A Student Centered Participant Research Abroad
As part of a Learning Cluster, this January, a group of eleven undergraduate students from Soka University of America, CA, traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in order to research state terrorism during the last dictatorship and the economic crisis of 2001. Learning Clusters are among the most unique and popular academic programs at Soka University. A Learning Cluster (LC) is a research seminar where students work in teams with faculty facilitators to investigate a specific question. It is designed to bridge theory and practice, and elicit an educated outcome or response. The course is designed to help students apply a range of investigative and analytical tools in the discovery and presentation of trends and ideas, including policy recommendations that bear upon the quality of the human condition.
The purpose of this LC was to provide students with an intensive working knowledge of the changes in the conception and protection of the rights of children in Argentina through the last civic and military dictatorship and the economic crisis of 2001. It aimed at understanding how these two events compel Argentineans to reconsider the importance incorporating the UN convention on the rights of children into the national legislation. The hands-on experience of interviewing human rights activists, government representatives, was an educative experience for students both intellectually and emotionally.
The students explored these problematic through many different documentary materials; they analyzed films, read essays and testimonials, conducted interviews with one of the Judges of the trials to the last military Junta, and the Argentine Forensic Team and visited a detention and extermination center. Some of the questions we explored were: What occurred during the genocide in Argentina and the subsequent economic crisis? How are Argentine youths currently involved in the efforts to preserve the memory of the political, cultural and social genocide? How has the youth mobilized to face current socio-political issues in the country? And most importantly, how can we learn from their experiences?
The students who presented as a panel in the conference were: Claudia Ahumada, Laura Cossette, Miho Saito, Katie Kamimoto, Kimberley Ng, Maria Valdovinos, (Professor Crowder-Taraborrelli, served as coordinator). This was the second time that a group of students from Soka University spoke at this conference. Last year another learning cluster shared their research on sustainable development and immigration in the Tijuana/San Diego border.