This is the fourth installment of a series highlighting exceptional student contributions to the Global Research Institute. Stay tuned for other features throughout April: Undergraduate Research Month.
Students at the American Bosnian Collaboration Project typically have the opportunity to teach a summer camp at the University of Sarajevo, but last summer, the pandemic forced the lab to rethink its approach. With the program still unable to function at its original capacity this year, Amelia Grossman ’22—student researcher and co-teacher—weighs in on the ABC Project’s objectives.
Not traveling to Bosnia as planned, Grossman said, will allow the team to innovate with virtual approaches. Students can evaluate which methods of distance learning work effectively and apply that knowledge moving forward, even once international travel is possible again.
“Even when we go back in person, we’re going to try to have a remote delivery in our summer camps for Bosnian children,” Grossman said. “Not all children live in Sarajevo. Not all children can come to a camp every day. We want to try to make sure that we expand our offerings to people living all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and make sure we can be more accessible.”
With the guidance of the ABC Project’s Director Paula Pickering, Grossman and her peers will specifically study how different online learning tools cultivate intercultural competence—a skill that the lab instills in participants to help them communicate well across cultures.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina is one very specific example of how … when you don’t understand other cultures, it can grow into a conflict,” Grossman said. “Understanding other cultures and recognizing them for what they are and recognizing that differences can be beautiful is a great thing.”
ABC students meet virtually with Director Dr. Paula Pickering to discuss a strategy for this summer.
This work can have powerful, real-world implications and spark shifts in perspective related to peace-building and conflict resolution, Grossman said.
“I think our work can be used in a lot of different contexts,” she said. “Hopefully, someday if we keep doing our research and keep expanding it, we can use it to show that … you can recognize that just because someone’s different from you, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.”
The scholarship and results the ABC Project produces, Grossman said, relate to the Global Research Institute’s overall mission.
“I think GRI is all about connecting to other cultures and learning and making sure that we, as American researchers, do research that is relevant to the world and helps the rest of the world,” she said. “I think the ABC Project really fits in with that because we want to learn about cultures. We want to do good. We want to help. But we also want to collaborate with other partners.”
Learning from her peers—Ethan Brown ’21, who went to Bosnia in summer of 2019, Marina Pantner ’23, Megan Goyer ’21, Zenobia Goodman ’22, and Gabi Cao ’22—from Dr. Pickering, and from Bosnian partners showed Grossman the possibilities that collaboration can facilitate.
“We’re not just trying to go in and do something and hope that it sticks,” she said. “We’re working with actual partners and listening to their input.”
Despite the changes the pandemic has imposed, Grossman said the ABC Project remains committed to reframing challenges as opportunities—as demonstrated by the team’s analysis of virtual options.
“One of the good things that’s coming out of the pandemic is that things are becoming more accessible,” she said. “I’m really excited that we’re going with this move and making the best out of a bad situation and trying to figure out how we can reach more people.”
To keep up with developments at the ABC Project, follow along on Facebook @TheWilliamandMaryABCProject, Instagram @wmabcproject, and LinkedIn at American Bosnian Collaboration Project.