Lauren Bird-Staff Writer
Certain students and staff at Dordt College have been taking part in the AGILE project this fall. AGILE stands for Approaching Global issues through Interdisciplinary Learning Experiences.
Students met in the B.J. Haan Auditorium on September 11 for the AGILE kickoff panel and then were split up into smaller interdisciplinary groups. From these groups, students were split into groups of two or three. These groups meet five times between the kickoff panel and the concluding discussion on November 20.
The main focus of this project is to get students to work in interdisciplinary ways. Each group is assigned to a non-governmental organization (NGO) and, using each of their disciplines, will brainstorm ways that the NGO can improve their missions.
Some of the NGOs that groups are working with are One Body, One Hope, which works with a church and orphanage in Liberia; Ethiopia Reads, which builds schools and libraries in Ethiopia; STEMM, which brings education and medical ministries to Tanzania; World Renew, which aids in disaster relief and community relief worldwide; and Children of the Promise, which works with orphans around the world.
Biology professor Robbin Eppinga, who lead some of the groups, thinks that the interdisciplinary aspect of AGILE is most important.
“People come to Dordt for a uniquely Christian perspective on their discipline and how it interacts with other disciplines,” said Eppinga. “We’ve been given these gifts and spend a lot of energy honing them; why not put them to use?”
The AGILE project is similar to the Water project that many students participated in last year. However, some aspects of the project have been changed. For example, students have the opportunity to visit the countries that the NGOs work in on AMOR trips.
The ways that the groups meet and do their work has also changed from last year. Jeff Ploegstra, one of the professors who helped develop AGILE, believes that students will get more out of AGILE because of the way it’s set up.
“We wanted people to be focused on the problem, not the grade,” said Ploegstra. “Obviously we wanted to pick a big topic. You can’t get past the fact that it’s something we as Christians should care about.”
Sanneke Kok, another professor leading a group, said that the AGILE project learned from the weaknesses of the Water project.
“The biggest differences are that there’s more structure, faculty participation, set times that students meet with their groups, and the professors are more available to answer any questions students might have,” said Kok. “AGILE will teach students discipline and patience while working with others.”
While some students may see AGILE as extra work that they don’t want to do, they should be willing to take part in this program, said Eppinga.
“It’s the mission of mankind to redeem and renew the world,” said Eppinga. “We need to develop habits of thinking about living our lives out as Christ’s disciples. These problems, like child mortality, are so big, we won’t solve them in a day. But if we can affect even one individual, and they can affect one more and so on, that can create exponential growth.”
Some students do see the good that AGILE can bring about. Jennifer Schmidt, a freshman involved in AGILE, looks forward to seeing the results of her work.
“I appreciate that they are trying to get us to do a real-world, hands on project. I think it’s cool to be working with a specific organization where we might see our results,” said Schmidt. “I think AGILE will help me think more in depth about bigger topics later on in life. It’s also a good eye-opening experience to how much trouble there is in the world.”
Nathan Tintle, another professor who played a part in developing AGILE, hopes students like Schmidt will appreciate this new approach to education.
“The AGILE project represents a new approach to education which breaks down disciplinary boundaries, increases interdisciplinary thinking and emphasizes critical thinking and knowledge which translates to global issues,” said Tintle. “We are excited to work with students in this new learning endeavor.”