-by Sherman Teichman, Heather Barry
"For more than a decade EPIIC has provided our students with an opportunity to examine the most complex international issues which generate enormous amounts of partisanship. EPIIC has demanded only one thing: Learn when fact informs opinion, and when opinion informs fact...That has been the standard of the EPIIC programs: high intellectual engagement, passion and heat by necessity, and the capacity to educate with genuine objectivity...It is the cornerstone of our international relations education for the twenty-first century."
-Sol Gittleman, Senior Vice President and Provost, Tufts University
At its core, EPIIC's story (Education for Public Inquiry and Internaional Citizenship) is the story of its students. Students like Leila M. Abu-Gheida, who worked in Mozambique, helping to resettle more than 35,000 people displaced by war and drought. Like Aparna Basnyat and Carolyn Hunt, who lived in Nepal researching the illicit trafficking of girls from Nepal to brothels in India, and following their difficult reintegration into Nepali life. And like the students you'll read about in this article, many of whom have gone on to positions of leadership in the public and private sectors that belie their years.
Four questions form the essence of EPIIC's mission:
How can universities educate critical thinkers who understand the intricacies of world affairs?
How can higher education create leaders concerned with ethical dilemmas?
How can universities promote the imperatives of multidisciplinary thinking and learning necessary to comprehend the complexity of the world?
How can institutions of higher learning help educate the public about complex global issues?
In 1985, the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 transfixed the world. The reactions to it illustrated a lack of understanding of both the motivations behind such actions and an effective means of contending with them. Those responses revealed an imperative within academia: the necessity of providing students with both an open forum to confront complex international issues and a flexible, multidisciplinary learning environment to comprehend them.
This was the context for the beginning of the EPIIC program at Tufts University. In a six-week period, the program organized a group of students to educate themselves, and then their peers, about international terrorism and political violence. The students interacted with professionals, such as the deputy directors of the CIA and FBI and the leading historian on religious messianism in politics, participated in a hostage-taking simulation, planned a public forum with national and international experts, and provided background briefing materials for the 500+ audience who attended.
EPIIC sought to provide the campus with a multi-perspective context to understand the unfolding events. The success of the project--both for the students who organized it and those who attended it--exceeded expectations. A large segment of the campus had been drawn together to consider a compelling intellectual and politicized issue. It was an effort, and reaction, unprecedented on the Tufts campus.
The following year, the program--offered as a course through the university's Experimental College--addressed the issue of The West Bank and Gaza Strip, 20 years after the 1967 war and one year before the intifada. The students spent the fall semester in a full-credit course intensely studying the topic and then, during the spring semester, presented a two-day forum for the campus. It was the first public forum in the U.S. where Israelis and Palestinians--from Israeli military officers to PLO officials--sat together openly to discuss and debate the future of the contested land.
With the continuing success of these efforts over the years, EPIIC is now a two-semester endeavor, providing students with the analytical and organizational tools to understand global complexities and to translate that understanding to their peers and the general public. EPIIC has evolved from an experiment into a model for non-traditional, multidisciplinary education.
EPIIC Today: An Intellectual Outward Bound
The educational principles that inform EPIIC are critical thinking, understanding complexities, moral reasoning, the fusion of theory to practice, a multidisciplinary approach to learning, an active interest in and commitment to international affairs, and global citizenship.
Through its innovative and rigorous curricula, symposia and workshops with practitioners and experts, community outreach activities, and special research and public service projects, EPIIC prepares young people to play an active role in their communities, whether at the local, national, or global level.
Many students consider their participation in EPIIC a profoundly formative experience, challenging them to reassess or even jettison prior assumptions or beliefs; expanding their understanding of how historical, cultural, and ideological forces can affect both individuals and nations; and inspiring them to pursue careers in public service or international affairs.
Many students consider their participation in EPIIC a profoundly formative experience, challenging them to reassess or even jettison prior assumptions or beliefs; expanding their understanding of how historical, cultural, and ideological forces can affect both individuals and nations.
EPIIC's main components include the following:
An intensive, year-long colloquium for undergraduate and graduate students
A global research and public service program
An international symposium
A MediaForum for editors and reporters
A national high school global issues simulation program, INQUIRY
During the first month of school the students--which are from intentionally diverse academic majors, backgrounds, viewpoints, experience, and interest--all travel to the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Maine (which considers EPIIC an "intellectual outward bound"). There they engage in team-building activities which reinforce their collaborative learning process and accelerate their interaction, creating an intellectual team.
