College expands on a successful spring program in the Dominican Republic
creating a center for Caribbean studies akin to the London Center.
So near, and yet so far.
That dichotomy, based upon geographic proximity versus life in the developing world, is an important attraction of the Dominican Republic ó a country soon to be the site of a satellite campus for Ithaca. If all goes according to plan, a center for Caribbean studies will open next January.
Associate professor of sociology Héctor Vélez-Guadalupe has been the driving force behind the center. Vélez (far right) knows the country and its people well, having taken groups of Ithaca students to the Dominican Republic each spring for the past six years. The three-week trip is the culmination of Vélezís spring semester course Culture and Society: An International Field Experience, in which students take seminars on sociology, Spanish, history, cultural anthropology, international business, and politics while specifically focusing on the culture, society, and social problems of the Spanish Caribbean in general and the Dominican Republic in particular.
The course has become quite popular at Ithaca, with participants proclaiming that it has changed their lives by opening their eyes to the conditions of developing countries ó giving them direct contact with people whose lives contrast sharply with those of the average middle-class college student.
"I am always surprised by what my students pick up while they are there," says Vélez, who points out that he prepares the students during the semester to reduce culture shock and to set their sights on what they should be observing. "But itís amazing what they do on their own. They meet people there, beyond the seminars that we have, beyond the classes and the presentations and the lectures. They meet other people and have dinner in their homes, and they come back with fantastic insights."