Understanding the Refugee Crisis Through Virtual Reality
Assistant Professor Anwar Mhajne receives grant in support of innovative pedagogy.
The MacPháidín Library’s Digital Innovation Lab recently awarded a Digital Innovation Grant in the amount of $1,500 to Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies Anwar Mhajne. These funds will support her students’ learning about challenges faced by vulnerable populations across the world using virtual reality.
“I am grateful to receive this grant, which will enable me to enhance the delivery of my course materials,” Mhajne said. “Virtual reality serves as the bridge that seamlessly connects theory with practice, propelling education beyond the limits of conventional methods. By immersing students in realistic scenarios, it not only imparts theoretical knowledge, but fosters empathy and a profound comprehension of issues affecting communities worldwide.”
In her course Terror, State, and Society, offered during the spring 2024 semester, Mhajne will use immersive United Nations Virtual Reality films to inspire students toward positive social change, as well as enable them to consider the ethical ramifications of depicting the experiences of others through virtual reality. Films that will be utilized in the class include Clouds Over Sidra (2015), filmed in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, and My Mother’s Wing (2016), which follows a grieving mother in Gaza.
In keeping with the aims of the Digital Innovation Grant program, which seeks to foster digital literacy and scholarship by integrating technology into course curricula, a portion of Mhajne’s funds will be allocated toward the purchase of virtual reality headsets that the rest of the Stonehill community can utilize.
“The library is excited to provide opportunities for faculty, staff and students to use virtual reality in their own classrooms and other settings. This innovative technology investment will offer many important lessons to those studying the humanities, sciences, arts and business. We hope Professor Mhajne’s project will show others on campus what is possible,” said Garrett McComas, digital scholarship and research librarian.
Previously, the Digital Innovation Lab has awarded grants in support of the creation of an online literary journal, the production of a scholarly podcast and the purchase of equipment for film and musical experimentation.