Students for a Better World: The Beyond the Classroom Blog

Stories, Resources, & More from the Beyond the Classroom (BTC) Program at University of Maryland

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Beyond the Classroom Provides Real Life Experience

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" -- Nelson Mandela at the University of Witwatersrand in 2003By Colleen McMullen, BTC Student

In college it is very easy to get swept up in academics, to only think short term, study all the time, and develop tunnel vision on getting good grades. While this may enable a student to master the concepts of his or her major, it is an incomplete way of preparing for the “real world”.  Even easier is failing to think about how what students learn at the University of Maryland applies and will contribute to the rest of the world. College is a rather sheltered environment in which students may learn about the issues facing the world today, but have little opportunity to see them in action and learn what is being done to combat them.

The Beyond the Classroom program has changed this perspective for me. It has exposed me to the world’s leading problems in new and engaging ways: through community service, activism, research, and meeting and speaking with those that are directly affected by challenges and work to fight them. Continue reading


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Internship Experience at American Forests Serves as Preparation for Life After Graduation

by Tacy Lambiase, BTC Student

I knew last semester that I wanted a spring internship that would teach me valuable communication skills. Since I want to pursue a career incommunications with some kind of emphasis on sustainability or environmental education after graduation, I looked for openings at organizations related to environmental activism and conservation. After finding out about American Forests, a conservation nonprofit in Washington, D.C., and securing an internship working with their communications department, I am pleased to say that I have certainly learned valuable skills over the past few months that I can use in my post-graduation life. Continue reading

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Internship Teaches About Sustainability at Universities

by Alexis Robinson, BTC Student

What is sustainability, and how does it apply to us? This is a question that got the Office of Sustainability started at the University of Maryland. My internship is in the Office of Sustainability in the Green Office program, which has taught me so much about the inter-working of sustainability efforts on campus. Continue reading

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Melinda St. Louis Informs and Inspires Students on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement

St. Louis, rallying against the TPP last year in Virginia.

by Nicole Urps, BTC Student

Beyond the Classroom’s “People Power” series welcomed Melinda St. Louis on March 4 to talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement.

This free trade agreement is currently being negotiated between the United States and ten other countries including Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Vietnam, New Zealand and Peru.  St. Louis is considered an expert in the field as she is the International Campaigns Director with Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. She works with international allies to cease the expansion of harmful and dangerous trade agreements. Unfortunately, the TTP Free Trade Agreement that has been in negotiations since 2010, and is expected to be signed as soon as the fall of 2013 unless citizens build awareness and take a stand to fight back. Continue reading

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Documentary Asks: “What is the Cost of Democracy?”

by Pranshu Gupta and Kevin Lalama, BTC Students

“…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” — Abraham Lincoln

Comic by John Darkow, selected by the authors.

On November 5, we attended the Beyond the Classroom’s “Voting As If the Issues Matter: Spotlight on the 2012 Elections” discussion series.  On the eve of the Presidential election, the documentary Pricele$$, opened our eyes to the issues of an unregulated, campaign spending industry.  Directed by Steve Cowan, the film sheds light on the “out-of-control electoral system that obligates our leaders to the giant industries that bankroll their electoral campaigns.”  Cowan’s non-partisan perspective highlights the faults of both the Democrat and Republican political parties.  Continue reading

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Converging Issues: Sustainable Development Challenges and Opportunites in West Africa

Editor’s Note: Beyond the Classroom encourages program participants to identify civic issues that are most important to them.  Through activities, lectures, films, seminars, classes, events, and internships, students learn how they can address those issues through civic engagement, advocacy, and action.  This post is the second in the “Converging Issues” series, which are blogs that examine these issues from student and staff perspectives – including what inspired the authors to get involved in their civic issue and how they were involved or can be involved in that issue through BTC.

The author in the middle of a rice field in Senegal.

by Krista Heiner, BTC Graduate Assistant

As a Fulbright Fellow, I had the opportunity to spend last year researching natural resources management policy in Mali and Senegal, which are two semi-arid countries located in West Africa. My research focused on several communally managed natural resources including  forests,  agricultural land, pasture areas and paths nomadic herders use to move their livestock, and water resources like fishing areas and wetlands. In both Mali and Senegal, a large proportion of the population lives in rural areas and depends heavily on these communal natural resources for their day-to-day survival, which makes their management increasingly important to the region’s sustainable development. Continue reading

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Lessons in Leadership: Internships are More Than a Requirement

While good leadership may appear as easy as pushing a button, many BTC students learn it requires much more!

by Dr. Caitlin Haugen, BTC Assistant Director

 “Effective civic leaders make social change by learning from experience, listening to key voices, and acting in collaboration with partners.  The challenge is to identify those experiences, voices, and partners that enable you to use your talents and leadership to the fullest to create positive social change.” — Dr. Jim Riker, BTC Director

The above quote illustrates BTC’s philosophy on leadership.  All of the program’s classes and activities emphasize developing students’ leadership skills.  Students are also required to have a semester long internship and take a one credit seminar that allows them to think critically about their internship experiences.  BTC requires students to seek internships in nonprofit, civil society, or governmental organizations.  In their internship seminar, students are challenged to think critically about the characteristics of leaders through class discussion and assignments. Continue reading