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Travel supplements in-class learning

Kate McClelland | Monday, December 3, 2007

First it was a day trip to Chicago to see a play. Now, multiple Notre Dame classes are spending a week touring Europe.

Two prominent classes with a travel component this year are Ian Kuijt’s Archaeology in Ireland class and Father Kevin Spicer’s Holocaust class.

During fall break, students in Kuijt’s class explored archaeological digs throughout Ireland to see firsthand what they had been studying in the classroom.

“It was amazing; I would recommend it highly,” said Jillian Brems, one of 12 students who participated in the class this semester. “We could have stayed the rest of the semester, and I wouldn’t have minded.”

Kuijt’s class is offered every other fall semester to students studying anthropology or Irish Studies and is fully funded – including air travel, lodging and food – by a private donor. Students spent considerable time before the trip studying papers about assigned sites, and when they arrived they gave the other students a tour of their site.

Brems said the experience’s benefits were not confined to the academic side.

“It was an opportunity to get to know the professor and other students in a different context,” she said.

Spicer’s Holocaust class will travel to Europe during spring break. Students will examine the Holocaust from a chronological perspective in classand visit the sites where critical events occurred – including the cities of Warsaw, Krakow, Prague and Berlin – as well as several of the Nazi death camps.

The class was open to applications from all Arts and Letters majors, with some preference given to history majors.

“Funding was the biggest question going into this project,” Spicer said.

The History Department, the Nanovic Institute and the Learning Beyond the Classroom program have funded the program. Students will be able to write research proposals and seek additional funding individually.

But these classes are not the only options available to students who want to incorporate travel into their curriculum. Learning Beyond the Classroom has helped fund travel within the U.S. and abroad for several classes.

“It is in the interests of the college to promote faculty and student interactions outside of class, and it is well worth the investment we’re making into these excursions,” said Dean Stuart Greene, who supervises the program.

There have been film, television and theatre classes that have traveled to see Broadway shows and to conduct research on the art of costuming in London. Music classes have traveled across Europe to study different types of organs, and advanced French literature classes have journeyed to France.

The program attempts to distribute resources to promote new opportunities for students, while also donating to classes that have been successful in the past. It will fund up to 75 percent of the cost of a class, but the precise ratio depends on how well the travel portion is incorporated into the regular curriculum thereafter.

“We have been very fortunate with endowments but it’s still fairly limited,” Greene said. “Expansion depends on renewed funding.”

Greene said travel outside of the classroom “makes the subject come alive for students” and that he often receives letters from students that describe their travels as having made a serious impact on their life.