Traveling Learning Clusters 2019

January 30, 2019
Soka students visit Hong Kong University to learn about business programs.

Under the generous funding support from the Luis and Linda Nieves Family Foundation, 2019 Learning Cluster students researched and studied in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Miami. Learning Cluster faculty reflect on their transformative academic and travel experiences.

Indigenous Development in Malaysia: Economics, Ecology & Politics | Shane Barter

With the kind support of the Nieves Family Foundation, our learning cluster sought to better understand indigenous peoples in Asia. The idea of indigeneity has been shaped by the experiences of first peoples in “settler countries.” In recent decades, the concept has become increasingly important in Africa and Asia, where groups formerly seen as ethnic minorities frame their struggles in terms of being indigenous peoples. Our course sought to understand how the concept is understood in Asia, specifically Malaysia, and how indigenous peoples have approached contemporary challenges associated with development. After one week of intensive classes, we traveled to Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo, for 12 days. We met with government officials, NGOs, university classes, artists, business people, political parties, and more. Our numerous meetings helped us to better understand the divisions within Sabah’s indigenous communities, the complex landscape of indigeneity, and the major concerns related to migration, land rights, palm oil, and tourism. We learned so much in the classroom and in the field, and had fun doing so along the way. The students did a wonderful job in helping make for a meaningful, memorable class!

Social Enterprises and Economic Development II: Hong Kong & Shenzhen | Junyi Liu

What is economic development in the case of China, the largest developing country that astonishes the world by the highest average growth rate in the past four decades? Entering the new era of the development, have Chinese firms started or continued to take corporate social responsibility seriously in making their management decisions? To explore those two questions, we visited nine firms and three universities in Shenzhen (SZ), Hong Kong (HK), and Macau (MU), China over eight days in January 2019. The tour of Hengli Digital Inc. in SZ, a city that is nicknamed “silicon valley of China,” presented us the whole process of producing a cable box from naked motherboard to a completed cable box that is packaged and ready to be shipped to the customers in Europe. Experiencing three other firms in SZ (office supplies, garment, and product testing lab) in the same fashion, we have a better understanding of the term “Made in China” as it has become alive to us.

Green Monday, a vegetarian restaurant chain store in HK which strives to promote a healthy diet, shared with us their mission impossible as polls show most HK people are meat-lovers, and yet they managed to survive and thrive. Meyer Corporation, the second-largest cookware maker in the world, sent out three teams coming from various of departments to showcase their company head to toe, for which we are grateful and became knowledgeable in the field of cookware. Lok Kwan social service center in HK witnessed the fun time our students had with the staff and underprivileged children they served through games initiated by our own talented and caring SUA students. Fair employment agency, a representative of social enterprise in HK that serves foreign domestic workers, surprised us by a new and effective business model that has reshaped the very industry. 

Last but not least, Lingnan University (the only liberal arts university in HK), Hang Seng University (the second largest private university in HK), and University of Macau (the largest public university in MU) hosted us with high hospitality by setting up meetings with their service-learning center staff, students, and even government officials. We are in the process of establishing some formal or informal relationships with some or even all of those universities thanks to the trip.

The Politics of Asylum in Miami | Sarah England

In January 2019 the Learning Cluster “Asylum in Miami” traveled to Miami to meet with professors from Florida International University, reporters from the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, as well as immigrant advocacy groups to learn about the history and current situation of Latin American asylum seekers arriving in Miami. We learned that the history of Latin American immigration and asylum began in the 1960s when Cubans began to flee the Castro regime, continued with Haitians arriving in the 1970s and 1980s fleeing the Duvalier regime, and later Nicaraguans seeking asylum after the success of the Sandinista revolution. Today there are also many people from Honduras and El Salvador, Colombia, and most recently Venezuelans leaving their countries to escape from terrible economic and political turmoil. While this influx of Latin Americans has made Miami one of the most Latino cities in the US (at about 70% of the population of Miami), we also learned that they are very divided politically and socially. In part this has to do with the types of regimes they were fleeing (communist vs. US-backed military dictatorships), the social classes they were coming from (elites vs. the very poor), and their racial identities (those who identify as white vs. black or Afro-Latino). It is also related to the evolution of asylum law in the US which has gone from being relatively open to very closed which is having an extremely detrimental effect on more recent arrivals from Central America and even some of the older immigrant groups who are ending up in detention and deportation proceedings. We learned a great deal about the situation of Venezuelans who are the largest group applying for asylum right now but it is unclear whether they will be successful given the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee climate of the current administration. In all, we were able to visit many of the ethnic neighborhoods, speak with immigrants and activists about their experiences, and try many wonderful cuisines.

Contributed by Learning Cluster faculty 2019.