May 22, 2014

Georgetown Enhances Diversity Education through Innovative Program

Recognizing the growing need for conversations in higher education around diversity, Georgetown launched the Doyle Engaging Difference Program in October 2011 with a $10 million gift from alumnus and Board of Directors member William J. Doyle (C’72).

The program sponsors faculty fellowships; student fellowships, seminars, and networks; and an annual symposium which expand upon existing efforts to infuse themes of intercultural competence and understanding into the content of undergraduate courses.

Innovative Approach to Education

Full-time faculty are eligible for Doyle Faculty Fellowships, which offer opportunities to redesign and teach introductory or lower-level courses. The fellowships seek to encourage students to recognize connections between course content and issues of diversity and reflect on their own identities and values.

Award-winning author and longtime Georgetown professor Barbara Mujica reported a positive redesign of her Early Modern Spanish Theater course through a Doyle Fellowship. Instead of introducing plays chronologically to her class, Mujica took a thematic approach that helped students see the ways in which theater both perpetuated and subverted the status quo of Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

“I am grateful that the Doyle Program nudged me out of my comfort zone and forced me to rethink my teaching objectives and strategies,” Mujica said. 

Student-Driven Research

The Doyle Program also deepens engagement with diversity through courses focused on undergraduate student research. Doyle Seminars address questions of national, social, cultural, religious, moral, and other forms of difference and culminate with a rigorous research paper that is evaluated by at least one guest expert. 

At the conclusion of the semester, major findings from all student research projects are compiled into a final report. Previous seminars have addressed topics ranging from globalization and foreign policy to same-sex marriage and interfaith dialogue. 

Building Global Connections

The Doyle Program now manages the Junior Year Abroad Network (JYAN), housed in the Berkley Center, which connects Georgetown students studying abroad. Students share reflections on religion, culture, politics, and society in their host countries, as they write two academic blogs each over the course of the semester and comment on blogs from other students. Upon return to campus, students participate in a panel discussion to explore common issues and challenges in their respective countries.

As of fall 2014, JYAN has involved over 425 students traveling to more than 50 countries on six continents. Trishla Jain (SFS’15), who studied in Copenhagen during fall 2013, says “JYAN gave me a platform to appreciate difference not only through reflecting on my own experiences, but also through engaging with my peers about their experiences."

Moving Forward

Doyle, also the president and CEO of Potash Corporation, is excited about the program’s future. “Through the program, we challenge students to examine their preconceptions and encourage them to engage with, and learn to appreciate, the differences in our human community—on campus, in our nation, and on a global scale," Doyle said. 

The Doyle Program is jointly managed by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship.