Chestertown, MD, June 16, 2003 — Washington College will host 21 Muslim students from several Asian countries this summer for an ambitious new cultural exchange program. The American Studies Institute at Washington College, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, is the first-ever government-funded program to invite college students from Islamic backgrounds to study American culture and history. The theme of the Institute is “American Democracy: The Great Experiment.” It will run from June 29 to August 2 in Chestertown.
Student leaders from predominantly Islamic universities in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh (seven students from each country, 12 women and 9 men in all) were selected from hundreds of applications by the respective U.S. Embassies in Islamabad, New Delhi and Dhaka. Through experiences such as Fourth of July parades and minor-league baseball games, to academic readings and discussions of political writers and theorists, the students will spend a month in a small American town—Chestertown—immersing themselves in American culture.
A series of lectures by Washington College faculty and distinguished visitors will introduce students to both the possibilities and the realities of American democracy. During the first week, titled “Birthrights,” the students will concentrate on the ideals of the founders, studying the charter documents of the United States along with the writings of Washington, Jefferson, Adams and other members of the original “greatest generation.” The second week's program, “Civil Rights,” will focus on ways that Americans have struggled to realize those ideals, and will include segments on the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. Week three, “Chestertown, U.S.A.,” will give the students a close look at democracy in action, allowing them to meet with community leaders from diverse backgrounds. Week Four, “America and the World,” will examine the relationship between the United States and other nations.
The Institute is distinctive because of Washington College's small-town setting that allows international students to experience directly an America very different than the one portrayed in movies, television and popular media. Chestertown, known for its picturesque streets lined with 18th-century houses, will be a living laboratory in which to study America's founding, and as a busy county seat, provides an easy way for students to meet and interact with the men and women who translate democratic ideals into everyday practice through local courtrooms, politics, volunteerism and community activism.
In addition to classroom experience, the students will participate in a wide variety of extracurricular activities, including field trips to Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York City. Once the students have completed their course of study in Chestertown, they will travel to Washington, D.C., to tour the shrines of American democracy and receive final briefings at the Department of State. By interacting with a wide variety of American citizens, these future leaders will return to their countries with a greater understanding of American history and the democratic ideals that guide it.
For further information about the American Studies Institute, contact Kees de Mooy, Program Manager for the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, 410-810-7156, or visit the Center online at visit the Center online at http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu. The C. V. Starr Center is a forum for new scholarship about American history. Drawing on the special historical strengths of Washington College, the Center explores the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape the fabric of American culture. The Center is interdisciplinary, encouraging the study of traditional history alongside new approaches, and seeking to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large.