years, Mecca has undertaken several projects in the West African country that have been focused on sanitation and education. 

During his presentation, Mecca made specific mention of a physics workbook his Conceptual Physics class created recently. This endeavor was supported through a student engagement mini-grant from the Davis Educational Foundation. 

Mecca invited a student to participate in a Community Based Student Internship in Ghana to test the workbook on students, 21 teachers, and 16 student teachers from Mount Mary Teacher’s College.

The idea behind the workbook was two-fold, Mecca said. Practically, he wanted his students to create physics lessons for students in Ghana that could be taught using only materials that could be found around a rural village. On a broader level, he wanted to create a way for his students to focus on solving a problem.

“Everything we talk about is the result of a problem,” he explained. “When we ask students to participate, it’s about solving a problem. My approach is to focus on the problem because real problems are an engaging factor for students.”

CIS faculty grants for the summer of 2012 are available. The application deadline is December 16. For more information, call 401-865-2455 or email​


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