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Photo by Maria Höhn

Intensives provide a unique opportunity for Vassar students to work on innovative projects that complement the traditional academic classroom. These courses involve extensive faculty mentorship and a high level of student agency and independence. Many intensives at Vassar have been taught on the themes of migration and displacement. The list below also includes special courses taught by refugee scholars or at other Consortium member colleges that Vassar students have participated in through independent study or community-engaged learning credits.

Previous Courses and Intensives

Our Lives, Our World: Teaching and Learning About Human Rights

This course will be taught in the Education Department by Vassar professor Maria Hantzopoulos in Spring 2022. The course builds upon the research of Vassar students in The Selective Bibliography of Forced Migration, first developing a curriculum for high school students in human rights and migration and later implementing that curriculum in a local high school classroom.

Voices of Exile and Migration

This course was taught in the French & Francophone Studies Department in collaboration with Conversations Unbound in Spring 2021 by Vassar professor Anne Brancky. The course explored narratives of exile, migration, and immigration, whether forced or chosen, and considered the political and aesthetic effects of writing about and from exile. Students read and discussed French-language texts by authors who have experienced and speak to exile and migration and also worked with French-speaking immigrants, migrants, and refugees to bear witness to their narratives and to retransmit them through transmedial storytelling techniques.

Refugees and Urban Space

Refugees and Urban Space was taught in Spring 2021 by Ayham Dalal, a Syrian scholar and architect who is currently working in Berlin (website). The course examined refugee housing and the production of new urban spaces by local and international actors working to assist refugees. Students explored the impact of refugees on urban space. They did so by looking at how refugees act as architects and city-makers within the different contexts of displacements, and how they utilize their knowledge on space to produce new hybrid urbanities within settings characterized by permanent temporariness and precariousness.

Orthodox Versus Traditional Medicine

This intensive course was taught in Spring 2020 in the Biology Department by Funmilola A. Ayeni. Learn more about Ayeni and her work. In the course, students investigated issues surrounding orthodox versus traditional approaches to medical care. Topics included treatments of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, cancer, infertility, and hypertension, the veracity of health benefit claims of dietary supplements and probiotics, and medical controversies related to genetically modified organisms and stem cells sourcing. The course resulted in the publication of a book co-authored by course participants and Professor Ayeni titled Global Trends in Orthodox and Traditional Treatment of Infectious and Non-infectious Diseases.

Refugees Past and Present

This course was co-taught in the History Department by Vassar professor Maria Höhn and Dissertation Fellow Hourie Tafech. Students studied how refugees and forcibly displaced people throughout history have had to be innovative and resourceful in order to survive and provide for future generations as well as the scope and nature of “refugee entrepreneurship” in and outside of refugee camps. Historical case studies, theoretical readings, and some policy papers formed the background for this research-intensive seminar.

Belarus: A Critical Understanding of Democracy

A Vassar student participated in Belarus: A Critical Understanding Of Democracy, a course taught at Bennington College by Susan Sgorbati in Fall 2020 through an Independent Study. This Bennington course developed out of student interest at Bennington and provided a critical understanding of democracy by examining what was happening politically in Belarus at the time. The students explored different historical and current perspectives, media coverage (and what is not covered), personal accounts, and conversations with activists by drawing on writings by scholars, artists and journalists whose work focuses on Belarus.

Courting Interpretation

A Vassar student participated in Courting Interpretation, a course taught at Bennington College by Jonathan Pitcher in Spring 2021, through an Independent Study. This course was taught in both Spanish and English and prepared students for the National Center for State Court’s examination to become a licensed, court-certified interpreter. Students prepared for the exam by mirroring NCSC methodology and standards while interpreting present, local cases. Practice exams included sight, consecutive, and simultaneous translation. The course also provided readings, discussion, analysis, and workshops from faculty and guest specialists on the ethics of court translation, and medical, legal, and law enforcement terminology.

Scholars at Risk: Theory and Practice of Human Rights Advocacy

A Vassar student participated in Scholars at Risk: Theory and Practice of Human Rights Advocacy, a course taught in Spring 2020 at Sarah Lawrence College by Janet Reilly and funded by the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education, via a Community Engaged Learning opportunity. The course focused on the history and politics of the human-rights regime and humanitarianism, human rights advocacy (theory and praxis), advocacy networks, information politics, advocacy strategies and techniques, and human-rights monitoring and reporting. Scholars At Risk (SAR) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that monitors violations of academic freedom worldwide, provides scholarships for threatened scholars, and advocates for the release of imprisoned scholars. In partnership with SAR, students in this course researched the cases of four Uyghur scholars who had been unlawfully imprisoned by the Chinese government and advocated for their release by coordinating meetings with national representatives and organizing a protest at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York.