Centre College students make most of experiential learning opportunity

by Matt Overing

Katia Marusich worked with Centre College connections at the Shikhin Excavation Project in Israel, summer 2023.

Pictured at top: Katia Marusich (class of 2026, far left) with Centre College connections at the Shikhin Excavation Project in Israel.


At Centre College, a world of opportunities opens as soon as you set foot on campus.

For five Centre students, with funding from the Jewish Heritage Fund, that meant recent experiences around the globe, digging into the history of Israel with Centre alumni, studying Jewish history in Austria, working to preserve Jewish culture in Russia and recording oral histories on the island of Sardinia, Italy.

Two of those students shared their experiences of transformative on-campus classes and how those led to their summers abroad.

Digging into the history of the Middle East

Katia Marusich (class of 2026) said an Introduction to Archaeology class with Grissom Professor of Anthropology Robyn Cutright sparked her interest in the field of archaeology. That set into motion a series of events that took Marusich to an archaeological dig in Israel.

Katia Marusich '26
Katia Marusich, class of 2026

“I fell in love with it, thinking about how the things we have relate to our culture, our values and how we interact with the world,” Marusich said.

Cutright pointed Marusich to the Shikhin Excavation Project (SEP), an archaeological “field school” located in the Galilee region of Israel.

For Marusich, her first archaeological dig was a four-week experience in the Nazareth area of Israel.

“We spent five days a week digging in dirt,” Marusich said. “But it was really so wonderful. I learned so much. It was just constant learning … It’s such a different thing from reading about it to going to do it.”

Marusich said working with experts in the field was an incredible experience abroad.

“Holding the objects (we discovered) gave it a much more human connection and more practical understanding of archaeology as a science and a method,” Marusich said.

From coins to pottery, oil lamps and molds for producing them, Marusich was with the team that helped uncover what they thought was part of a significant structure.

“That was really cool on many levels, because we found a lot of nothing,” Marusich said. “Then we found a perfect row of beautiful stones, nicely carved. That’s where they assumed the synagogue wall was — it was amazing to find that.”

It’s through the class with Cutright — and the grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund — that helped Marusich discover experiential learning, and potentially, a career.

“I knew I was interested in people and cultures and how we think about ourselves, about other people. But I didn’t realize that was anthropology, and when I took intro to archaeology, I realized, ‘wow, this is what I have been looking for,’” Marusich said. “I would not have been able to go on this trip, or confident enough to apply, if the (Jewish Heritage Fund) hadn’t helped me.”

Recording oral histories on Sardinia 

Senior Joey Johnson first learned about oral history projects through anthropology classes with Jeffrey Shenton, visiting assistant professor of anthropology. Shenton’s classes helped Johnson hone his skills, which he used this summer on the Italian island of Sardinia.

“My goal there was to collect oral histories for Jewish heritage non-profits who could store them for future research,” Johnson said. “It was a really cool experience to put things I gained from anthropology classes on campus to work in a real-world context.”

Johnson has spent significant time abroad while at Centre, from Bulgaria to Thailand. He said that study abroad was a major reason he chose Centre.

“I’ve been trying to jump at every chance I can,” he said. “I’m really interested in working in international education contexts — working with students who speak different languages and who come from different cultural backgrounds. I see participation in study abroad as necessary preparation for that.”

Johnson worked with Marc Démont-Devlin, visiting assistant professor of French and humanities, on finding Jewish citizens to speak with and collect oral histories,

“A big part of oral history, you’re looking for someone’s personal story, and really that means being curious in the things that they take interest in and the things they want to say,” Johnson said. “In those conversations, you have to be open to letting people lead you where they want the conversation to go.”


Students who received grant funding through the Jewish Heritage Fund

Katia Marusich, class of 2026, participated in the Shikhin Excavation Project, an archeological excavation of a synagogue and other historic Jewish sites at Shikhin in the Lower Galilee in Israel.

Joao Victor M. Azevedo, class of 2024, and Tyler Kinney, class of 2025, worked with Associate Professor of Spanish Satty Flaherty-Echeverria in Austria, learning about Jewish history and culture in the Graz international Summer School Seggau (GUSEGG).

Joey Johnson, class of 2024, worked with Visiting Assistant Professor of French and Humanities Marc Démont-Devlin in Sardinia, Italy, undertaking a research project on conceptions of Jewish identity in Sardinia as recounted through oral histories.

Uliana Bazavluk ‘23 worked with EVA St. Petersburg, a non-governmental organization that provides social assistance to the elderly population and supports the preservation and vibrancy of Jewish culture and art in Russia.

The Jewish Heritage Fund is a grantmaking organization which helps foster a strong, vibrant Jewish community. Associate Professor of Religion Shana Sippy manages the grant provided to Centre College.