The 2023 World History and Literature Initiative (WHaLI) titled “Border Walls: Navigating Exclusion in a Divided World” was held in-person on June 13, 2023, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The goal for WHaLI is to build teachers’ content knowledge, enhance their pedagogical practices, and acquire new resources and instructional materials that encourage students to think on a global scale. The educational design of WHaLI is co-led by Michelle Bellino, associate professor of Educational Studies, and Darin Stockdill, instructional and program design coordinator of the Center for Educational Design and Evaluation Research (CEDER), both within the School of Education. Darin and Michelle bring their joint expertise in history and citizenship education, teacher development, learning theory, and comparative analysis into WHaLI resources and experiences. Amy Perkins, a historian and world history teacher from Lakeshore High School, was the teacher liaison, supporting the development of materials and communication.

Through the lens of area studies, 17 teachers spent the day building regional knowledge from area studies experts who presented four regional case studies on border walls and related issues. The teachers also participated in small groups to discuss strategies to approach the topic in their classrooms and ways to use the resources provided by the WHaLI design team. This year’s WhaLI also included a pre-workshop module on canvas with an asynchronous component that focused on the historical and political context of border walls led by Michelle Bellino. While the event was targeted for middle school and high school teachers of world history, social studies, and English language arts in SE Michigan, this year’s attendees also included teachers from Northern Michigan, Illinois, and Puerto Rico due to a partnership between U-M’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the University of Puerto Rico. 

All participating educators reported high satisfaction with the symposium’s modules and educational resources. Unanimously, they found the content very useful for understanding border walls, and said they would return to the workshop materials in the future. “One of the best PD I have ever attended. I wish more people knew about it and it was longer,” reported one teacher. Another wrote, “I found almost everything about this workshop to be relevant to what I teach. It will enrich my course so much.”

WHaLI 2023 was sponsored by U-M’s International Institute, Marsal Family School of Education, and the Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research (CEDER). The Center for Armenian Studies and five Title VI National Resource Centers were represented, including the Center for Latin America and the Caribbean Studies, the East Asia National Resource Center, the Center for South Asian Studies, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies. It was funded in part by Title VI NRC grants from the U.S. Department of Education.