President's Internationalization Initiative Trip Provides Lasting Impression of Balinese Culture

July 01, 2010








groupIn May, a group of 18 Rollins faculty, staff and emerita representing 11 disciplines accompanied Hugh F. and Jeannette G. McKean Professor of Philosophy Hoyt Edge on a three-week President’s Internationalization Initiative (PII) sponsored trip to Bali, Indonesia.

Unlike ordinary travel experiences, the PII program challenges participants to develop deeper intellectual insights into the historical, cultural, religious, economic and political systems of the global locations they explore.  These encounters—and the interdisciplinary exchanges that take place among colleagues—provide faculty and staff with experiences and opportunities to enhance their teaching and international perspectives, as well as develop new scholarly interests and research.

The trip, led by Edge, came about from his experiences traveling to Bali for more than 25 years to study various aspects of the culture—from trance to traditional healing to concepts of self—which have deepened his understanding of cross-cultural differences. From his experiences, and in an effort to enhance the international and interdisciplinary perspectives of his colleagues, Edge worked to coordinate the PII trip for the time of year in the Balinese calendar when significant cultural and religious trance possession ceremonies take place.  The majority of people in Bali practice what they call Bali Hinduism, which has roots in Hinduism as practiced in Java, Indonesia, centuries earlier. It is a religion interwoven with art, magic and rituals in which gods and demigods are worshipped together with ancestors, indigenous agricultural deities, and sacred places.

tample“Five years ago, I began the planning to coordinate the Rollins academic calendar with the Balinese calendar, finding a time when the Balinese day called Kuningan fell just after graduation,” said Edge. “Kuningan is the day when the Balinese say that the deities leave the island after 10 days of being celebrated so that the lower forces can come back into the world.  These lower forces are fed by the Balinese in dramatic trance possession ceremonies, which I knew would stretch Western understanding and enhance the mission of the PII.”

In addition to participating in the religious and sometimes astonishing trance possession ceremonies, the group had other unique opportunities to gain important understandings of the Balinese culture. One participant’s most insightful experience was the sense of familial tradition and symbolism she encountered.

“Balinese spend significant time together each day and all pieces of their lives are spiritually connected to family,” said Director of the Office of Community Engagement Micki Meyer. “The ideal of the ‘collective versus the individual’ was a powerful experience for me because as a Westerner, our emphasis is on the individual and not the collective.”

Director of the Olin Library Jonathan Miller chronicled the entire PII experience by blogging and capturing the group’s experiential learning experiences like Meyer’s through the use of multi-media. ceremony

“I keep a traditional personal journal—written with a fountain pen no less—but since I regularly blog about library issues I thought it might be interesting to record my impressions of Bali as well as those of my colleagues,” Miller said. “Rollins emphasizes global citizenship and I certainly gained some sense of the role of digital media in globalization while in Bali. I ‘friended’ Balinese friends on Facebook, linked to Balinese websites from my blog, blogged from Wi-Fi hotspots in Balinese cafes, and even recorded my daily runs using GPS and uploaded those to the web.” 

Many PII participants had their family and friends back at home follow Jonathan’s blog to gain a deeper sense of their extraordinary experiences in Bali.

Read more about Miller’s accounts from Bali.

While in Bali, Miller also spoke to a group of librarians at Udyana University on the future of libraries. In addition to Miller, several other members of the Rollins faculty were able to give back to Bali by sharing their areas of scholarship with multiple universities:

• alonAssistant Professor of Economics Anca Voicu and George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Professor of International Business Ilan Alon presented at the University of Udayana as well as to a groups of business leaders on the topics of globalization, tourism and sustainable development. 

• At the University of Dwijendra School of Communication Sciences,  Assistant Professor of Communication Rick Bommelje presented a session entitled: “Listen, Lead & Succeed: How to be a Great Leader through the Power of Listening,” to students and faculty in their evening degree program.

• Associate Professor of Education Debra Wellman was invited to Universitas Mahasaraswati in Denpasar, Bali, where she spoke to a group that included the Dean of the Department of Education as well as headmistresses, teachers, professors and teacher education candidates about best practices in teaching reading to elementary students.

Because of the rewarding interactions and unique collaboration with the Rollins group, Bali’s leading public university, Udayana University, has expressed great interest in setting up future student and faculty cooperation with Rollins, said Edge.

“The PII enabled us to contribute in small ways to the Balinese culture, and a number of the faculty and staff on the trip have expressed a serious interest in collaborating with those we met,” said Edge. “We will be working to create mutually beneficial programs with universities and foundations in Bali, opportunities that would never have been possible without a travel program like this.  I can well imagine that Rollins students will benefit in years to come through faculty incorporating examples from Bali in their teaching.”

Read more about the PII.

The President’s Internationalization Initiative Bali participants included: Ilan Alon (International Business), Mark Anderson (Mathematics), Rick Bommelje (Communication), Barbara Carson (emerita), Tom Cook (Philosophy & Religion), Phil Deaver (English), Hoyt Edge (Philosophy & Religion), Greg Gardner (Communication), Meghan Harte (Explorations), John Houston (Psychology), Carol Lauer (Anthropology), Margaret McLaren (Philosophy & Religion), Jonathan Miller (Olin Library), Micki Meyer (Community Engagement), Thomas Ouellette (Theatre & Dance), Bob Sherry (Theatre & Dance), Anca Voicu (Economics), and Deb Wellman (Education).


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