February 02, 2018

The College in Colombia: Community & Culture, Coffee & Conservation

Gonzaga has a long-standing relationship in Colombia with Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Cali and Bogotá as part of the affiliation between universities in the Jesuit West and their sister institutions.

For years, faculty members from across the university have traveled to Colombia to participate in intensive language training and collaborative activities that promote human rights, sustainable development, and interdisciplinary education, and we have welcomed our friends from PUJ here at Gonzaga in exchange.

But when then-Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Dr. Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak—now Interim Academic Vice President—traveled to South America with Assistant Vice President of Global Engagement Dr. Joe Kinsella and School of Professional Studies Dean Joe Albert, a new initiative was born.

The three worked together to build a program to improve intercultural competence, to spread the dual immersion experience throughout a larger population, and to cement and deepen Gonzaga’s relationship with PUJ. To achieve those goals, they explored opportunities within existing research categories that would fit naturally with the interests and research of both PUJ and Gonzaga faculty.

Last Spring, the College of Arts & Sciences opened a competitive selection process for the first Community of Practice Cohort, yielding a group of five successful candidates collaborating with PUJ faculty on four projects: Greg Gordon (Environmental Studies) focusing on biodiversity; Katey Roden (a Visiting Scholar leading the College’s Digital Humanities Initiative) and Pavel Shlossberg (Master of Arts program in Communication & Leadership Studies) collaborating to help organizations map cultural memory and values, Rebecca Stephanis (Modern Languages & Literature) working with faculty to develop a team-taught film course, and Stacy Taninchev (Political Science) gaining a greater understanding of the sociopolitical impacts of coffee culture in Colombia. While the focal points of the projects vary greatly, each in some way correlates to advancing social justice and demonstrating attitudes that reflect curiosity, openness to difference, and critical reflection.

Group photo of  Community of Practice Cohort yielding a group of five successful candidates collaborating with PUJ faculty on four projects.

Now back in Spokane, the Cohort participants keep in close touch with their PUJ counterparts and continue to refine and advance their endeavors, meeting monthly as a group to help one another realize the potential each project offers, to explore new partnerships, and to collaborate on ways to overcome obstacles they may face.

In November, the group presented insights from their experiences in Colombia at the College’s Dean’s Research and Creative Activity Forum. From overcoming cultural stereotypes to better understanding the socioeconomic and environmental complexities of life in Colombia, the Global Engagement in a Digital Age and Coffee & Conservation stories will provide a glimpse of these diverse experiences.

The 2018 application process is now open to all Gonzaga faculty and will extend through March 5. Submit an application here.