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Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence Uses Technology To Bring The World To Wittenberg Classroom

April 6, 2011  
 Filed in Community, Featured, Research

Springfield, Ohio – Dedicated to preparing students for global citizenship, Wittenberg regularly finds ways to bring the world to its campus. That includes inviting international professors into the classroom such as Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Thea de Wet, a member of the university’s faculty roster this semester.

Currently teaching an urban anthropology class on India, Brazil and South Africa, de Wet wants to give her students a better feel for what these other countries are like. The class discusses the structure of three cities: Mumbai, India, Rio, Brazil, and Johannesburg, South Africa. All three cities share the aspect of a colonial past, which, de Wet explained, affected their organization, separating by race in Johannesburg and by class in Rio and Mumbai.

Mumbai, de Wet noted, is home to Asia’s largest economically depressed area, which happens to reside on prime real estate that the government wants back. A “New Mumbai” is growing nearby where the city’s wealthier inhabitants are now moving.

“Students need to know the historical context of a city,” de Wet said. The historical context for Johannesburg, for instance, revolves around gold, and Mumbai’s history centers around cotton and is now centered around Bollywood.

But for people in general, she clarified, “The city’s rhythm is most important. Johannesburg starts earlier than Springfield, where you start about 9 [a.m.]. You need to know when things open and close, where do you find things like fresh vegetables, or if they have public transport.”

In one class, she used the online video conferencing service Skype to bring an urban anthropologist from London and a South African sociologist into the class dialogue. For another project, the students were asked to find music representative of the cultures they were studying. The music was then played in class.

“I try to involve the students and get them to interact,” de Wet said.

Presently the head of the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, de Wet explained that the university has approximately 50,000 students, and some of the larger classrooms are built to accommodate 1,000 at a time, a far cry from Wittenberg’s classes of roughly 20. More than half of the Johannesburg students are the first generation in their families to go to college. However, if their grades are good enough, they have the advantage of not being required to pay back their student loans.

When asked why she wanted to teach, de Wet echoed the Wittenberg motto, “Having Light, We Pass It On To Others.”

“When you’ve studied and have so many things in your head, I think it’s selfish to keep it to yourself,” she said.

De Wet will make a campus presentation titled “South Africa – 17 Years of Democracy: Changes and Challenges” at a Noon Lunch & Lecture event at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 19, in the Faculty Dining Room, on the second floor of the Benham-Pence Student Center. Click here to read the full release.

Written By: Sarah Brode ’11
Photo By: Erin Pence

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