“I think the program is going to be a lot of fun, especially for the students to be immersed in not just a foreign university, but a big research university,” said Monmouth College biology professor Tim Tibbetts. “Plus, they’ll be in a cosmopolitan, international city.”
Tibbetts will be the visiting faculty director in fall 2017 for the new ACM Amsterdam: Sciences, Global Health, & Interdisciplinary Studies program, where students will take classes and live in residence halls at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (or VU Amsterdam).
The program is open to students from all majors, but the strength of science programs at VU Amsterdam and the opportunity to choose among more than 300 elective courses taught in English make the program especially well-suited to students majoring in the sciences.
“Science is interdisciplinary, even within a particular specialty, and there are collaborations among scientists that are international,” Tibbetts noted. “If the students can get a taste of that on this program, it will be a real benefit for them.”
Along with elective courses and a required course in either Dutch language or history, students have the option to complete an independent study project with Tibbetts as their advisor.
“Students in science disciplines might think about projects specifically related to being in the city of Amsterdam,” said Tibbetts. “One avenue could be projects focused more on social attitudes and sustainability and how that plays out in everyday life, because that’s a big thing at the university and in the Netherlands in general. I think those projects could be intriguing, even if they’re not hard science research.”
Tibbetts will also teach a course titled American Environmental Thought. On the advice of his faculty colleagues at VU Amsterdam, he’s including a unit on green political parties in Europe. He plans to include other comparative components to the course to address European environmental thought, and hopes to team-teach parts of the class with a Dutch professor to incorporate local expertise and perspectives.
“One question I want to raise is why we are so “backwards” in the US,” he said. “I dislike using the term, but we can barely get people to recycle, while Europeans are far beyond the rudimentary sustainability issues. I think this might be an attractive course for Dutch students to explore what it is about the development of environmental thought in America that has been different or has lagged behind.”
Tibbetts got a firsthand view of the value of off-campus study as a student — he spent a high school year abroad in Sweden and then studied in London as an undergrad at Lawrence University — and has some advice to give to students on the Amsterdam program.
“Get involved and really embrace the Dutch culture and the university culture while you’re there, even if it sometimes seems like a distraction from your academics,” he said. “The more you can do that, the more you’re going to get out of the program.”