Around the world in 21 days: CentreTerm courses abroad
January 12, 2012 By Laura Coleman Pritchard
the globe in a variety of courses. Above, students studying in
Greece with a CentreTerm course on Drama and Mathematics
in Ancient Greece spell out the name of their alma mater while
visiting an ancient theater in Epidarus.
Meanwhile, another group of Centre students is taking a course
on the Physical Science of Volcanoes in New Zealand, where
they have the opportunity to study glaciers (above) and
volcanoes up close.
CentreTerm, Centre College’s winter term, offers students a chance to enroll in creative courses — both on campus and across the world. This year, in the month of January alone, Centre students have the opportunity to study in China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Austria, Greece, New Zealand, Peru or Spain — all on trips led by Centre professors.
And as if the prospect of getting off campus in the winter is not attractive enough, imagine the endless possibilities for hands-on or on-site study.
In the Physical Science of Volcanoes course, led by Conrad Shiba, associate professor of chemistry, and Joe Workman, professor of chemistry, students study volcanoes on-site in New Zealand.
New Zealand, Shiba says, offers an ideal setting for this course because it is “the only place other than the Cascades that has so many different types of volcanoes in close proximity.”
“The entire class is conducted outdoors, with a lot of hiking,” says Shiba. “So we can give lectures on a certain type of volcanic feature while we are actually looking at it.”
But on-site exploration doesn’t end with the sciences. In Pyramids and Politics: Exploring Peru’s Prehispanic Past with Robyn Cutright, assistant professor of anthropology, students will seek to answer a central question in archaeology: how and when did states first emerge?
“We’ll be visiting archaeological sites on the northern coast and in the highlands of Peru, including Machu Picchu, to see what we can learn about how these societies were governed, who had political power and how they held onto it, and what led to the emergence — and collapse — of these societies,” says Cutright, who frequents the country for research. “Since writing was never developed by ancient Andean societies, we’ll have to look at their architecture and art, and read about archaeological excavations in order to answer these questions.”
Cutright says for most of her students, this will be their first experience studying abroad. With this trip, they will join the 85 percent of Centre students to participate in international study.
According to Matthew Hallock, professor of dramatic arts, and Alex McAllister, associate professor of mathematics, the idea to create a course called Drama and Mathematics in Ancient Greece emerged from an unexpected source.
“The inspiration for this course was our frequent weight-lifting and cardio workouts in Sutcliffe,” the teaching duo writes from Greece. “We were having a great time working out and sharing ideas from our respective fields.”
Through their discussions, McAllister, a self-described math nerd, and Hallock, a self-described drama nerd, found that both fields have central ideas attributed to the ancient Greeks. So, they write, “the idea of going back to the source was mutually appealing.”
“The course is roughly one-third Greek history and culture, roughly one-third drama and roughly one-third mathematics — although there is some nice interplay among the ideas,” they write. “A student working with Aristotle’s ideas is having her fellow students write haiku, a student working with theatre design is planning to address how geometry impacts acoustics, and another student developing the ideas of the Pythagorean Theorem is having fellow students create a piece of art illustrating a geometric proof of this argument.”
The diverse academic interests of the 28 students on the trip, McAllister and Hallock say, will positively affect the course.
“In some sense,” they write, “we are living the best possible liberal arts experience.”
For students focusing on education or Spanish, Sarah Murray, assistant professor of education, offers Costa Rica: Language Immersion and Rural Education. During the course, education students will pair with Spanish-speaking students to teach basic math and English in a Costa Rican elementary school. Murray credits Genny Ballard, associate professor of Spanish, for her role in developing the course.
Teaching in a different culture has multiple benefits, Murray says.
“I think future educators will gain a more global perspective on education. Here they are in the minority. It allows them to be more empathetic toward students they might have in class from other cultures or backgrounds,” she says.
In Introduction to the Cultural History of Central Europe, Ian Wilson, assistant professor of German and humanities, is leading a group of 15 students through Vienna, Budapest and Prague to explore how history and contemporary culture converge.
“These three cities are united because all three were crucial during the riegn of the Habsburg dynasty in Austria,” Wilson says. “Through explorations of the cities and their architecture, visits to palaces, castles, churches, synagogues and museums, we are looking for ways the three cities tell their own stories and remain vibrant spaces where culture continues to be produced while maintaining connections to the past.”
Students in The Art of Pilgrimage, led by David Hall, NEH associate professor of religion and philosophy, and Lee Jefferson, visiting assistant professor of religion, will perform the actions of a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
During the term, the class will walk the last 90 miles of the Camino. According to course information, students will follow signs through forests, farmland, medieval villages and hamlets where they are no longer tourists, but pilgrims on a spiritual journey. Through this journey, students will gain a deeper knowledge of the role of ritual practice in religion, as well as an understanding of the continued significance of physical ritual in the contemporary world.
In Anthropology of Tourism with Phyllis Passariello, W. George Matton Professor of Anthropology, 21 students will discover how indigenous people participate in a variety of emergent “exotic tourisms” ranging from “ecotourism” to “spiritual journeys.”
Throughout the course, the class will discuss the anthropological issues of cultural and bio-diversities and cultural survival. They will also participate in field study in native-run tourist venues, including an Andean animal preserve and volcano park, a remote mountain village famous for the longevity of its people, a cloud forest bird sanctuary and a hot springs pilgrimage site. They will also visit a tropical Amazon jungle eco-lodge.
In Contemporary Chinese Culture, Kyle Anderson, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow, is leading students through Beijing to focus on the dynamism of life in China.
“We’ve divided our days up into different aspects of modern Beijing culture,” says Anderson. “So far, we’ve spent three days visiting the ancient historical sites of the city, seeing the Forbidden Palace, visiting temples along the imperial North-South axis of the city and hiking the Great Wall. Tomorrow we train with a renowned kung fu master and then begin our units on contemporary art and sport. Our final days will be spent engaging in red tourism, touring key historical sites associated with the mythology of Mao and the Communist party.”
Anderson says that most students in the class are new to studying about China, but they're getting more accustomed to their travels through the populous city of Beijing.
“Most of the students on the trip have not had any exposure to China before,” he says. “They’re adjusting extremely well to the chaos of living in such a massive city of 15+ million and the difficulties of the language.”
And in the spirit of the liberal arts, Anderson says, this course as piqued the interest of students new to the topic.
“They’re extremely curious,” he says. “Even the non-Chinese speakers are picking up and using a lot of phrases. Some students are even thinking about taking Chinese classes when they return to Centre.”
To find out more about other opportunities for international study at Centre, click here.
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Centre College, founded in 1819 and chosen to host its second Vice Presidential Debate in 2012, is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. Centre is also ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News for its study abroad program. For more, click here.