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Saint Mary’s encourages academic trips off-campus

Anneliese Woolford | Friday, April 2, 2004

Through the work of various boards and departments, Saint Mary’s attracts a number of prestigious speakers and events to campus each year. Within this past year, however, the College has made significant progress in ensuring that both students and faculty gain similar exposure in settings aside from its own.According to English professor Carla Johnson, facilitating off-campus trips heightens students’ knowledge and experience outside of their everyday climate.”I believe it’s advantageous for Saint Mary’s students to visit a less homogenous atmosphere and to see what life outside our environment is like,” she said. “Professional conferences give students an idea about where they are going.”Johnson said she takes her students on trips about once a semester, usually gaining necessary funds and transportation from the English department. Department approval is perhaps the most common outlet the College provides for such opportunities; however, not all professors have the time to plan, Johnson said. She, for one, only takes students to hear speakers of national importance whose topic relates to course content.In the past, Johnson has organized trips to hear keynote speakers such as Gloria Steinem, Colin Powell and former President George Bush. She has also invited students to co-present papers with her at both national and international conferences.Most recently, Johnson took a group of students to hear Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman and publisher of the New York Times, speak at Northwestern University.”I consider my students to be part of my whole life, not just certain parts of it,” she said. “I enjoy sharing my professional conferences and events such as the Northwestern trip with them. It makes the event more meaningful to me as I learn along with them and sometimes because of them.”The Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership also funds off-campus trips. The Center enables students and faculty to broaden their range of travel by offering funding for grants. Although there is a set annual amount for CWIL’s Group Study and Travel Grants and Student Intercultural Learning Grants, there is no set number of trips since the budgets vary, said director Elaine Meyer-Lee. In addition, no distance limit exists on how far the grants will extend; however, $6,000 is typically the upper limit for funding. “The longer distance trips tend to take student financial need into consideration when distributing the funds,” Meyer-Lee said.Applicants for the Group Study and Travel Grants must be faculty or staff members directly involved with student advertisement, she said. The applications must be submitted by the first of each month for review by the CWIL Faculty Advisory Committee on International and Intercultural Learning. Individual students seeking lengthened, in-depth trips may apply for Student Intercultural Learning Grants. The next deadline is Dec. 1.”The most important criterion is that the trip forward CWIL’s mission of fostering the intercultural knowledge and competence critical to educating the next generation of women leaders,” Meyer-Lee said. “Funding decisions are also based upon the proposal’s potential for positive impact on the individuals involved, CWIL’s work and the long-term good of the College as a whole.”While Johnson recognizes the impact both CWIL and academic departments have had on facilitating off-campus trips this year, she maintains that the College should become even more proactive in their promotion. She does, however, applaud its willingness to provide such opportunities.”I have been 100 percent encouraged and supported each time I have chosen to take a student or students to an event,” she said.