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New field school proposal tabled for India

When Yasmin Dean, associate professor in Social Work, was introduced to the work of an orphanage in India she was immediately struck by the range of potential projects that might engage MRU students from a number of programs and faculties.

With the support of Mount Royal University’s International Education office, Dean spent eight days in India this past January researching that potential.

An MRU faculty member's recent trip to India may result in an MRU field school at an overseas orphanage.

She returned convinced that a connection with the orphanage, and the ashram that supports it, was a great fit for a field school.

“The orphanage is unique,” says Dean.

“The children arrive as babies and stay until they become adults. Because there is no adoption process, the children need full services for a long time, including education and health care.”

All of which means that MRU students in a range of disciplines could take part in a field school, she adds.

“I can see potential projects in context of the needs of the orphanage in social work, early childhood development, nursing, communications, business plan development and more.”

Dean and Terry Field, associate professor and program chair in Journalism, have officially proposed a field school for spring 2012, and while there are many details to work out, the initial response from their respective faculties and International Education is positive.

The plan would allow MRU students in any discipline to take two courses (6 credits) with each being General Education eligible at level three.

The field school component would include a trip to India and a stay at the orphanage, which is operated by the Sri Ram Ashram just outside the Hindu holy city of Haridwar, which sits beside the Ganges River in the foothills of the Himalayas.

“The most exciting part of the proposal for me is the interdisciplinary potential,” says Field.

“I will present a course in intercultural communication that will allow students to consider their own reactions to cultural differences, while Yasmin’s course will examine the broader social development issues. The two courses couldn't be more complementary."

Dean became aware of the orphanage through her connection with CrossFit Calgary, which is both a gym and a lifestyle program that promotes fitness and health. The director of the orphanage uses CrossFit principles as part of the children’s’ physical activity regime.

“The ashram is a beautiful place and spending time with the children was truly magical,” Dean says.

“Terry and I are looking forward to working out important details and getting final approval to run the field school… and we know it could be a challenging, enlightening and fun experience for the students.”

Terry Field, Feb. 17, 2011