The intensive, interdisciplinary, and hands-on mosaic programs that I have taken while at Dickinson College have been the best and most unique educational experiences of my college career.

The course From Kyoto to Copenhagen is more than just a course with a traveling component. The program offers the unique experience for students to get their hands dirty and try to make sense of what is going on at ground zero. Students need and should be given the opportunity at their college to take part in an engaging program where they go outside the classroom and learn by experience. I would argue that the difference between a regular course and an intensive mosaic semester is comparable to the difference between reading a dry science text book and performing the experiment yourself.

Bettina Cerban and Philip Rothrock interview Representatives from an Indian NGO at the UN conference in Copenhagen

Bettina Cerban and Philip Rothrock interview representatives from an Indian NGO at the UN conference in Copenhagen

Going to the UN convention as part of a team and a class provided students with a purpose. Our team had a preselected research topic and video documentary goal, which helped to make our responsibilities more focused and manageable. At times the interviews felt constraining, but this commitment was outweighed by the risk of being overwhelmed by such a large number of interesting events to choose from. As part of the experimental process, we questioned and refined our methods and even our research focus.  In the end we managed to collect a lot of interesting interviews and video footage. The range of different backgrounds and disciplines of each member of our research team helped to enrich our discussions and results. Intensive programs like these benefit from a diverse range of participants and an interdisciplinary approach.

At the same time,  attending the UN conference was also an opportunity for students to pursue many personal academic interests. The variety of events and delegates allowed students to learn about a wider range of topics than could ever be possible within individual academic institutions. Furthermore this program was a once and a lifetime experience to be able to meet with and (in some cases) social network with global leaders. Intensive programs like this one helped me to develop much closer bonds with my classmates and my professors than would have been otherwise possible. Mosaic programs  should balance group goals and individual development, so that students have the opportunity to take personal initiative and focus on individual learning, while contributing to the objectives of the research team.

Having also previously taken another intensive mosaic semester (the LUCE semester), I would argue that every institution of higher education should seriously consider offering multiple intensive, interdisiplinary, and hands-on mosaic programs. This is because these programs provide students with opportunities to apply their knowledge outside the classroom and engage with a variety of experts. These two mosaic experiences have deepened my understanding of environmental issues, while at the same time they have intesified my intellectual curiosity and commitment. These semesters have been more challenging and much more rewarding than other courses I have taken.

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