Dr. Jeffrey Pugh Assistant Professor of Political Science Executive Director of Center for Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflict (CEMPROC)
Visualizing Peace and Justice has been such an enriching experience for me as an educator. It has offered wonderful opportunities for me to develop innovative partnerships across disciplines with my colleagues in art and global studies (who have also become good friends), and I have enjoyed working with adventurous, hard-working students who care about the world. Over a decade, I started a small non-profit organization that does conflict resolution education and community peacebuilding work in Ecuador, and I love introducing students both to this beautiful country and to the work that CEMPROC, my organization, does with children and communities in South America. Reciprocal relationship-building is easier to do in the limited time we have when we are getting to know local community members who already know and trust CEMPROC through Ecuador director Omar. Because of this, the students from PC are introduced as friends of Omar, which opens the door for more meaningful interaction and mutual learning. Having student leaders on the trip that had been to Ecuador with Eric and me previously was also very special, because it helped reinforce the durability of these friendships, as they were able to greet old friends in Pijal and Quito and introduce them to new friends from the U.S.
This trip often results in personal and collective journeys that are challenging but that lead to real growth and deeper understanding of the world around us. Many students were pushed beyond their comfort zones, but in my mind, this is a good thing, because that is the only place that real change and development occurs. Whether it involved realizing that hot showers might sometimes be a luxury, or identifying uncomfortable ethnocentric assumptions in their pre- existing views of the world, or being forced to use language skills even when they were not completely confident in them, I saw many students challenged, and then ultimately emerge stronger as they learned and grew. The interdisciplinary nature of this program, and the way it weaves together reflective service learning in Providence and abroad, is one reason why I think it is a unique learning opportunity reflective of a liberal arts education.
This class is exciting for me because it allows me to share a peaceful and reflective space in Casa de Danza as music swirls together with the colorful folds of a dancer’s dress and the delicate scent of incense in the air. It introduces budding artists (both students and me) to a new world of possibilities as we learn to capture the beauty around us, use our lens to reflect or shape social relations for greater justice, and to share the resulting images with others, all guided by Master Sung the master photographer. It builds bridges in which young people from Providence College discover the common ground they have with young people from Pijal and Quito, while indigenous community members are able to learn about new cultures, religions, and ideas. It gives a platform for people from all walks of life to tell their stories, have them listened to and valued, and reach more people (like you!) as they work for social change and justice. I hope that the stories and images that we share with you are meaningful for you too. I am grateful for the opportunity that Providence College has given us in supporting this program, and look forward to a growing global service learning program in the future.
Professor Eric Sung Associate Professor of Photography
As an artist, my motivation to make art often begins with an idea that questions interconnection of communities. That is also true with my motivation of teaching. Beyond the studio setting where students learn to make art, I am interested in creating a place for them to learn as they make real world connections with a range of communities that they are part of both immediately and broadly. My first experience in offering studio course with ‘service-learning’ was in Louisiana. I have brought students majoring in photography to work with residents from the rehabilitation facility. All residents who participated in the project were disabled to have verbal communication. However, after a brief training and modification of equipment, they were able to photograph and share their narratives via images made by them. This was such a powerful and positive experience for all of us involved. Empowered by this experience from this service-learning project, I have been fortunate to be involved in a handful of service-learning projects including partnership with ‘Gloria Gemma Foundation for Breast Cancer’ for a course co-taught with Cemal Ekin from Marketing, School of Business, ‘Rhode Island Preservation Society’ for an ‘Art Deco in RI’ for a course co-taught with Ann Norton from Art History, and ‘Community Lens’ course co-taught with Nick Longo from Global Studies and Jeff Pugh from Political Science which was offered for the third time this year.
I find interdisciplinary learning not only powerful but important. For one, that is how I understand the complexity of the world. I have co-taught the first ‘Community Lens’ course project with Nick and we both decided to offer the course again to continue the positive educational impact with an international component added. Two years ago, we were very fortunate to be partnering with Jeff who has both scholarly and professional experience with Ecuador. The newly added global partnership with Ecuador created a long lasting and empowering experience for all of us involved which naturally lead me to co-teach a further improved version of the course titled ‘Visualizing Peace and Justice’ with Jeff that has more engagement with international and local partners as well as deeper integration of photography and peace building.