Each year, EPIIC's initiatives explore one central dilemma, a broad theme that tests and transcends national sovereignty.* Students are encouraged to confront the ambiguity and complexity of this theme through a multi-disciplinary examination of the issues and controversies that the topic reflects. Students are not only taught the subject under investigation by a broad range of distinguished academics and practitioners, but they are active participants in defining the issues through classroom lectures and discussions, extensive readings, and independent research.
The students also reinforce their learning through INQUIRY, EPIIC's secondary school global issues program, which helps to crystallize their thinking as they work as mentors with secondary school students and their teachers.
INQUIRY is a highly interactive academic program that engages university and secondary school students in a year-long investigation of a sub-topic drawn from the annual EPIIC theme. Because the EPIIC topics are often very broad in scope for high school students, INQUIRY typically focuses on a specific region of the world. For instance, for this year's topic--Global Crime, Corruption, and Accountability--INQUIRY students will concentrate on Europe and the Former Soviet Union. INQUIRY is incorporated into schools in a variety of ways: as an elective course, an independent study, part of an existing course, or an extra-curricular activity.
For seven months, from September through April, the high school students and teachers interact with their EPIIC student mentors and among themselves--either through visits, email, or the discussion area of EPIIC's web page (see www.epiic.com)--reading and discussing the materials that have been prepared by EPIIC's students and staff. These seven months culminate with a three-day role-playing simulation, during which delegations representing individual nations, international organizations, or regional special interest groups meet to explore and resolve a set of complex issues and questions.
The preparation for this simulation consists of several components:
Selected readings. INQUIRY readings consist of a compilation of articles, which provide an initial broad overview and then focus on the specific region under study. These readings provide the foundation for the discussions between the EPIIC mentors and the high school delegations throughout the first semester.
Role playing. In November, after the EPIIC INQUIRY Committee has designed the simulation, the high school delegations receive their roles, along with role- specific readings. They also receive questions for the position papers that they are asked to write (generally due in February). These papers allow the students to begin applying their knowledge about the topic to their specific role. The mentors help them prepare the papers and then review them; communication between mentors and delegations is an essential component in this process.
Mini-simulation. In February, Boston area schools gather for a mini-simulation on one aspect of the topic. This serves as introductions to the role-play for the high school students, as well as to facilitating for the university students. (Similar gatherings also take place in high schools outside the Boston area.)
Skill development. With the help of their mentors, students learn how historical, cultural, and ideological forces can affect both individuals and nations, and increases their awareness of how international issues impact their own communities. Intellectually, INQUIRY helps high school students develop their organizational, research, critical thinking, decision-making and leadership skills through thoughtful discussion, the preparation of position papers, and participation in the role-playing simulations. Throughout this seven month period, students use the internet for research and communication.
Practice and review. From February until the April simulation, the interaction revolves around the final preparations for the role-play. Mentors review specific questions with their delegations and help them think critically about the responses that other roles might have.
The purpose of the actual simulation, held each April on the Tufts University campus, is to allow students to use what they have learned by putting it into action. The emphasis is on small group negotiations, where students listen to the views of others, put forth their own, and work together to develop creative, albeit realistic, outcomes to the real-life problems posed. The EPIIC mentors serve as the facilitators to each of the meetings throughout the weekend, assisting the groups in discussing and reaching consensus on the topics under consideration.
Whenever possible, EPIIC brings scholars and practitioners to the high school students. For example, in 1996-97, as the students enacted a simulation on the future of democracy in Latin America, Nobel Laureate Oscar Arias gave the concluding presentation, speaking about his vision of the potential for democracy in the region and answering questions from the students.
[In the INQUIRY program], for a short period it is [the student's] world. They are in charge. It is their missed opportunities, their failures, their machinations, misunderstandings, and success. My students finally learned that there are no easy answers, that the world is not stupid but only human, like them. I guess you might say my students grew up and are more prepared to carry their share of responsibility and be citizens."
-Kevin Waller, Morgan Park High School, Chicago Public Schools
An explicit aim of INQUIRY is to encourage cooperation and partnerships among students and schools with different backgrounds, both public and private. Thirty public and private, urban and suburban schools from eight states--California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Ohio --and Washington, D.C. now participate in the program.* Altogether, more than 400 high school students are taking part in INQUIRY this year.
* One such school is El Puente's Academy for Peace and Justice. See Joshua Thomases' article in New Designs Vol. 14-3 (Fall, 1998), p30-35.
Sherman Teichman and Heather Barry are the founding director and assistant director, respectively, of the EPIIC program at Tufts University.