Middlebury Institute Professor Marie Butcher has always liked to incorporate relevant material into her English language courses at the Institute. When the global pandemic disrupted regular in-person classes, she quickly created assignments for students related to the main issue of the day.
After the pandemic led to the closure of campus and the transformation of all courses to remote format, Butcher assigned students in all her classes a journal response about how the pandemic and the Shelter-in-Place orders affected them. Discussions extended that query to reflections on potential positive societal outcomes. “Students spoke of positive consequences for the environment: reduced pollution, healing of the ozone, habitats, and for human communities: increased connectivity, compassion, more collaborations, among other things,” Butcher shares.
In all classes she asked students to examine one aspect more deeply. “The Intercultural Communications class considered how the pandemic either exacerbates xenophobic tendencies or cultivates more compassionate tendencies – that both impulses are being stimulated during the crisis,” she adds. In the class she taught for a special Institute program for diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan analyzed the responses of various countries, states, or regions to the pandemic and completed policy memos or research papers to report their findings on the strategies employed and their effectiveness. Students in Butcher’s Business Communications class looked at how the migration to remote work may become more long-lasting and other potential impacts in their industries.
Translation and Localization Management student Ren Yi MATLM ’21 says she was very surprised at her findings. “Before I conducted the research, I assumed that the language services industry is already responding very well to the change to remote work. The truth is, however, that many language service providers, either companies or individuals, are struggling because they have much fewer demands from clients, and that even for companies that have been used to remote work, they still lack access to important offline networking opportunities due to the limitations caused by the pandemic.”
She says she is really glad she got to do this deep dive into the industry. Her findings included both positive examples and areas that need more attention and improvement. “From reports and articles, and discussions with industry professionals, I was able to see everything in a more realistic and holistic perspective. I was also inspired by the research and thinking about the direction of the industry’s future development. I believe this research can help me become more prepared for both my study and career.”
Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies student Inna Rodina MANPTS ’21 decided to conduct her analytical research on the examples of James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in New York. Her research also gave her the opportunity to explore her chosen professional field from a unique perspective. She says humanity is being tested as never before, and that “the global pandemic arrived as our frameworks to prevent catastrophic confrontation are crumbling.”
At the same time Rodina says she was encouraged to learn about the adaptability of nonproliferation organizations during these unprecedented and unpredictable times. “This pandemic has the potential to unite societies, institutions and individuals,” Rodina wrote in her conclusion, “just as the hard lessons of the Second World War laid the foundation for deeper international cooperation and stronger institutions to support our common security.”
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