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Students to study abroad over spring break
While many Syracuse University students will be hitting the beaches during spring break, March 10 to 17, some students will travel to Florence, Italy, to become more deeply acquainted with Leonardo da Vinci. Other students will travel to Berlin to study the Weimar Republic. And more students will travel to England to study Renaissance London.
Nearly 50 students will take part in a study abroad experience in the spring break programs offered through the Division of International Programs Abroad (DIPA) in cooperation with The College of Arts and Sciences, the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) and the Honors Program.
The programs are a twist on the traditional study abroad model, in which students spend a summer, a semester or a year abroad. In this model, the actual trip abroad takes place during the 10 days of spring break. But the study abroad experience doesn’t begin or end there-it is integrated into a spring semester course. In the weeks before the trip, classes are geared toward preparing students for what they will experience through lectures, readings and conversations. The weeks after the trip offer students the opportunity to put everything they have learned and experienced into context with the help of their classmates. Students receive four credits for the course-three credits for the coursework done in Syracuse and one credit for the trip abroad.
This year’s three spring break programs are:
- o “Leonardo da Vinci: Artist and Engineer,” an interdisciplinary course team taught by Gary Radke, professor of fine arts in The College of Arts and Sciences, and Samuel Clemence, professor of civil and environmental engineering in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science and a Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence. The course brings together two of Leonardo’s interests-art and engineering-and explores the ways that Leonardo’s interests and talents intertwined. Students will travel to Florence, Milan and Paris, and will view the Last Supper, Mona Lisa and models of some of Leonardo’s famous inventions.
- “Literature and Culture of the Weimar Republic and Berlin,” taught by Gerd K. Schneider, professor of German in The College of Arts and Sciences. The course teaches about Germany’s Weimar Republic, and past and present Berlin. Students will travel to Berlin and visit the New Jewish Museum and the Pergamon Museum, go on a walking tour through a multicultural district, and visit Weimar and Buchenwald.
- “Renaissance London,” taught by Chris Kyle, associate professor of humanities in The College of Arts and Sciences. In the course, which is limited to participants in the Honors Program, students will study Renaissance London in the context of literature, art, architecture, social and political history. The students will be based in London, and will visit the National Gallery, Hampton Court, Oxford University and the Globe Theatre, among other places.
The programs also have the staunch support of their respective deans. Dean Cathryn Newton in The College of Arts and Sciences and Dean Edward Bogucz of the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science have each provided special funding for the Leonardo course, and Dean Newton also provided special funding for the Berlin and Renaissance London courses. Additionally, the Honors Program has provided special funding for the Renaissance London course.
The opportunities offered through DIPA are consistent with a signature experience identified in the University’s Academic Plan, which calls for more internationalization of curricula and strives for a time when each undergraduate student takes part in a study abroad experience. The “Leonardo” program is also consistent with a spire of the Academic Plan focusing on collaborative design.
DIPA’s first experience with a short-term program was in December 1996, when College of Visual and Performing Arts professors John Orentlicher and the late Michael Recht led 12 students in a trip to Chile to photograph the Patagonian peninsula. During the following semester, the students took a course that built on their trip.
In 2000, Radke developed a short-term program on Michelangelo. Radke, who studied in Florence and has returned there on a regular basis as a scholar, teacher and tourist, believed that his students’ most profound experiences in studying Michelangelo would be when they actually experienced Italy. That trip was a great success in engaging students in their studies, Radke says.
“They had it in their bones,” he says.
“The class turned out to be above and beyond anything I could have expected,” says Jamie Primo, a junior majoring in information management and technology in the School of Information Studies and in art history in The College of Arts and Sciences.
“Actually getting to travel and see Michelangelo’s works in Florence and Rome was a rare experience. We were able to walk in his footsteps and retrace his life.”
Jon Booth, DIPA’s deputy director, says the short-term programs are appealing on many levels. The programs enable students who can’t get abroad for a semester or a year because of curricular reasons to have a study abroad experience. The short-term programs are affordable, says Booth, as the tuition is folded into the semester. Additionally, some of the special funding provided by the deans goes to students in the form of merit and need-based scholarships. The programs are academically sound, Booth says, as they are in a learning context. But faculty members also keep in mind that it is spring break, and build in free time and fun activities as well.
Radke has teamed with Clemence for this year’s program, and they have been busy preparing students for what they will experience on the trip abroad. Clemence says it will be a wonderful opportunity for his students. “They will gain an appreciation for an amazing person who was a wonderful artist and a wonderful engineer,” he says.
Primo is also enrolled in this year’s “Leonardo” course.
“The current course has been just as amazing, but instead of one great professor, we have two,” says Primo. “It’s really cool to get an engineer’s perspective, as well as the art perspective on Leonardo. It’s great combining the two views, and we are all learning from one another.”
Kyle developed the “Renaissance London” course out of his own research into London and Westminster in the 16th and 17th centuries. Renaissance London was a dynamic city in which fashions, recreation and social activities came and went rapidly, Kyle says. Coupled with an explosion in population and building, London became one of the top five cities in Europe. His students will not only study the past, but will see the city as it is today. “The contrast may look great, but similarities in city status, surviving buildings and geographic layout provide readily accessible reference points,” he says.
Schneider became interested in leading a short-term program after teaching a course that was a virtual trip to several regions in Germany. “Students then asked me if we could make this virtual trip a real experience. Since the College provided funds, this was feasible,” Schneider says. This program is designed so that the students have the choice of taking the semester-long course or not.
“Students will see for themselves what they have been reading and hearing about,” he says. “They should be well prepared to make this excursion a real meaningful experience for them, academically and personally.”
DIPA administrators are hoping that more faculty members will follow Radke’s lead in brainstorming and developing similar short-term courses, and have begun a series of working sessions for faculty to help in the development of new courses. Booth says he would especially like to see that happen with departments in which students do not typically go abroad, as a study-abroad experience is increasingly becoming an important asset for students to have.
“Many students begin college already having had an overseas experience such as travel or student exchanges,” says Lori Citti, DIPA’s assistant director for admissions and student services. “Short-term programs can, in some cases, build on those experiences. Short-term programs help move the participants’ perspective beyond that of visitor abroad to someone who can adapt to new situations and cultural contexts. It’s a very important life skill for the 21st century.”