By Matthew Cimitile, University Communications and Marketing
A global classroom experience that brought together USF St. Petersburg students with peers in Moldova to conduct joint research while an international humanitarian crisis was unfolding nearby received the inaugural International Partnerships Award from the American Political Science Association (APSA) and the Political Studies Association (PSA).
“What a tremendous honor,” said USF Political Science Professor Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, who helped organize the collaboration along with Larisa Patlis, a lecturer in International Relations in Moldova. “I believe this project gave the students in Moldova some sense of normalcy. We tried to be a source of support and solidarity during tremendously challenging times.”
As the first joint meeting of the global classroom with the Universitatea Libera Internationala din Moldova (ULIM) was set to take place, Russia invaded Ukraine, which boarders Moldova to the east. World events completely altered the context of the international collaboration and raised doubt if it could continue as planned.
But McLauchlan said that by continuing, it provided tremendous benefits for everyone involved.
“Despite having a war at your doorstep and massive amounts of refugees coming into the country, it’s been heartwarming to see the Moldovan students’ response and how our USF students have connected with them,” she said at the time.
Students in the two countries met for virtual classroom discussions to compare and contrast civil liberty decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights involving similar legal questions. They also worked together in smaller research groups using Facebook Messenger, Whats App and Google Docs to delve further into specific issues, from the right to a fair trial to the freedom of assembly and speech.
Beyond the research, students said the most beneficial experience was forming bonds with others from a different culture at such an historic time.
“This is a valuable opportunity for me because I have the chance and possibility to see and hear from other points of view, forming relationships and keeping in touch with others in a different country,” said Natalia Bodiul, a third-year law student in Moldova who hosted refugees from Ukraine during the global classroom experience.
“It has been inspiring to work with and see how they have dealt with the conflict happening so geographically close to them, getting to know these students and forming connections even with the differences in culture and circumstances,” said Taylor Herman, a second-year political science major at USF St. Petersburg.
The APSA/PSA International Partnerships Award celebrates outstanding and innovative cross-national scholarly partnerships that make a significant contribution to the discipline in the areas of teaching, research or civic engagement.
“The global classroom created by Dr. McLauchlan and Ms Patlis is a unique virtual learning partnership that offered students from USA and Moldova an opportunity to collaborate on joint research projects while gaining exposure to cultural exchange,” said the award committee. “Although the war in Ukraine added unexpected challenges, it also provided context for the importance of comparative research and international partnerships.”