Officially open for classes this spring, the Oechsle Center for Global Education is a dynamic, collaborative learning environment-a physical intersection for programs and majors that deal with all facets of global education.
“For our students, this is a real game-changer,” says William Bissell, associate professor and head of anthropology and sociology. “Our department has been a place of excellence in scholarship, teaching, and service for quite some time, but now we have the opportunity to inhabit a space that truly reflects the strong work we do and provides a platform to take it to the next level.”
The same can be said of the two programs also housed in the building-Africana studies and international affairs.
For instance, many students who take classes in Africana studies are anthropology and sociology majors, notes Wendy Wilson-Fall, associate professor and chair of Africana studies. With both areas of study sharing the same space, there is greater potential overlap for students. Students in Africana studies who want to stay focused on that field are encouraged to take classes in international affairs. Those who are more interested in diversity issues in the U.S. are encouraged to take sociology courses.
“The character of the building, with its airy and open atmosphere, encourages dialogue. Additionally, the programs and departments that are housed in the building are physically near each other in ways they were not in the past,” says Wilson-Fall. “This creates a sense of discovery for students and faculty as they cross paths much more often than before.”
The shared spaces, particularly the Global Salon on the second floor, are already very popular among students and faculty as places to meet or spend quiet time reading and working.
The center is also quickly becoming a hub for international programming for the entire campus. Journalist Deborah Horan recently finished a week-long residency as the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow for Oechsle Center’s inaugural year. For more than a decade, Horan covered the Middle East for the Houston Chronicle and Chicago Tribune. Her stay, which was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, included classes, seminars, workshops, lectures, and informal discussions with students and faculty.
Wilson-Fall is organizing a roundtable forum this fall to discuss new theoretical frameworks for studying U.S. African American communities through time in comparative contexts with other similar communities in the Americas. The two-day forum will feature faculty from history, international affairs, and anthropology & sociology, as well as faculty from other institutions and student participants. The forum’s second day will be open to the entire college community.
“The lecture hall has been used to hold several discussions geared towards global studies and issues, such as a panel of students who went abroad and spoke about their experiences,” says anthropology and sociology major Brianna Braswell ’16 (Germantown, Md.), who is taking two courses in the Oechsle Center this semester. “It’s nice to have a building with many different departments in it. We get to interact with other majors. It has become a space on campus where many discussions like these can be supported.”
The three-story center, located along South College Drive overlooking Easton, was made possible by the support of trustee emeritus Walter Oechsle ’57 and the late Christa Huber Oechsle. The $10.6 million facility includes a 60-seat lecture hall, two 40-seat classrooms, and a conference room. The Global Studio and the Global Salon can be configured in many ways for teaching, learning, and special events.
A formal dedication ceremony was held March 27. It featured remarks by President Alison Byerly, Edward Ahart ’69, chair of the Board of Trustees, Wilson-Fall, and Kameliya Yordanova ’18 (Plovdiv, Bulgaria), who is the recipient of support from an endowed scholarship fund established by the Oechsles to benefit international students at Lafayette.
Bissell points out that the generosity of alumni like Walter Oechsle often leads to more generosity. Coinciding with the Oechsle Center is the new endowed Ethnographic Research Fund, which will “provide funding for students studying anthropology and sociology to participate in field study and ethnographic research focused on global concerns.” The fund’s donors wish to remain anonymous.
A plaque in the Oechsle Center honors donors to the Class of 1961 International Speakers Fund. The class members established a permanent endowment for the fund in celebration of their 50th reunion. The lecture series brings to campus policy-makers, scholars, and others whose work deals with contemporary issues in international affairs.