Inside CAS

College of Arts and Sciences


Embracing Culture through the Exchange of Ideas and Research

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Written by Noelle Frame ’17; Photo by Jeff Janowski

In 2014 UNCW was awarded $1 million from the U.S. Department of State to form a partnership between UNCW and the International Islamic University to promote mutual understanding through educational and cultural exchange. A Collaborative Model for Enhanced Teaching, Research, and Community Engagement, is a three year partnership between UNCW with the International Islamic University (IIU). "The grant was built on the ideals of promoting scholarship, community engagement, and dedicating resources to faculty," says Dr. Jess Boersma, associate professor of world languages and cultures, who served on the grant team. The grant team, and the Departments of English, Public International Affairs, World Languages & Cultures, Education, Women's Studies, and International Studies have collaborated to bring these ideals to life. With their commitment to research, excellence of teaching, and applied learning experiences, the grant has had a positive impact on everyone involved. The practices of this grant has reached a wide array of people and has found great success due to their tiered leadership starting with UNCW's chancellor, Jose V. Sartarelli, CAS Dean Aswani Volety, the grant team, UNCW faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. 

"In a time with immense geopolitical friction, the exposure, awareness, and appreciation of culture is absolutely crucial,"says Boersma.  With this partnership, there has been a continuous exchange of ideas, teaching techniques, and active and applied learning methods, between the faculty of both institutions. Professors in the Department of English have taken great measures to also share this experience with undergraduate students as they have held live, virtual classes with the students in Pakistan at IIU. Dr. Carrie Clements, professor of psychology and member of the grant team, has partnered the Pakistan scholars with different faculty members of UNCW to collaborate on similar research interests. Through the teaching and research collaborations between UNCW and IIU, the grant team believes it will increase awareness of global citizenship.

Last May, a three-day international conference was held at UNCW during the festival of Basant, a Pakistani welcoming of spring. During the festival, scholars, UNCW faculty, students, and community members took part in Pakistani traditions such as creating kites, learning native dances, and playing cricket. The international conference, “The New Global City: Presenting and Translating Cultures in a Worldwide Citizenship,” hosted 150 international scholars to hold discussions on political science, English, liberal arts, and international affairs. In addition, presenters discussed the translation of cultures across the current global boundaries. It was an enlightening experience that truly connected and formed bonds with everyone in attendance

Richard Boyum, the university partnership coordinator with the U.S. Department of State, has big plans for the grant. Not only does he want to expand and strengthen UNCW’s relations with Pakistan, but he also wants to spread these values to all of Wilmington. Colleagues from the International Islamic University have visited K-12 schools and churches in the Wilmington community to introduce the Pakistan culture, and to promote cultural understanding. This partnership reiterates the importance in the understanding and acceptance of diversity within culture. It is the hope of all participants involved that the continued efforts and support of UNCW and IIU’s faculty, students, and community will show the world the power behind the coming together of two diverse cultures.