How it works
We asked ourselves the question: in practice, how do we provide a quality academic program to international students while simultaneously offering valuable educational programming to local counterparts, all to the end of serving the community’s aspirations/needs for sustainable development?
In short, it works like this: a local community invites 5 to 12 international students, as well as students from USFQ, to live in their community and study/create with an equal amount of community-selected counterparts over the course of a semester (fall semesters in Quito and spring semesters in small Amazon communities). Together the international students and local counterparts are one cohort. We create what we refer to as a “safe space,” meaning that immediate needs for both populations are covered (academic credit for internationals and scholarships for locals). The cohort spends a semester studying with highly-qualified university professors and professional artists and applying their studies through creative projects that confront global challenges at the local level. The "applied" nature of our program, meaning that studies lead to real projects, is what makes our work immediately sustainable.
One of our principle methods for learning is the Applied Arts; however, it is a relatively unknown field. We use the arts as a means of producing knowledge, designing projects and creating community. They help us challenge the dominant systems of education and development, allowing students and counterparts to freely explore the world they want to create. We depict a basic example of an exercise in the two photos below. During the final presentation of our pilot semester, we created a theatre piece called "ComoUnidad Despierta." One scene was forum theatre. We presented a real-life conflict of an indigenous Amazon community with a protagonist who faced a tremendous conflict. He cannot resolve the conflict, so we ask members of the audience to take his place and see if they can improvise a transformation of the conflict. This turns monologue into dialogue and provides pathways to sustainable change.