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Community college instructors explore innovative ways to introduce global themes into their classrooms

The 2019-20 EPIC fellows.

The 2019-20 EPIC fellows.

Photo credit: Michael Breger

From creating a discussion series to highlight the experiences of Black immigrants in the United States to designing a humanities class to increase students’ understanding of climate justice, instructors participating in Stanford’s community college faculty fellowship program focused on innovative ways to infuse global themes into their courses over the past year.

The fellows, who come from 10 colleges scattered across the West Coast, developed these projects in partnership with Stanford Global Studies, the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education, and Lacuna. Last summer, they participated in a three-day workshop on campus, where they met with Stanford faculty, toured the David Rumsey Map Center, and visited the Hoover Institution Library & Archives, among other activities. Following the workshop, the fellows met remotely each month and participated in online academic seminars as they worked on their projects.

“I enjoyed being able to geek-out with fellow teachers about pedagogy, especially as it related to the teaching of global studies and competence, during the August retreat,” shared Takami Nieda, an English instructor at Seattle Central College, who focused on redesigning her college’s global engagement certificate program. “I also enjoyed having access to the world-class library and resources at Stanford University.”

The need for global studies has become clear in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic has triggered massive disruptions in countries around the world. “This year really brings home to all of us, perhaps in an unprecedented way, how interconnected we all are, and the importance of global knowledge and global competencies, and developing these continually ourselves as educators and sharing them with our students,” said Jovana Knežević, the associate director of the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, in her opening remarks at the annual SGS community college symposium.

At the symposium on May 16, which moved online in the wake of the pandemic, the fellows had the opportunity to share their final projects. This year’s symposium was limited to current fellows and alumni of the program.

Dana Grisby, a professor at Laney College, discussed her efforts to internationalize African American studies at her institution through a series of African diaspora dialogues. During these conversations, students, faculty, and staff explored ideas of race, immigration, and education. “I wanted to have some sort of program or event that highlighted the experiences of Black immigrants because in the U.S. when we talk about immigration, especially in California, the conversation is largely around Mexican or Central American populations,” she explained. “Even with Black people from Mexico or Central America, their voices are often not heard in those conversations.”

Another project developed by Adam Levy, a professor at Ohlone College, focused on multisensory methods for teaching geography and global studies. The idea for this project began when he was creating geography courses for deaf and blind students. The multisensory methods he developed were “so approachable and accessible, I’ve started using and expanding them across the curriculum,” he shared. Throughout the year, he focused on ways to teach global studies using non-visual tools, such as multisensory mapping. “There are lots of ways of mapping that involve touching and embodiment that are not limited to the visual. Finding these invisible sights and sounds and smells helps us draw attention to the way the world works,” he explained. For example, in one multisensory mapping activity, students were asked to produce maps after visiting a local farmer’s market five separate times to observe what was happening with each of their senses.  

Reflecting on his experience as a fellow, Levy said he was grateful to be surrounded by colleagues from diverse backgrounds, who empowered him to take a “multidisciplinary approach to a multisensory method” as he developed his project. “It was stimulating and productive to be in a room with accomplished, creative, likeminded colleagues all here organized around polishing our craft,” he said.

“Every single moment during the entire fellowship, from the intensive workshop to the final symposium, proved to be valuable and enlightening,” added Edward Hashima, a professor of history at American River College, whose project focused on global migrations in American history. “I have to say that the interactions with the other fellows, especially during the changes created by the pandemic, and the support from everyone at Stanford, have to rank as the most memorable and meaningful experiences of the fellowship.”


The Education Partnership for Internationalizing Curriculum (EPIC) provides professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers and community college instructors. The program is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant. Collaborators include Stanford Global Studies Division, the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), Lacuna, and the Stanford Graduate School of Education’s Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET).