EASTON, Mass. — Stonehill College faculty members Anna Ohanyan and Todd S. Gernes have created a new version of an innovative travel and internship program for their students in Armenia. It focuses on the theory and practice of global security through the lens of Armenian experience. The new three-week summer version is part of Stonehill’s Learning Community programs, while several years ago Ohanyan had already started the longer version of a Learning Inside Out Network (LION) program, where students spend four to five months in Armenia (see https://mirrorspectator.com/2016/04/21/prof-ohanyan-hopes-to-build-bridges-for-peace-in-the-caucasus/). The Stonehill students are of non-Armenian backgrounds for the most part.
The Origin Story
Ohanyan, Richard B. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Stonehill College, said that in the past she had always separated her research from her teaching. She was at the time looking at post-conflict regions like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, the Balkans in general and the South Caucasus. Peter Ubertaccio, then director of the Martin Institute for Law and Society and now founding dean of Stoneham’s School of Arts and Sciences came to her office and suggested she take students with her to some of these regions. Initially, they thought of developing internships in Rwanda, the Balkans and Armenia, with Armenia serving as a base for a conference.
Instead of Rwanda, they started in 2016 with four students in a longer program from February to the end of June in Serbia and Armenia, with two students interning in the former country coming to Armenia for a conference. They decided to limit it to Armenia for 2017, again February to the end of June, because so many opportunities were to be found there. There were three students in 2017.
In 2018, Stonehill reassessed the program by means of a steering committee with several professors and two students who had participated in the program, and this was when Gernes joined it. The Eurasia Partnership Foundation was identified as a third-party provider for the internship in Armenia. This year, 2019, for the first time there is a three-week summer learning community version with the third-party provider. It is called Swords, Saviors, and Saints: Global Security and Humanitarianism in Practice. The longer program is not presented this year, but in 2020 both the longer and short programs will be available.
Stonehill, a small liberal arts Catholic college south of Boston, promotes the integration of different disciplines or perspectives for its second-year students through its Learning Community programs, which address real-world problems requiring broad and multiple approaches, and often feature travel or learning in communities. In the Armenian case, Gernes explained, “We created a new structure for the Learning Community for this. Instead of having two courses linked to the integrative experience, we have five feeder courses connected with the learning experience. I will be linking a new course in Progressive Era history to that.” The feeder courses are on international politics (introductory), peace and conflict studies, conflict analysis and resolution, development economics, and environmental studies. There are other professors interested in preparing new feeder courses in different fields, including literature and Arabic, while Ohanyan and Gernes have been discussing creating a new course connected to empire in a global context.