Bluefield, WV.--This spring, a group of students at Bluefield State College will gather once a week at a “street corner” to exchange ideas with other students about culture, society, politics, environment, and other topics of the day. Other students engaged in the “street corner” conversation do so from their home campuses in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa.
These virtual “street corner” conversations are a centerpiece for the dynamic Soliya Connect Program, an international program that provides a platform for students from disparate parts of the world to consider cultural and political issues through a thoughtful and open videoconference exchange of ideas and perspectives. Soliya Connect is a pillar of BSC’s “Seminar in Social Sciences” course, a capstone course for the College’s senior students in the Social Sciences of Psychology, Sociology, History, and Political Science. During 2017, Soliya Connect brought together more than 1300 students representing 72 nationalities from 52 institutions in 13 countries, including students from 13 states in the U.S.
“In addition to their in-class assignments and discussions, our students in the class meet once each week by way of specialized communication software to exchange ideas and perspectives with their student colleagues from around the world,” explained Dr. Colin Cavell, Associate Professor of Political Science at BSC. Students work in groups of eight and engage in conversation, led by a student facilitator (and a former Soliya Connect student) and, through the process, develop a deeper understanding of what the social sciences are, Cavell added.
“Social Sciences require students to engage in a culture of free inquiry and skepticism where participants can ask questions that challenge existing truths, engaging in a democratic exchange with other students and faculty,” he said. “There is a give-and-take dynamic where students learn from each other and the professor learns from students.”
Through the course and involvement in Soliya Connect, Dr. Cavell seeks to lay some scientific foundation into students’ epistemological (theory of knowledge) perspectives. “Students will gain insight into what is involved in the search for evidence, what constitutes evidence, what constitutes agreement on truth, and what the facts are,” he stated.