Vincent T. Gawronski is associate professor of political science at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. He received his B.A. in history and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin (1987) and his M.A. (1993) and Ph.D. (1998) in political science from Arizona State University. He is currently the coordinator of the Latin American Studies program at Birmingham-Southern and chair of the Teaching Committee of the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. Dr. Gawronski’s area of expertise is Mexico and Central America, where he has maintained primarily four research tracks: 1) political and socioeconomic development, 2) disaster risk reduction, 3) “politics of disaster,” and 4) push-pull migration factors. Dr. Gawronski has contributed to several sponsored projects focusing on disasters and political change in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Dr. Gawronski has authored or co-authored publications in International Studies Perspectives, Peace Review, Hemisphere, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, Cambridge Journal of International Affairs, and Latin American Politics and Society. firstname.lastname@example.org
William G. Holt, Ph.D./J.D., is coordinator of the Urban Environmental Studies Program at Birmingham-Southern College. Holt received his B.A. in geography from the University of Georgia where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Holt has a Master’s in city planning from Georgia Tech where he worked on the 1996 Summer Olympics planning efforts. Holt was a community planner with the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C., working on the 2050 Monumental Core Plan update of the 1791 L’Enfant Plan. Holt received his Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University and his J.D. from Vermont Law School specializing in energy law. He edited two books: Urban Areas and Global Climate Change (Emerald 2012) and From Sustainable to Resilient Cities: Urban Efforts/Global Solutions (Emerald, forthcoming 2014).
Birmingham-Southern College (BSC)’s Exploration Term in January affords instructors and students opportunities to create innovative projects that might be developed into semester-long courses. Drawing on BSC’s Urban Environmental Studies Program (UES), we planned this course to cross our traditional subject boundaries in political science and sociology with the natural sciences. The course focused on environmental hazards (tectonic-earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, weather extremes, hydrological flood and droughts as well as disease epidemics) and urban social risks (poverty, war, starvation, and crime). We employed blended and flipped learning strategies as well as games and simulations. We conducted several field activities in the Birmingham metropolitan area as well as a three-night trip to New Orleans to examine post-Katrina redevelopment. The project drew upon academic publications, resources from local, national, and international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and guest experts; we also relied heavily on Internet resources. The compressed January Exploration Term created some scheduling and pedagogical challenges. For example, it was not always possible to schedule remote class visits. Students had shorter times for class preparation and reflections, and we had little time to overcome technological problems. We realized our goals were too ambitious for a four-week session. We plan to offer the course again as full-summer term course to address time constraints and make use of better weather for field excursions. Indeed, there was a learning curve for both the professors and the students, but we are confident we successfully introduced and reinforced the course learning outcomes.
I would definitely take a blended learning course again. I learn best by watching, listening, and interacting. Blended learning almost seemed to cater to my ability to focus and learn.
This course was different from many other classes that I have taken so far since our learning came from many different sources, trips, guest speakers, simulations, and lectures.