Learning Inside Out at Stonehill

February 2, 2017


College education is about offering students practical, theoretical, and real-life experience that helps them to succeed in the real world. Stonehill’s unique blend of dedicated faculty, innovative curricula, and deep sense of mission consistently helps our students build that experience and move on to successful careers.

In fact, 94% of Class of 2015 graduates are employed, in top graduate programs or engaged in post-graduate service one year after graduation.

That success has not come easy. Over the years, the College has worked continuously to refine and innovate the methods we use to support our students. The Martin Institute for Law & Society recently took that work to a new level, building a program that involves not only core educational experiences, but also offers firsthand exposure to new cultures and career-altering networks.

A Program Like No Other

Stonehill’s Learning Inside Out Network (LION) is a life-changing opportunity created to cohesively enhance students’ academic and professional skills. The one-of-a-kind program, developed and run by Stonehill faculty, spans two semesters, combining traditional classroom education, overseas internships, and a world-renowned international security conference to develop students into experts capable of presenting in-depth research on the world stage.

Typically, LION starts with a Political Science, Criminology or Economics class in the fall. There is also a newly minted summer option, which is currently open for application.

Once accepted, the program’s three advisors, Prof. Anna Ohanyan (Political Science and International Studies), Prof. Anamika Twyman-Ghoshal (Sociology and Criminology), and Prof. Piyush Chandra (Economics) work with accepted students to identify an internship opportunity from the LION program networks of providers in either Armenia or Serbia that connects with student coursework.

In the past, LION Scholars have worked at organizations like the Victimology Society of Serbia, which supports victims of crime, human rights violations, and war, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, a global leader in peacebuilding and Track Two diplomacy, and ASTRA, an anti-human trafficking non-profit, and many other organizations.

“The idea is that they learn theory in our classes but then they get practical experience in the internships,” said Prof. Twyman-Ghoshal. “And they also are doing their own original research while they are in those internships.”

“By the time LION scholars are done with the program, they have developing country experience, research experience, and experience working with practitioners. Studies show that for students trying to get jobs in the social sciences, especially those seeking employment at the state department or in diplomacy, this developing country experience is a critical supplement to their marketability.”
Professor Anna Ohanyan

The yearlong experience culminates with a three-week long Summer Institute in Armenia, where students build critical real-world experience by publishing their internship research and presenting at an international security conference.

Why Create LION?

Professor Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute for Law & Society, first recognized that while traditional international programs provide invaluable cultural and academic experiences for students, those opportunities are often designed around the expertise and subject matter of host programs rather than the work being done in classes on campus.

Ubertaccio reached out to Professor Ohanyan, who did a substantial amount of fieldwork and research in Western Balkans and South Caucasus, working with NGOs and international organizations. She speaks passionately about the need for students to learn from practitioners, asking if there was a better way to marry classroom theory and real-world practice. Along with Prof. Twyman-Ghoshal, they decided it was both possible and indeed, critical for the College to offer a program that thoughtfully connects coursework with an overseas internship opportunity, ensuring the two experiences build off each other to better educate students.

Together, Ohanyan and Twyman-Ghoshal successfully executed on that vision, building relationships with organizations in Armenia and Serbia and creating internships at those sites, finding student housing, and identifying opportunities in fall semester coursework that could connect directly to future internships. While planning out these core elements of LION, they focused on developing a program that would directly benefit students’ long-term outcomes and encourage them to enter graduate-level programs or careers correlated to their College work.

“One of the ways for students to get into competitive graduate schools is to have firsthand developing country experience and research experience,” said Prof. Ohanyan. “Very often, students are unaware that these are outcomes they can get from their study abroad experience, so we designed a program that gives students those experiences while putting them next to a practitioner.”

Theory Meets Practice

Though outcomes are the overall focus of LION, the core of the program comes from part of its name, “Learning Inside Out.” This title reflects the goal, informed by Prof. Ohanyan’s research into studies of teaching effectiveness and pedagogy, of building a three-tiered program that connects theory to practice and then loops that information back to the classroom, informing how theory is subsequently taught.

That coordination between theory in fall coursework and practice in spring internships starts at the beginning of the school year and continues for the length of the program. And annually, lessons learned through that yearlong collaboration are applied to the next fall’s classes.

To kick off the program, LION scholars work with their fall class professor, who is also their LION advisor, to identify an internship opportunity from the LION network of over ten organizations in Serbia or Armenia that both connects to what they are currently learning and offers the chance to focus on a policy area that interests them.

“I do not think that any of the international programs that are offered by external institutions are able to make that clear connection between classroom and experiential learning, which makes LION unique,” said Professor Twyman-Ghoshal. “They also don’t have the continuity of the person who is teaching you in class also being the person who guides you through the internship.”

