ON DEMAND: Affecting Social Change Through Research for Multi-disciplinary International Students (15 mins)
The International Graduate Students at INTO Mason must take a research-writing class where the main deliverables are a paper and a corresponding poster so that every semester we host a large multidisciplinary colloquium where our students present their work. At the start of the semester we ask them to think through their exigencies – why are they doing what they are doing? There are three exigencies to address: one is personal (i.e. my personal reasons for undertaking this work); one is research-based (i.e. there is a gap in the current literature on the topic that has not yet been addressed in this way) and a social exigence (i.e. what problem in the world might my work solve or address?) The students are easily able to express their personal exigence and though they have to read many articles to discover a true gap in the literature, it is often the social exigence that gives them pause. They struggle to connect the social problems of the world with their own experiences and their ability to affect change via research. Given that Community Engagement is part of the George Mason mission, the team of professors that teach the research writing class decided to give the students a social issue and ask that every project in every section of the class touch on it. In other words, we enumerated a social problem, but the students themselves had to independently find the connection to that issue on their own through their work in their various fields. In our session we would like to share the story of how this method came into existence, how it worked out for the team and for our students, and then share the two or three activities we did with the students to help them uncover not only their own interests in their fields, but also the connection to the theme and in doing so, their passion for both.