The Space to: Blog

The Space in the Mungo Center

BRICS Initiative lets students soar

Written By: Guest Author - Oct• 07•13
Centro do Rio de Janeiro, image by Rodrigo_Soldon via Flickr Creative Commons

Centro do Rio de Janeiro, image by Rodrigo_Soldon via Flickr Creative Commons


(Guest blog by Dr. Laura Barbas-Rhoden, Associate Professor in the Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures Department at Wofford College. Dr. Barbas-Rhoden can be reached at


My hands are shaping a magical space in the air, I’m leaning forward over the conference table, and my two colleagues are looking at me like they need to tether me to the ground. When curricular work and co-curricular life —that rich, college experience outside the classroom— come together for students, magic happens. As I speak that sentence, I’m vaguely conscious I’m incredibly energized.

Watching students soar is exhilarating. In that space where magic happens, where academic, intellectual work meets the world beyond the classroom, where real-world challenges invite collaboration and energize learning, I see students take off. That’s why I’m teaming up with The Space during the inaugural year of the BRICS Initiative. Simply put, I know it’ll create another space for students to soar.

Why am I so sure? As I leaned over that conference table, I was thinking of specific moments when I’ve seen magic happen. What’s the formula? Students (1) enter a new space where they discover a challenge, (2) draw in collaborators, partners, and mentors from all over our community to help them, and (3) direct their learning, inside the classroom and out, toward the challenge, inspired by it and by their team. Voilá! We’re soaring.

A perfect example is the “Let’s Read, Arcadia!” team from The Space to: Impact. The student friends were all in a Spanish class that sent them into the community. Another classmate threw out a civic challenge in a presentation. The Space team taught design-thinking for innovation. I flashed a picture of a mind map in class. Curricular work in Spanish converged with work in The Space, and voilá … Magic. An innovative parent-child literacy project for immigrant families. First-place in a shark-tank competition. Energized liberal arts students doing what employers want in new hires. (In case you haven’t heard, employers report they want new hires to (1) demonstrate an ability to contribute to innovation and (2) collaborate with others different from themselves to get something done.)

“Let’s Read” innovates regularly, collaborating with others and crossing lines of difference to deliver results.

Do you? Can you prove you know how?

The BRICS Initiative creates a new space for the curricular to meet the co-curricular right in the heart of the action in the global economy. In the BRICS Initiative, mentors from The Space and the faculty work together – here and on site in a BRICS nation– to guide students in acquiring skills to contribute to innovation and collaborate across lines of difference. Together, we’re working hard to help students meet the real-world challenges that await them. That’s why we’re innovating ourselves, teaming up, and creating a new space for magic to happen.

Inaugural year for the BRICS Initiative happens in summer 2014 in Brazil, right before the World Cup, when the nation is on the global stage.

We’re leaving for Brazil soon –soaring, to be precise. Are you with us?

(For more information about the BRICS Initiative, visit

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

429 North Church Street, Spartanburg, SC 29303-3663
864-597-4000 | RSS Feed | Login