In an effort to more fully connect with students, Dr. Jeffrey McCully, Moraine Valley Community College associate professor of sociology, traveled to Palestine this summer.

In 2019, McCully learned about a faculty development seminar in Palestine on social media. Having many students, and some with family from the sovereign state in Western Asia, McCully decided to look into it and ultimately applied.

“I have had many Palestinian students, so I wouldn’t have seen this kind of opportunity if I wasn’t exposed to them,” McCully explained.

The seminar encourages professors from minority-serving institutions and/or community colleges to apply to the program. Each year, 10 to 13 U.S. faculty learn about the region and build connections with Palestinian institutions and colleagues. McCully was originally scheduled to travel there in summer 2020, but was deferred several times due to the pandemic. Moraine Valley was one of two community colleges represented in this cohort.

Jeffrey in Palestine in Haram al-Sharif with Dome of the Rock in background

Moraine Valley Community College associate professor of sociology, Dr. Jeffrey McCully, traveled to Palestine for a faculty development seminar.

McCully departed the U.S. on May 17 for the two-week experience. The team of educators visited several universities, including Bethlehem, Hebron and Birzeit; cultural institutions such as the Centre for Architectural Conservation and Yabous Cultural Center; Yasser Arafat Museum, Bethlehem Walled Off Hotel Museum and Wall, and Abu Jihad Prisoner’s Museum at Al-Quds University; and major religious sites such as the old city of Nazareth, Western Wall in Jerusalem, Mount of Temptation in Jericho and Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

“It was tremendous the places we went to and access we had. One was Riwaq in Ramallah that was an organization to preserve Palestinian architecture. That was a great organization,” McCully said.

The group also met with artists. Partaking several years in the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, McCully was excited to meet a filmmaker whose work was displayed in the event. They also sat in on a film and radio class at Birzeit University. Although McCully couldn’t understand the Arabic being spoken, the instructor told them the gist of class. “Seeing her teach was amazing. Everyone sat in a circle, which was wonderful. I really enjoyed that,” McCully recalled.

Though the tourism, art and culture were amazing, McCully couldn’t just sail through Palestine. The group had to go through checkpoints and saw a number of armed soldiers. Collectively, it gave McCully plenty to bring back to the classroom.

“The whole point of going was to connect with our students better. I even have a student now in Palestine,” McCully added.

In class, McCully uses examples of concepts and will add new ones from this experience. They also want to create an Introduction to Anthropology class that will draw on some rich history from Palestine and from McCully’s sabbatical to Mexico a couple of years ago.


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