- The Curiosity of Nations:Shakespeare and International Electronic Collaboration
The World Shakespeare Project (WSP)—www.worldshakespeareproject.org—co-directed by Sheila T. Cavanagh and Kevin Quarmby of Emory University, is crafting a model for global twenty-first-century higher education through an interconnected series of live, interactive collaborations that cross international, institutional, disciplinary, sociocultural, religious, linguistic, economic, and other disparate academic divides. As the recent Observatory on Borderless Higher Education Report suggests, traditional conceptualizations of tertiary education are rapidly becoming outmoded, but new educational constellations are often problematic:
Although branch campuses and partnerships with foreign universities are on the rise, they require a level of investment and risk management that can be intimidating, even for universities with big endowments. But investment in online learning will allow universities to benefit from economies of scale and meet increasing demand from developing countries.(Katsomitros par. 1) [End Page 121]
The twenty-first century offers complex financial, technological, and internationalization issues that demand more rapid change than American universities traditionally provide. In response to this need, the WSP is creating, evaluating, and disseminating a multi-faceted educational structure that can be adapted for use globally and across the disciplines. It was recognized in 2012 as the only recipient of Emory University Research Committee's "High Risk/ High Potential Initiative," which was established to promote non-traditional interdisciplinary collaborations, innovative methods, and inquiries regarding emerging areas. It has also received several other internal grants and a US Challenge Grant from the Royal Society of the Arts in order to expand its partnerships with North American Indian Colleges.
The WSP links disparate international Shakespearean faculty and students together electronically. The expertise of Emory's Educational Technology staff allows us to establish live communication with institutions lacking comparable facilities. Cavanagh is WSP's founding director, and she has made regular academic visits to India since 2000. Consequently, the WSP has forged numerous connections between Atlanta and communities in India, including, for example, tribal colleges serving first-generation learners in West Bengal and other regions in Eastern India. The WSP also possesses significant links with the United Kingdom, drawing in part from Quarmby's lengthy prior career as a professional actor in London. In addition, the WSP currently works with Université Hassan II and Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, with universities associated with Fundación Shakespeare Argentina, and with Shakespearean faculty and students in Brazil. With the cooperation of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, it has also expanded its collaborative network to reach American Tribal Colleges, such as Cankdeska Cikana Community College in North Dakota and Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College in Michigan. In addition, we are partnering with Gretchen Minton from Montana State University and Scott Jackson from Shakespeare Notre Dame to investigate the further inclusion of western American Indian students. These tribal connections, along with our growing international community, deepen all WSP collaborative experiences. Our live and electronic guest lecturers as well as our undergraduate research, internship, collaborative, and exchange opportunities enable us to involve an eclectic local and "virtual" group in meaningful ways. Emory's Halle Institute for Global Learning and its Hightower Fund, for example, have generously sponsored residencies with London stage and opera director Stephen Unwin and with Peabody Award-winning documentary maker Steve Rowland. Future residencies, such as the 2013 visits of [End Page 122] Shakespeare in Prison directors Curt Tofteland and Tom Magill, will broaden the diverse scope of WSP classroom endeavors.
WSP sessions typically involve live videoconference discussions and performance exercises shared between faculty and students in each location. For some of our partners, Shakespeare holds an important place in the curriculum; for others, these mutual classes primarily promote internationalization efforts or offer opportunities to join broad educational discussions. We aim to create a widely accessible learning environment, which constitutes one of the most challenging, but essential, aspects of our venture. Some of the international and tribal college students are the first in their families to receive a formal education and have had limited travel experiences. Other WSP students live in cosmopolitan regions, such as Kolkata or Casablanca. Most of our international partners encounter English as non-native speakers. Each student population, however, whether at Emory...