The members of Georgetown’s first student-run class, Sweatshops at Home and Abroad, moved the classroom to the Dominican Republic for six days over spring break, collaborating with a range of factory and agricultural workers for some field-based learning.

Their visit to the Dominican Republic gave them the opportunity to listen to stories from the workers, who they got to know on a personal level by the end of the trip.

“There is no way you can really give of yourself or understand how you can be a part of a movement unless you know the person,” said student Corina Kwami (SFS ’10). “Learning hinges on everyone else.”

This globally aware class explores the relationships between economic and policy-oriented theories and the experiences of sweatshop workers in a globalizing world.

As a student-led class, Sweatshops at Home and Abroad uses a participatory grading system, where peers grade each other’s papers. A faculty advisor, Denise Brennan, associate professor in the sociology and anthropology department, reviews the final grades.

Students said the study of global systems was brought to life by their engagement with the workers they visited.

“Theory can only explain so much,” said Sara Wallace-Keeshen (SFS ’09) who guides the anthropology class as a teaching assistant, along with Jack Mahoney (SFS ’08).

“This course, if anything, regardless of the different sides we touch upon, makes that connection, which is hard to do,” Kwami said.

On the trip, students in the class also met with Julio Castillo and Manuel Pujol from TOS Dominica, the Hanes factory in the Dominican Republic, who are also members of the Fedotrazonas Union.

Upon returning to the Hilltop, the Georgetown Solidarity Committee hosted Castillo and Pujol in a discussion on factory conditions, with the help of a translator.

Pujol and Castillo argued for Hanes to improve the salary and work conditions of its workers at the TOS factory. Through his interpreter, Pujol said he believes Hanes will change its policies toward its workers because it is scared of students and universities.

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