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Learn locally, think globally

May 16, 2007 at 1:22 pm
By Marla Holt

Dev Gupta began teaching at Carleton in fall 2006. Her position was created through generous support to the Breaking Barriers, Creating Connections campaign.

On interacting with students: A student told me that some of the things we’ve been discussing in my ethnic conflict class are useful to her as she’s thinking about the situation in Somalia. I don’t know the ins and outs of that situation, but she does. Talking with her almost approaches a conversation between two colleagues because she knows a lot about something I don’t. She doesn’t necessarily have the theory to understand it, however, and that’s where I can help. Our relationship has a collaborative flair to it,as opposed to a one-way transmission of knowledge from me to her.

On government: I’m interested in how we create structures and practices that improve the quality of life and let people reach their fullest potential, and how government can and cannot do those sorts of things. I’m interested in social movements and nationalism—why people can be so passionately committed to this thing called the nation.

On teaching: Carleton has opened my eyes to the possibility of different kinds of pedagogy. I’m thinking creatively about how to get students excited and interested in a topic.

I’ve enjoyed thinking about new ways to get students to own the information, so it’s not just me telling them what’s important but them figuring out for themselves what they think is important.

On teaching about ethnic conflict: The first question—“Why does ethnic conflict happen?”—is something that students are prepared to think about when they come to class. But the second question is why ethnic conflict doesn’t happen. It’s a process of training students to think more broadly. There are a lot of places in the world where ethnic groups live side by side with tensions among them that don’t break out into conflict; it’s like looking at why the dog barks in some places and doesn’t bark in others.