Global Engagement Portal

Connect with people around the world through music, conversation, art, food, and more.
October 1 - November 15, 2019

The Global Engagement Portal is back at BC this fall for the third year. In addition to hosting several hundred students from more than a dozen BC acdemic courses, the portal will also host student groups, shared meals, cultural exchanges, sessions for the Guestbook Project, and much more. This year there are new portals  to connect with in Bolivia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Puerto Rico, Yemen, Qatar, and elsewhere; and we'll host a major event on Environmental (in)Justice on Wednesday Nov 13 for International Education Week.

It's not too late to participate! Drop in for conversation with one of the sites below during our "open hours" or email Julia Bloechl to see if your class or group can reserve the portal for a private connection.

Wed Oct. 2        9-11am            Herat, Afghanistan
Fri Oct. 4           9-11am            Lagos, Nigeria
Thu Oct. 10       2-4pm              Mexico City, Mexico
Fri Oct. 11         1-3pm              Kigali, Rwanda
Wed Oct. 16      2-4pm              San Juan, Puerto Rico
Thu Oct. 17      10am-12pm       Gaza City, Palestine
Mon Oct. 21       9-11am            Nakivale, Uganda
Thu Oct. 24       1-3pm              Kigali, Rwanda
Fri Oct. 25        1 1am-1pm          Berlin, Germany
Thu Oct. 31       9-11am               Nakivale, Uganda
Fri Nov. 1          10am-12pm         Nairobi, Kenya
Mon Nov. 4         2-4pm                San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Thu Nov. 7         1-3pm                La Paz, Bolivia
Tue Nov. 12      11am-1pm            Erbil, Iraq
Fri Nov. 15        11am-1pm            Ede/Wageningen, Netherlands

What is a Portal?

A Portal is an immersive, high-definition internet video connection that joins two small rooms across the world to provide a sense of spatial continuity, allowing participants to engage with one another naturally, at real-life size, making eye contact. Portals were created by Shared Studios, a Brooklyn-based company founded by artist Amar Bakshi and journalist Michelle Moghtader. Portals have been used for educational, cultural and artistic exchanges and performances, business conferences, government hearings, shared meals, random encounters, and much more. The Global Engagement Portal at BC will be housed in a customized shipping container with heat and air-conditioning, sound-proofed walls, and space for 6-10 people.

Where do they connect?

We can use the BC Global Engagement Portal to connect with about twenty active portals in Africa, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. These Portals are administered by a diverse group of universities, social service organizations, refugee camps, arts collaboratives, and other spaces; learn more about some of the Portal locations and sponsors. (Note: BC Portal connections may differ than those listed on Shared_Studios site.)

The following sites will be active at the BC Global Engagement Portal this fall

How can I participate?

Faculty and student groups are invited to fill out a brief form that describes the size and nature of your class/group and what you would like to discuss during one-hour sessions in the Portal. Think about how many one-hour sessions you'd need for your class or group to experience the portal, given its size (up to 10 people per session, but 6-8 is optimal). Be mindful of the relevant time zones as well as the social dynamics that might prevent some people on either side of a Portal from joining at a certain time.  We will work closely with you and Shared Studios over the summer to hone and fulfill your requests. After the engagement has ended, we will host a finale event on campus for participants to discuss the Portal and its implications for teaching, research, solidarity and global citizenship.

Update September 2019: Most sessions have been filled but there are still a few available slots in late October and November! Contact Julia Bloechl to schedule something for your group or class!

How can I use the Portal for my class or group?

The Portal provides an unmatched opportunity for intimate dialogue with a location on the other side of the world. Such an interaction can enhance students’ engagement with course material, forging connections between learning and real-world implications. For student groups, issues of interest can be discussed in a global context, culture shared, and language skills practiced.

During previous years’ Portal engagements, courses met in small groups inside the Portal to speak with students and experts everywhere. A group of freshmen spoke to university students in Herat, Afghanistan and discussed the meanings, successes, and failures of democracies. Poets from the Gaza Poet’s Society in Palestine shared their art and realities of daily life. Members of the Boston College soccer team led a practice with soccer players in a refugee camp. EcoPledge, a student group committed to sustainability, learned about conservation efforts in Kigali, Rwanda and shared strategies with Rwandan contemporaries. Connecting with Nairobi, Kenya, political science students grappled with similarities and differences in how development is defined––and enacted––around the world. The Arab Students’ Association met with internally displaced persons in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, exchanging shared interests, language disparities, and political opinions.

Shared Meals allows connection over a lunch or dinner table––in the Portal, one gets the sense that all participants are in the same room rather than separated by great distances. Whether you are interested in sharing your regional cuisine with others or trying your hand at the food of those you connect with, a meal is an opportunity for conversation outside of the class or student group setting. Most will take place during lunch time, given time zone constraints.

The opportunities for exchange range from issues of gender, environmental protection, migration, political structure and turmoil, or whatever the focus of your class or group! Such reciprocal conversation allows for fruitful growth of learning outcomes, organizational mission, and general awareness of oneself as a global citizen.

Use the Portal for your classes or student groups.

student walking labrynth

What experiences would enhance your goals in a course or organization this fall? An exchange with women in micro-finance? Sharing or performing music with folk or hip-hop artists? Working on colloquial expressions with a native speaker? For inspiration, check out some of the ways Portals have been used at universities.

Apply Now

Stay in the loop to attend open hours, shared meals, and cultural events.

student studying with headphones at laptop

A few hours each week, the Global Engagement Portal will be open for conversations with anyone who passes by. We will post a schedule to announce these walk-in sessions. In addition, the Portal will host weekly arts/cultural events and Shared Meals, to share a dance or a dinner table with people around the world. Sign ups required for these events!

Stay informed

More information + Contact us

Where will the Global Engagement Portal be located? Outside of O'Neill Library, at the top of the Million Dollar Stairs.

Who can I contact for more information? To talk about your proposal or learn more about the project, please email Julia Bloechl (Portal coordinator and curator) or Erik Owens (Director of the International Studies Program, and sponsoring faculty member), or call Prof. Owens at 617-552-1861. See the list below of former (and current) faculty participants who can share their experiences in the Portal

Faculty participants

More than twenty BC faculty have used the Portal in their teaching, research, or other activities over the past three years. Feel free to contact them for more information or ideas.

Lynne Anderson
Sara Beckjord
Yasmin Bijani
Tom Crea
Donna Cullinan
Natana DeLong-Bas
Brian Gareau
Yonder Gillihan
Alberto Godenzi
Elizabeth Graver
Nanci Haze
Kristin Heyer

Lauren Honig
Greg Kalscheur, SJ
Brinton Lykes
Cherie McGill
Karen Miller
Elitsa Molles
Carlos Zuniga Nieto
Erik Owens
Tara Pisani-Gareau
Eve Spangler
Jesse Tumblin
Mara Willard

Coverage of previous engagements

In November 2017 fall more than 130 Boston College students, faculty and staff met face-to-face with refugees and refugee advocates in Erbil, Amman and Berlin via video link, as part of the week-long Refugee Portal Project.

In fall 2018, the Global Engagement Portal ran for six weeks and connected with over a dozen sites. More than 250 people participated across academic departments, student groups, and Boston College administration. Learn more about last year's Portal run.