DukeEngage to offer four new immersion programs next summer

Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:51 AM

Next summer, Duke undergraduates can travel to the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea. They can explore the entrepreneurship of Motor City or the multi-ethnic community of Miami Beach, or immerse themselves in the political climate of post-conflict Serbia.

DukeEngage, a cultural immersion program that began in 2007 and provides full funding to Duke undergraduates to spend a summer of service in the U.S. or overseas, is adding four new travel programs to its list of 2014 offerings.

Next year, about 435 students will participate in one of 40 group programs.

The new programs will be based in Detroit, Miami, Serbia and South Korea. Eight students will be accepted into each program, which will last about two months during the summer.

Jenny Snead Williams, executive director of the Duke Latino/a Studies in the Global South Program, is helping to form the Miami Beach trip. She worked for six years previously with the DukeEngage program in Tucson, Ariz., where students learn about migration across the border.

She said this is a new opportunity for students to learn about the U.S. Latino population and the reason why Miami, the United State’s Latin American hub, was picked as the new offering.

Students will be volunteering with Unidad Miami Beach, a community-based organization that provides everything from employment to immigration services.

Snead Williams said she began to learn more about Unidad through Duke alumni based in South Florida. Students probably will stay at the University of Miami, she added, as they learn leadership skills and the importance of civic engagement through the organization. They also will get to explore the arts and culture of the city, as well as experience the coast and Little Havana.

“One of our goals as a program is to help people, students in particular, understand that Latino studies is part of U.S. studies,” Snead Williams said. “It’s something that we miss coming up through our educational experience through high school.” 

She said as early as 2025, 25 percent of the U.S. population will identify as Latino/Hispanic.

In Detroit, students will partner with seasoned social entrepreneurs to learn about the city’s economic development and revitalization after its economic downturn and declared bankruptcy.

In Serbia, students will immerse themselves in the post-conflict social transformation and human rights efforts that emerged after the collapse of Communism and the formation of new states, according to DukeEngage. Students will be placed with organizations working with ethnic and religious minorities, youth, refugees, and emergent political advocacy groups. 

Nayoung Aimee Kwon, a Duke assistant professor of Korean and Japanese cultural studies, said the DukeEngage South Korea program will focus on the history, political economy and culture surrounding the geopolitics of the two Koreas and East Asia. 

Duke students will spend time at two different schools, helping teachers with English language, math, sports, art and computer classes for North Korean settlers. They also will spend time at the North Korean Refugee Foundation, a nongovernmental organization devoted to the education and welfare of North Korean settlers.

She said students will study the effects of the 60th year of the armistice, or treaty that ended the Korean War but the tensions between North Korea and South Korea still remain.

Students will be expected to find ways to communicate in an environment filled with language barriers and political tensions, she said, and to foster understanding between cultures.

“We can really connect on a very basic human level, even beyond language, and have the students take that away, the kind of possibilities that could be really amazing and endless, based on these types of human connections that we will be able to make,” Kwon said.

DukeEngage held information sessions for students this week about all of its offered programs. As of this past summer, about 2,400 Duke students have volunteered through DukeEngage in 75 nations on six continents, according to the program.

Also this past summer, DukeEngage handled problems relating to personnel behavior and political unrest overseas. The DukeEngage Haiti program was canceled in June after an in-country coordinator was fired for unprofessional behavior. In July, DukeEngage had to pull 11 undergraduate students out of the Cairo program early because civil unrest in Egypt.