Macalester Abroad, an online journal that highlights “research and writing from study away,” has published research papers by three students who participated in ACM off-campus programs. The papers vividly illustrate the substantial independent research that students on ACM programs conduct with the guidance of program faculty.
The journal’s current issue, published in May 2009, includes two of the papers, one by Emily Browning on HIV/AIDS care in Botswana and another by James Engeln on the palm plant harvested for hearts of palm in Costa Rica. Both students participated in ACM programs in spring 2008. Last year, the journal published a paper by Emily Gerteis, who wrote on HIV/AIDS activism in Tanzania after studying there with the ACM in spring 2007.
The editors launched Macalester Abroad two years ago to encourage Macalester College students to undertake original and high-quality research on their off-campus study programs, to recognize the best of these projects, and to make the results of this research available to all via the Web.
“The journal is finding an audience,” said Paul Nelson, Study Abroad Coordinator at Macalester and editor-in-chief of Macalester Abroad. “There were more than 800 downloads of articles from the first issue,” he noted, which “has the campus librarians thrilled.”
Each year, about 225 Macalester students participate in study abroad, and more than 60 percent of the graduating class has studied abroad for a semester or longer. According to Nelson, the opportunity to do independent research motivates a lot of students to choose a program. “We ask students when they return (from off-campus programs) to submit all of their independent studies to us, both for the journal and in the hopes of developing a library of project papers so students who want to do an independent study can see what they’re like,” he said.
The three ACM students’ research projects published in Macalester Abroad ranged from public health and government policy to conservation of natural resources.
- On the ACM Botswana Program, Emily Browning conducted interviews and consulted a variety of sources – annual evaluative reports, case-studies, and local newspaper articles – for her project on “Bringing HIV/AIDS Care Home: Investigating the Value and Impact of Community Home-Based Care in Botswana.” In a country with one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, Browning wanted to understand the challenges and effectiveness of the Botswana government’s attempts to relieve hospitals and clinics overburdened by HIV/AIDS patients.
- In Costa Rica on ACM’s spring Field Research program, James Engeln studied Euterpe precatoria, a palm plant prized as a food source for its hearts of palm. The plant is valuable economically and has a role in cultural traditions but is threatened by ecological pressures, such as deforestation, and by poachers who illegally harvest the plants. Using biological survey techniques and interviews with local residents, Engeln assessed the possibilities for conservation and sustainable management of this significant natural resource.
- In her project, “HIV Activism in Dar es Salaam,” Emily Gerteis examined the work of Kimara Peer Educators, a grassroots, community organization involved in HIV/AIDS public health initiatives. Gerteis participated in ACM’s Culture and Society in Africa Program in Tanzania during the spring 2007 semester; the program was moved to Botswana in 2008.
Nelson noted that about one-third of Macalester students who participate in study abroad programs complete an independent research project during the program. The substance of those projects was one of the reasons behind starting Macalester Abroad.
“I noticed that the students are out there doing all of these research projects, and then (the projects) just disappear. Sometimes the projects offer something that people might be interested in, including people back in the country where the research was done,” said Nelson.
To read the research papers, go the the Macalester Abroad website at http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/macabroad/.