Redefining Summer Vacation

Fall 2008

Redefining Summer Vacation: the Global Classroom

By Shannon E. Brewer ’03

Offering Saint Mary’s students opportunities to learn outside of the classroom is part of the College’s mission to “prepare students to make a difference in the world.” From summer study abroad and volunteer programs to internships, this summer students took learning outside the classroom and the academic year. An abundance of Saint Mary’s programs encourage students to explore and experience their passions during this seasonal downtime. Some choose an experience on campus, and some go as far as China.

Students traveled to Kalamazoo, Mich., to see Archbishop Desmond Tutu and met workers’ rights activist Dolores Huerta (left to right): Adriana Rodriguez ’10, Bonnie Bazata, Wenwen Bai ’10, Christina Werner ’09, Dolores Huerta, Denise Lopez ’11, Monica Velarde ’09, Christine Dits ’11, and Adriana Lopez ’08.

According to art professor Marcia Rickard, who led the China Summer Study Program this year, experiences outside the classroom serve to enhance classroom learning. “Experiencing the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of a place makes the abstraction of learning from books or images projected in the classroom come alive.”

Far and Wide

Saint Mary’s summer study abroad programs allow students to experience another culture firsthand. Combining for-credit courses with travel, the summer programs offer the students the best of academics and hands-on learning. The China Summer Study Program lies at the intersection of East and West. Four students—Caitlin Cunningham ’10, Taylor Flaherty ’10, Nicole Krou ’11, and Alexandra Meckes ’09—accompanied by Rickard, embarked on a journey that took them from the Yellow Mountain trails to the Great Wall of China. The group traveled to China during what media headlines have called one of the most significant times in the country’s history.

The China program is a partnership between Saint Mary’s, Creighton University, and the Soong Ching Ling Foundation of China. The Soong Ching Ling Foundation hosted students and faculty from both institutions throughout their experiences this summer. One goal between the two was to bring medical supplies to a village outside of Datong, where trained caregivers tended to orphaned children with special needs.

“The optimism of the people,” is what struck Rickard as she led her small group of students through China right after a major earthquake and right before the Olympics. “[Another feature that] distinguishes this trip from the usual tourist trip,” explains Rickard, “is that we met with college students there.” Rickard’s four students, who signed up for the trip and one of the corresponding courses, “Introduction to Chinese Art,” or “Introduction to Chinese Philosophy,” exchanged e-mails with Chinese students at various colleges. The trip was a chance to meet their peers and to see how they live

These interactions, along with the sites and sounds of China, gave students a comprehensive introduction to Chinese culture. “[The trip] allowed me to actually experience what we were learning,” says Flaherty. “My two favorite parts of the trip were the Great Wall and The Forbidden City. At both of these sites you were able to feel the history. It was so much more enriching than just visiting a museum.”

Close to Home

OSCE Summer Service Project participants (bottom row, left to right): Grace Fey ‘09, Sarah Gunn ’10; (middle row) Christina Werner ’09, Nina Philippsen ’09, Arlene Forney ’09; (top row) Blaine Nolan ’10, Anastasia Wilson ’10, Katie Putz ’09, and Deanna Molosky ’09. Not pictured: Jessica Sobczyk ’09.

A group of ten Saint Mary’s students participated in a volunteer program that makes a difference in the lives of many South Bend residents. From teaching kids about peaceful conflict resolution to counseling women facing unexpected pregnancies, these students had big jobs on their hands. The Office of Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) sponsors the Summer Service Project each year. The project places Saint Mary’s students at organizations within the community where they help plan programming and assist clients. Participating students lived in community in Regina Hall, then went their separate ways each morning, to help out at a variety of local organizations.

OCSE’s director Carrie Call hopes they will use their experiences to connect classroom learning with real-life situations. “We hope students gain a deeper awareness of the social issues facing this community and begin to see the human face of the various problems with which we struggle—homelessness, poverty, domestic violence, etc.,” says Call.

Also on campus this summer were five students who worked as Leadership Interns. They conducted research, planned community programs, and honed their leadership skills through the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL). Sophomore Christine Dits worked with her fellow interns to organize the summer Leadership Lunches, among other projects. The goal for the Lunches is to bring in women leaders, including Saint Mary’s alumnae, who talk with students about how they rose to the top in their chosen fields. The list includes entrepreneurs, international scholars, and women with a variety of professional backgrounds. “In addition to the new insights and understanding of leadership, these conversations also open the door to internships and volunteer opportunities for students in the community,” says Dits

The social work major also coordinated a short road trip to hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak about “the power of compassion in our world” at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich. At the event, the five students who went had a surprise meeting with another of their heroes: worker rights advocate Dolores Huerta. “So we got to spend time with two international social justice luminaries,” says Bonnie Bazata, associate director for CWIL.

On the Ground

“Government affects every single person on a daily basis, and I find that fascinating.” Senior Molly Lamping learned about government firsthand this summer. She was an intern with the Public Information Office for the Mayor and the City of Fort Wayne, where some of her tasks included writing press releases and representing the mayor’s office at public events. Lamping’s internship was one of many offered through the Saint Mary’s INC@SMC program each summer, headed by the Career Crossings Office (CCO).

The INC@SMC program is funded by Summer Experiential Learning (SEL) Grants, which make it possible for Saint Mary’s students to take an unpaid internship in Indiana. “The impact that these grants have had on the professional development of our students has been phenomenal in terms of providing them with hands-on experience that allows them to be marketable to employers upon graduation,” says Stacie Jeffirs, director of the CCO. “Simply put, without these grants these internship experiences would not have been possible!” For a political science major like Lamping, that real world experience will eventually help her launch her post-college career. “Saint Mary’s has challenged me and helped me grow in and out of the classroom,” she says. “I plan on attending law school after I graduate, and pursuing a career as an attorney.”