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Students Rally to Transform 360° Experience

April 15, 2020 By Avery Matteo '22
Migrations 360° students put together tamales in the SGA kitchen.

The Migrations 360° course cluster provides students with the interdisciplinary foundation needed to make sense of issues relevant to immigration throughout history and today, such as imperialism, economic and political policies, borders, xenophobia, cultural citizenship, and belonging.

Courses in this cluster include:

  • English: Latina/o Culture and the Art of Migration taught by Assistant Professor of English Jennifer Hartford Vargas
  • History: Disciplining Bodies in Motion: Migration in Colonial Modernity and its Aftermaths taught by Professor of History Mahdavi Kale
  • Sociology: Sociology of Migration: A Cross-Cultural Overview of Contemporary Challenges taught by Assistant Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of Latin American, Iberian, and Latina/o Studies Verónica Montes

Over spring break, Migrations students were scheduled to travel to Tucson, Ariz.; San Diego, Calif.; and Tijuana, Mexico––cities highlighting how borders impact migration patterns and everyday lives. However, when the trip was canceled due to the spread of COVID-19, students jumped into action to craft a new plan.

“When we first heard about the cancellation of the trip, we entered planning mode almost immediately," says Charley Mestrich '22. "We, as a cohort of students, spent the class time we had together the week before break to conduct research and find new opportunities in the areas around us as a way to gain more experience and insight into the issue of migration.”

This week-long collaborative effort resulted in an itinerary of rich cultural and educational experiences in Philadelphia. Students and faculty went on a mural tour of North Philadelphia with Mural Arts, an organization that works with communities to paint and maintain murals, and visited the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion. At the Insectarium, students learned about the migratory patterns of butterflies, which have become an indelible symbol of the immigrant rights movement. The cluster also attended a performance by traditional Mexican folk dance group Ballet Folklórico Yaretzi, witnessed hearings at Philadelphia’s immigration court, visited the Mexican Muralist exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City, and gathered to make tamales together in the SGA kitchen.

Cooking tamales was an especially important part of the cohort’s experience, as it allowed them to reflect on their experiences and strengthen relationships with one another.

“This was important to us because we were going to learn how to make tamales with a group of women in Tijuana. It was nice to still have that community-building time, as well as learn something we were going to learn in Mexico,” says Charley.

While the changes imposed upon the cluster’s agenda were dramatic, a strong sense of community––along with the cluster’s determination, creativity, and desire to learn––meant students were able to transform travel restrictions into an opportunity to learn more about each other and immigration in the Philadelphia area.

The 360° course cluster program is an interdisciplinary experience that provides students and faculty the opportunity to participate in multiple courses in a single semester (or in some cases, across two semesters) that focus on common themes, problems, and experiences for the purposes of research and scholarship. Upcoming Fall 2020 course clusters can be found here. The deadline for registration is noon on April 22.

360° Course Clusters