Sunday October 29, 2017

Flyers Embracing Global Experiences: Dr. Miranda Hallett

Dr. Miranda Hallett is a faculty member in the Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work department, who draws from her own experiences and passions to inspire others to engage in cross cultural exchange. 

What has influenced or shaped your passion for international education and exchange?

It’s really rooted in my own experience, because I had the opportunity to immersive myself in different way of life when I was 22 years old. I went to El Salvador, and lived for several months in a very rural, isolated community. It shook up my world view and really transformed my own life. I went to this community really thinking of myself as the person that had it all, and thinking of this community as “poor” and in need of development. I was very quickly humbled by my experience. I realized I had much more to learn there, than I had to teach. After college, I had no interest in graduate school, and staying in the academic environment. I wanted to help other people have a similar experience, to transform their views and inspire their passions towards social justice. I decided to go back to El Salvador and got a job working at a non-profit facilitating a volunteer organization. I got to work with a lot of different people from countries in the global north. But I ran into difficulties because I wanted people to do these complicated readings; to educate themselves. I recognized there was another piece to myself as an educator. These transformative experiences preceded my desire to be a professor.

Can you share an intercultural experience or moment that inspired you?

I’ve often been surprised by moments of connection and similarities where you might expect to only find differences between “us” and “them". In 2001, in San Salvador, I started volunteering at a prison, with inmates who were predominately ex-members of a gang. My preconceptions were that we would have nothing in common, but one of the things I found was the guys loved Creedence Clearwater Revival. They were really familiar with American music and pop culture.  I’m a huge music fan, and once we made that connection, we were also able to enter into relationships and dialogues where I could start to understand some of their experiences that were quite profoundly different from what I had lived as a much more sheltered and privileged person.  

As a faculty member, how do you promote international education and exchange or expanded intercultural experiences whether through campus, community, or around the world?

By a coincidence, the organization I worked for as a volunteer coordinator (CRISPAZ) has a long-standing relationship with the University of Dayton. When I started teaching here, I was able to immediately set up an anthropology course that was linked to a trip to El Salvador. Last year, I took a group of 15 students for 9 days. We were not on a mission trip, or volunteering, but we were there to learn and listen to people. We talked to a whole range of people from experts to taxi drivers to small farmers to an organization of sex workers rights advocates. The idea from that trip was to come back and share what we learned here. I really like that model of international education because it is focused not only on process of learning for the students who travel, but really asks students to be responsible upon return to educate others based their experience.

What is one aspect or memory of home that you still embrace today?

I’m originally from southern Missouri, near the Ozarks, and something I used to share with friends in El Salvador was that I grew up with an outhouse. That was shocking to most people to believe that anyone from the United State would group up with an outhouse. We left Missouri when I was 8, and that is a place that has sort of a mythic status in my mind, and a place in my heart. The aspect I keep with me most is the idea of living simply, and being fully present in your environment.

Who is someone that has inspired you or you believe to be a role model for global leadership? Why?

I’m really inspired by James Baldwin, an African American writer, who lived many years in Turkey.  He returned to the U.S. during the height of the civil rights movement, feeling obligated to come back and help out in that fight. He fearlessly used the insights he gained from his times abroad, to fight the dehumanization of racial inequality in the United States. As a public intellect, I really admire his work and his willingness to speak very difficult truths. He was also someone who used his experience as a global citizen to come back and fight at home.

If you had to pick a life motto or quote, what would it be? Why?

Paulo Freire who is a Brazilian educator, said in conversation with a fellow educator Myles Horton, "Se hace el camino al andar." In English it means, “we make the road by walking.” Fiere got the quote from a poem by Spanish poet, Antonio Machado.  

"Caminante, son tus huellas el camino, y nada más; caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. Al andar se hace camino, y al volver la vista atrás se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar. Caminante, no hay camino, sino estelas en la mar."

("Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there is no road– Only wakes upon the sea.") ― Antonio Machado, Campos de Castilla

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