The professors chose Armenia and Serbia because they offer experience that is more practical for students. Traditionally, international programs target large organizations headquartered in Western Europe, but those internships do not offer the unique access and hands on experience afforded to students working at smaller NGOs with fewer full-time staff.

“I think what’s really unique is that you usually don’t get to do this level of research work at an undergraduate level,” said Prof. Twyman-Ghoshal. “LION allows students to start transitioning to the graduate level, because they’re doing real, original research.”

“I really learned how to use my skills that I had learned in the classroom, and how to break down academic writing into something more concise and more accessible to the public,” said Allison Steferak ’17. “That is a huge skill.”

Critically, students close out their internship by attending the Local Roots of Global Peace conference in Armenia. It offers the chance to not only hear academics and practitioners speak on issues they care about, but also for the students to present their own research to professionals. Scholars’ insights are not only welcomed, but taken seriously – an experience few undergraduate students have at that level.

“I was able to do my own research, intern, present at an international conference, and get a publication, out of one experience. So it was probably the best decision I’ve made in my college career.”
Katie Wahrer ‘17

And when the students return from their internship, they do so with a more complete understanding of the impact of their education, along with a stronger sense of purpose. Many LION scholars finish the program with the newfound goal of pursuing a Ph.D. and becoming a College professor or working on the global stage.

“LION has allowed students to see the immediate relevance and urgency of the field they are mastering at Stonehill, be it International Relations, Criminology or Development Economics.”
Professor Anna Ohanyan

All Students Win

The careful coordination between theory and practice doesn’t solely benefit LION scholars. While serving as in their advisory role, each professor gains valuable knowledge as they guide LION scholars through their internships.

LION scholars are able to identify gaps between classroom theory and real-world practice in real-time. This unique perspective is continuously relayed to their advisors, who actively use that information to change their teaching style and curricula to better connect what is taught in the classroom to what students will be doing when they graduate.

“LION Scholars, current and past, have emerged as important links in the process of learning,” said Prof. Ohaynan. “They have made it more global; they have elevated the stakes of the content I teach; they have brought us closer to the target communities, the victimized and the marginalized that we are trying to help. In short, the LION program has sharpened the social mission of my teaching.”

The Future of LION

The College has already begun work on expanding LION, starting with the addition of Prof. Chandra and economic development as a new issue-area for students to consider. As the program grows, each new professor brings with them an international academic and professional network, giving LION even more resources to identify internship opportunities and better tailor the program to student interests.

“The LION model can apply to any subject, so the program is very transferrable,” said Prof. Twyman-Ghoshal. “Economic development is the first step toward growth, applying our existing template to a new field, but I also see these tracks expanding and think students will be able to come to us in the future and say, ‘hey I want to take this class and I would like to do an internship in that area – how can we make it happen?’ LION can make that happen.”

How to Apply

Applications for the traditional LION program open in the fall for students in classes taught by Profs. Ohanyan, Twyman-Ghoshal, and Chandra.

Those classes include, but are not limited to:

Conflict Analysis and Resolution; Environmental Justice; Global Crime; and Development Economics.

The summer program is currently open for applications. It is worth four academic credits, and will run from June 12-July 31, 2017. There are two information sessions open to all students on Friday, February 10 from 11:30-12:20 and 12:30-1:20 in Martin 204.

SUMMER PROGRAM ELEMENTS

  • Summer Institute on Global Development and Security Studies, Armenia, June 12-30, 2017 (fulfills a Moral Inquiry requirement) 
  • Participation in the International Conference on “Local Roots of Global Peace: Junior Voices in Global Security”, June 23-24, 2017
  • International internship with a LION partner in Armenia or Serbia, July 3-31, 2017
  • Study trips to four international NGOs and international organizations in Yerevan
  • Cultural trips in Armenia to medieval monasteries and churches in the world’s oldest Christian nation; Wings of Tatev, the world’s longest aerial tram; visits to ancient wineries; and much more
  • Cultural trips in Serbia

Applicants may submit a Cover Letter, Resume and Transcripts to Noelle Preston at npreston@stonehill.edu.

Early application deadline: February 24, 2017; Program Fee - $2,750

Regular application deadline: March 30, 2017; Program Fee - $3,050

Program fees include tuition, housing internship placement services, conference in Yerevan, cultural trips, and flight from Yerevan to Belgrade* (Serbia placements only).

For more information on the LION program, students can contact Prof. Anna Ohanyan (Political Science and International Studies), Prof. Anamika Twyman-Ghoshal (Sociology and Criminology) or Prof. Piyush Chandra (Economics).