An experiential, interdisciplinary, and entrepreneurial problem-based class, Michigan State University’s Snares to Wares course explores issues concerning the conservation of wildlife and preservation of human well-being in East Africa.
The course is related to the Snares to Wares initiative created by Robert Montgomery, Assistant Professor in MSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Director of the RECaP Laboratory, and Tutilo Mudumba, doctoral student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and part of the RECaP Lab. The initiative works to remove wire snares from the wild that were set to trap animals in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park. The snares are used to create toys and sculptures while generating employment and revenue for at-risk young men.
For students in the Snares to Wares course, it’s not just about fulfilling a graduation requirement or earning a good grade, they also are participating in meaningful and rewarding work.
“It is fun to work on something that has global implications and will have an effect on the world after the class is over,” said Lindsey Mutz, a sophomore Citizen Scholar and double major in English and Film Studies. “I feel like I am part of something that is bigger than just one class and one group of people.”
The Snares to Wares course is led by four faculty, including Montgomery, from different colleges and departments across MSU. The three other faculty include Sandra Logan, Director of the College of Arts & Letters’ Citizen Scholars program and Associate Professor in the Department of English; Ben Lauren, Assistant Professor of Experience Architecture in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures; and Ron Iwaszkiewicz, Instructor and Specialist in the School of Packaging.
“It is fun to work on something that has global implications and will have an effect on the world after the class is over. I feel like I am part of something that is bigger than just one class and one group of people.LINDSEY MUTZ
“The course really is about two things: putting students in a position to successfully participate in the Snares to Wares initiative, but also putting them in the position to learn how to effectively work on cross-functional teams,” Lauren said.
Logan echoed this statement, adding that, “It’s also a demonstration of what can happen when the humanities and sciences collaborate in a full partnership. This is not just about teaching students – we’re all constantly learning from each other, stretching our intellectual boundaries, and developing new ways of thinking and working collaboratively.”
Students are split up into four unique teams: content development, digital strategy, sustainability, and value chain. Led by one of the instructors, each group consists of four to five students from different disciplines with each team assigned its own specific responsibilities and tasks to complete while also collaborating closely with the other teams.
“It really helps because we all have different interests and skillsets, but we also are able to come together and work off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Grace Beltowski, a sophomore Citizen Scholar and Professional Writing major.
The content development team, led by Logan, works on creating content, including text, videos, podcasts, and photos to help promote the initiative. The digital strategy team, led by Lauren, then deploys that content to get the right kind of attention to a wide audience. The value chain team, led by Iwaszkiewicz, focuses on packaging and taking snare art from Uganda to the United States undamaged. Their work is crucial to the art itself. The sustainability team, led by Montgomery, thinks about the future and how the initiative may need to evolve. Without this group, the success of Snares to Wares would be hard to gauge and control.
“The class is completely outside of my comfort zone. We focus on a lot more than just writing and storytelling,” Beltowski said. “We work with students from packaging, marketing, and fisheries and wildlife. As a Citizen Scholar, I am able to really push myself.”
This is not just about teaching students – we’re all constantly learning from each other, stretching our intellectual boundaries, and developing new ways of thinking and working collaboratively.DR. SANDRA LOGAN
The groups work in two-week sprints, beginning with planning and ending with reflection. With constant reflection and progress, the groups figure out what worked and what didn’t work. Students are constantly adapting their skills and trying new things to complete their next sprint.
“Now I know that my passion on environmental issues and my design skills can be implemented into real-life issues and provide creative solutions to them,” said Valeria Obando, a junior Experience Architecture major. “I definitely want to apply my skills to solve and provide green alternatives to different communities.”
Snares to Wares Spring Soirée
Students are now preparing for their big event, the “Snares to Wares Spring Soirée,” to be held at the Broad Art Museum on Friday, April 20, from 7 to 9 p.m.
At the Soirée, a life-size snare art giraffe sculpture will be revealed, which was made by two Ugandan artists with assistance from Richard Tanner, a senior Studio Art major.
Looking for a collaborator to assist in the creation of this 14-foot giraffe, the Snares to Wares team approached Laura Cloud, Associate Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, who recommended Tanner, her student. Tanner immediately accepted the challenge, and with Cloud’s guidance, developed a plan for the metal skeleton of the giraffe. He then worked with the two Ugandan artists for almost three months to complete the sculpture.