Photography has been a favored art medium by many contemporary artists as well as social activists to achieve their interest of addressing political and social concerns. What I have deeply discovered by partnering with so many interesting people including Jeff, Nick, Nuria, all students, Omar and partners from Quito and Pijal in Ecuador, students and teachers at the CityArts, and Lynne and street workers from the Non Violence Institute, the process of making and sharing art also naturally as well as powerfully create sense of a strong community. It enables us to share and communicate our ideas, which can lead us to build a peaceful place. I hope to continue to be part of creating this type of learning opportunity for our students in the future.
I went to Ecuador two years ago with our Global Community Lens: Visualizing Peace and Justice class. It was such an amazing and eye opening experience that I wanted to go back. However, I was not sure when I would have the opportunity to return. I had thought my next chance was going to be after college. I did not know that it was going to be two years later and this time as student leader. It was exciting to see familiar faces again and meet many new friends!!
Art speaks to us in a language that we need to use our heart to appreciate, our hands to feel, and our eyes to capture the enduring beauty. Knowing that photography can affect people in many ways, we wanted to fully explore photography as a form of art. However, it was not until the trip two years ago that I truly understood what it meant to be living with art and how art was a means for social change. We found beauty and grace with the people of Ecuador. We found harmony and serenity in the landscape of Ecuador. We found that our digital cameras not only captured the moments but also the compassion and the empathy. Being able to experience something firsthand rather than from another’s point of view was extraordinary. As a photography major, I use photos and images to capture an instance in time and to document social change. When I was in Ecuador, I saw life woven into fabrics, painted on walls and choreographed into dances. Art was presented to me in a way that I never before perceived: it is a part of everyday life. Art was a communication breaker, a bridge between different cultures; it was brilliant. Art was everywhere. If we could just slow down and take in the beauty of the sights around us, then we would live amongst art every day of our lives. Being in Ecuador and taking pictures there showed me the benefits of slowing down time and appreciating life around us.
Our Global Community Lens Class was a family and together we created another family in Ecuador. I have to thank our professors: Dr. Jeffrey Pugh and Professor Eric Sung. Not only did they make this possible, but they also made it an unforgettable experience. But the icing on the cake was that I had the opportunity to share this trip with my partner in crime and co-leader on the trip, Kiley Leduc; she had also gone on the previous trip to Ecuador. The students involved in the class also showed passion and dedication about helping our community. I learned the role of art in bridging cultures, and the role it has in capturing beauty of the land, culture, and individuals we have met. It is through this trip that I learned the power that art has in understanding and spreading peace and justice. It is my hope that our audience, in viewing our pictures, will be inspired as we ourselves were when we photographed these powerful moments.
When I first went on the trip to Ecuador two years ago, I didn’t expect that the next time I would return would be as a student leader. The journey from two years ago, to now, has been interesting. Two years ago, I had never left the country before and couldn’t have imagined leading an international trip. Once I returned from a year of studying abroad, that perspective completely changed. When the opportunity was presented to be a student leader for the trip, it was immediately something that appealed to me. The chance to go back, but now more experienced in travel, was something I couldn’t turn down.
The experience has helped me grow as a leader, in confidence and learn to work in a variety or situations. One of the best parts was getting to work closely with not only another student leader, but also work hand in hand with the two professors Jeff and Eric going on the trip. It was a completely different side of things I hadn’t thought about before as a student simply attending the trip. Planning the informational meetings, advertising, facing the challenges of trying to fundraise for a large group, book flights for everyone when we were leaving during winter break, etc. Then once we were in country being a source for other students, when two years prior, I never would have imagined being a resource in that sort of situation.
Getting back to Ecuador and being able to do so with such a great leadership group, as well as a group of diverse and phenomenal students, was a highlight of my time at Providence College. Not only did I get the opportunity to grow into a leadership position and go abroad again, but I was able to do so with a strong and supportive community of students and faculty. There was also the chance to revisit relationships and communities that were started when I visited two years ago. As a result of this opportunity my self and my community was able to grow and change. This is an experience I wish I had the opportunity to do again, and also recommend highly to students interested in international experience as well as learning to be a leader in a range of scenarios.