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Stanford strengthens research component of overseas study

STANFORD -- Stanford senior Dianne Newman saw a lot of museums during her time overseas.

None fascinated her more, though, than eastern Berlin's Pergamon Museum - a German time capsule, virtually unchanged since the 1930s, containing treasures from ancient Greece and Rome

Many of the Pergamon displays, including massive architectural reliefs depicting battles of ancient gods and giants, "are direct links to Hitler's time," said Newman, a German studies major. "The emphasis is on the emotional impact of the objects."

Newman took classes at Stanford's overseas study center in Berlin, did an internship at the Pergamon, then traveled to Greece and Turkey to see where many of the museum's artifacts were excavated. She is now hard at work on a senior honors thesis, based on her experiences and travels.

Ten years ago, Newman's effort at original overseas research would have been unusual for an undergraduate. No more.

"We're poised at a point where we could have really significant numbers of undergraduates doing original research with important scholars overseas," said Janet Schmidt, assistant director for academic programs in the Overseas Studies office.

"Students are coming back and finishing honors theses unlike any others in the country, based on archives that no other undergraduate has explored. This program has unlimited potential."

Stanford has been working successfully in recent years to encourage undergraduate research, both at home and abroad, as a way of linking the young students more closely to the research interests of the university faculty.

Laura Selznick, director of Stanford's Undergraduate Research Opportunities office, meets regularly with foreign-bound students to encourage them to think about thesis topics before they leave. She also provides information about grants, offered by private donors, to help them pay for research-related expenses.

Last year, her office awarded 12 grants for undergraduate overseas projects, ranging from a history student's study of men in the British suffrage movement to an English honors thesis on the subversive poetry of concentration camp survivors.

Geoffrey Goldman, an international relations major, received a grant to study the interaction between the European Court of Justice at The Hague and national courts in the European Community.

"I traveled to England, Brussels and Luxembourg and interviewed practicing lawyers, as well as some EC officials," he said. "It was a interesting time to be doing research there."

Projects in other parts of the world included a study of student activism in Hong Kong, an environmental project on the rain forest in Costa Rica, and an artistic study of urban and rural life in Thailand.

"Students love the idea of having control over part of their education," Selznick said. "They also like being able to extend an academic interest over more than one quarter. And the experience of framing questions and writing up the results is a wonderful kind of credential."

In the future, Overseas Studies planners hope to encourage even more independent study through the establishment of "research modules" that would provide a home base for students pursuing overseas research with faculty at Stanford or abroad.

This winter, for example, students who have completed introductory classes at Stanford's center in Santiago may choose to do further work at a research module on South American e_cology policy under the direction of Chilean biologist Ernesto Hajek, or they may choose to study the political economy of higher education under Chilean social scientist Jose Joaquin Brunner.

Another research module, which may open in winter 1993-94 in Mexico, would focus on issues of North American economic and cultural integration.

"The ideal trajectory would be for a Stanford student to take preparatory courses here, attend classes at Santiago in the autumn and do research at the modules in Santiago or Mexico in the winter," said Russell Berman, director of Overseas Studies. "Then that student could come back well prepared for work on an honors thesis."

Once the Stanford center in Moscow is established, he said, other research modules may be set up in Krakow, Vienna or possibly in one of the outlying former Soviet republics.



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