Five Tusculum College professors spent time this summer in Northeast Italy as part of the Tusculum College Global Studies program.
The professors, which included Dr. Greg Church, associate professor of biology; Dr. Troy Goodale, assistant professor of political science; Dennis Lingerfelt, assistant professor of computer science, and Craig Wright, assistant professor of business administration, participated in order to pave the way for future student trips.
According to Church, the 11-day, cross-disciplined trip included dramatic landscapes, varied cultures and more than 5,000 years of history, art and architecture.
“Italy is an entirely different culture in the north and in the south,” said Church. The north is very Germanic and both German and Italian are common languages, with the exception of Venice, which is a very traditional Italian city.”
He added that the trip introduced the faculty group to a small but diverse region of Northeast Italy, including Merano, Bolzano, Arabba and Venice.
“There were abundant opportunities to learn about history from Roman times to the present, as well as the progression of art and architectural styles throughout these historical periods,” he said.
The group observed firsthand the diverse cultures currently living in this region as well. Italian language and traditions predominated in the cities of Mestre and Venice, while German language and Tyrolean culture dominate Merano and Arabba in the Alto-Adige region.
He added that the ancient Ladin culture still exists in a few isolated alpine valleys near Arabba. This culture is believed to pre-date Latin and has its own unique traditions, costumes and mythology.
It was important for the group to focus on what they wanted to bring back from their experience to share with others at the College and to utilize in possibly planning future student trips. As a group, they defined the main learning outcomes of this trip as gaining insights into the history, culture, educational systems, healthcare systems, transportation infrastructure, nature, art, and architecture of this fascinating region.
For Lingerfelt, this was his first trip out of the United States and a tremendous learning experience that he said broadened his horizons and makes him a better educator and advisor for students considering international travel.
“Before I couldn’t really advise students on these types of opportunities - I didn’t have that experience. Now I have some experience and knowledge to pass along, and I feel much more adept at discussing with students,” he said.
In addition, Lingerfelt brought back real-world experiences to share with his computer science classes.
“Language is a barrier not only in spoken word, but with keyboards,” said Lingerfelt, “There is some loss in functionality when a “c” in Italian is not equal to a “c” in English. He has already incorporated this into his classroom discussions on standardization.
He also said that down the road he could see potential for a student trip in his field of study.
“I’d love to consider a trip in the Southeast Asia area, which is the semiconductor capitol of the world,” he said, adding that he will be looking for the opportunity at some point to plan a trip and possibly coordinate the trip with an international conference to make the most of the experience.
And, while schools were out of session during his trip, he did learn a lot about how the education system in Northern Italy differs from that typically found in the United States by talking with parents in each community.
Church led the trip and has traveled internationally several times before, many times with students, and understands the value of the international experience.
“Our Board of Trustees recognized a deficiency in our international programs - students weren’t getting the international exposure here, and the Board has placed importance on developing these programs,” he said.
And despite the whirlwind nature of their trip, all felt they brought back knowledge that will help the College develop these kinds of experiences as an extension of their classroom experience.
Some of what they brought back included logistical information that would make a trip that included students run more smoothly. They reported that they would considered a longer trip with students in order to be able to take full advantage of the experience and be able to stay in each city three or more nights. The also recommend utilizing what they found to be a very good system of youth hostels to reduce travel expenses.
Church also felt that adequate preparation prior to the trip would be critical to a successful student travel experience to Northeast Italy. Learning about the culture, basic language phrases in both Italian and German and the history of places they would visit would allow a better immersive experience for the students.
“With respect to a similar trip with students, I feel it would be essential to provide more information to them long before the trip, and engage them from the start,” said Church. “Assignments based on these topics, as well as research would be important elements of pre-trip preparation. I also feel that students should meet a few times prior to the trip in order to learn from the instructor, get to know each other and give presentations on relevant topics to the rest of the group.”
The faculty trip was part of Tusculum College’s efforts to increase the number of students who have an international experience during their college career. As part of this campus wide goal, the College formed the Center for Global Studies in spring 2008, with a mission to “enhance the capacity of individuals and organizations to address local and global challenges through building relationships with communities, institutions of higher learning and organizations globally.”
For more information the Tusculum College Global Studies program, contact Dr. Geir Bergvin, director of the Center for Global Studies, at 423-636-7300.