International House Berkeley

International House Times Spring/Summer 2013

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BEST WISHES TO THE BIRGENEAUS Executive Director's Message Peer Learning, I-House Style Hans C. Giesecke, Ph.D. Mary Catherine & Bob Birgeneau with resident Tansu Acik, at Gala in 2006. Just one example of how the Birgeneaus have demonstrated support for I-House through the years. I-House extends its enduring thanks to Robert Birgeneau, who in June, 2013 steps down as UC Berkeley's Chancellor and as Chair of the I-House Board of Directors. As a graduate student at Yale University, Birgeneau resided in an international student housing complex and has said "It's been a pleasure being so closely involved with I-House and the important ways it works to promote global citizenship and intercultural understanding at Berkeley." Bob Birgeneau will remain on the faculty of Cal's Physics Department and the couple will continue to reside locally. Look for news regarding incoming Chancellor Nicholas Dirks from Columbia University in the next IH Times! FIRST LADY OF I-HOUSE We are pleased to announce the selection of Susan Giesecke as Director of International Protocol at UC Berkeley's newly established Global Engagement Office (GEO). GEO works to facilitate and coordinate the campus's international initiatives and to foster coherence among them. The Director of International Protocol negotiates, plans, and facilitates highlevel visits to the campus by international heads of state, royalty, public/private administrators and other distinguished officials. "I am thrilled to fill this new role on campus, where I can be involved in welcoming international guests to UC Berkeley. I look forward to making connections between GEO and I-House, and increasing the international presence on campus." 2 International House Times One of the most powerful examples of learning that I have witnessed here at I-House is the phenomenon of students educating students. Given that we have some 70 nationalities present in our historic building at any given time, there is a great deal of cultural give and take going on regularly. Of course, this is to be expected in a place like I-House. What is truly surprising, however, is the sheer amount of useful and enduring instruction that takes place through such peer interaction–to say nothing about the romance-induced peer interaction, for which I-House is particularly well-noted. Indeed, I can postulate with good reason that in many cases the interactive learning experiences that our residents have within our walls may be the most salient of their entire university careers. What I have regularly observed here at I-House is that the effects of peer learning extend wider and deeper than most higher education experts even imagine. It is clear to me that our residents are more likely to do better in their classes and labs because they are exposed regularly to peers who question them about the nature and purpose of their academic work – often in a rather intense fashion. Since we have residents who are pursuing academic majors in law, economics, business, engineering, operations research, mathematics, physics, political science, history, music, and many other fields, there is a great deal of crosspollination going on here that helps our students understand their own academic work through the eyes of others who are not experts in their same fields of endeavor. Since I-House is also one of the few places on the University of California – Berkeley campus where undergrads, graduate students, post-docs, and visiting scholars regularly mix and mingle, those with lesser experience in academe benefit greatly from their exposure to those who have more years of university experience behind them. At the same time, our residents who have already achieved some expertise in their fields are compelled to learn how to explain their more in-depth academic knowledge to those who may have had little or no exposure to their fields. This kind of exchange and interplay is what peer learning is all about. It deeply reinforces classroom learning effects, and helps students retain what they have learned longer as they exchange ideas with others who are interested in knowing what they are studying and investigating. Such exposure to other inquisitive and engaged students is also critical to our residents' ability to make a number of career transitions throughout their post-academic lives. Adaptability is one of the key traits that graduates of the 21st Century must display in order to advance their careers in jobs that may not even exist yet. Learning how to interact and engage with those from other disciplines is one of the keys steps necessary in attaining such flexibility. The experiences that our I-House residents have in engaging one another regularly are priceless in terms of understanding and grasping one's own field of endeavor and knowing how to explain it to someone else with little or no background in that same field. Knowing intuitively how to interpret events, ideas, and circumstances to others in ways they can understand is one of the greatest assets that someone can bring to their life and career. This is a skill set that many I-House residents gain during their time here. We trust that you will help us extend this most practical skill set to many more residents who want to achieve and realize it in the months and years ahead. Thanks so much for your commitment to I-House and its great impact on the lives of those it serves. n Hans C. Giesecke, Executive Director

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