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ND class to take overseas excursion

Liz O'Donnell | Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Occasionally, a course at Notre Dame will involve a field trip. Sometimes, it’s to a local destination. But in a few cases, students find themselves thousands of miles from campus with their professor and classmates.

During fall break, a University art class will be traveling to London and Ditchling, England to enhance their knowledge of the art of Eric Gill and the Guild of Saint Joseph and Saint Dominic.

Professor John Sherman will take the three students in his class to multiple sites in England in hopes of bringing to life their wisdom on the life and works of Eric Gill and the Guild.

In a proposal to Learning Beyond the Classroom, a source of funding available at the University, Sherman stated that the class’s purpose for the trip is to “produce a monograph on a topic they will determine together based on the life and work of members of the Guild of Saints Joseph and Dominic.”

To accomplish this task, students will also be using The Eric Gill Collection held in the Special Collections in the Hesburgh Libraries.

“The reason for the trip is to make connections in England with items in the collection [we have] here, to bring it to life,” he said.

The Guild of Saints Joseph and Dominic were a group of Catholic artists who worked, lived, and socialized together.

“Members of the guild did stone carvings, wood engravings, and weaving and were also involved in politics and religion,” Sherman said.

In addition to the class’s visit to London, they will also visit Ditchling, which is a small village fifty miles south of London.

The Ditchling Museum, located in the village, has an extensive collection of Eric Gill work as well as pieces from other members of the Guild. Gill resided in the village for a part of his career.

Sherman said by taking students abroad he is able to enrich students’ knowledge better than by only restricting their learning to a classroom.

“This is a way for me to share with students area of research that a lot of times doesn’t happen easily in a regular class,” he said.

Last Spring, Sherman took a different group of students to the country to study the same topic, labeling their journey as a “research adventure.”

Graphic design major, Micahlyn Allen, who will be going to London this fall, was also on the trip that took place last spring.

“We were able to use the printing press, while there,” she said. “Having first hand experience really connects you to everything you’re learning about and meeting people that you read about was just a really neat experience.”

She said the prior trip centered around the village of Ditchling, whereas this trip will primarily focus on research in London.

In addition to visiting sites and museums, the class will also speak with a relative of Eric Gill’s apprentice, Allen said.

Senior political science major Juliana Hoffelder said she chose to participate in the class because it was a great opportunity.

“It will be exciting to be in the same place as the person that we’re studying,” she said. “Especially because it’s design class, we are image-oriented people and it will be good to see things in person.”

Although Sherman believes it will be financially difficult to make another trip, he said the trip will be a chance for the students to learn about a different lifestyle.

“We live in day in age where we compartmentalize different aspects of our lives, where we have work, family and religion,” he said.

Sherman said he believes the Guild shows that communities similar to Notre Dame can exist in places outside the boundaries of this campus.

“Can the way we exist here in campus exist somewhere else?” he said. “It can, because that’s how they worked.”