For the past two weeks Augustana College students were on spring break. Some headed home; others hit the beach; spring athletes headed to warmer climates to get in some early season competition; the Augustana Choir and Symphonic Band toured; a group of students went to Appalachia to volunteer with Campus Ministries; another group traveled to Selma, Alabama, to learn more about the Civil Rights movement; and others studied abroad.
I took special notice of a group of students who traveled to India with two faculty members, Dr. Umme Al-Wazedi (English) and Dr. Jennifer Popple (theatre arts; women’s and gender studies). I hadn’t paid as much attention as I should have to the inaugural Augustana in India Program, which took place in 2017. But after seeing a post on Sunday night from a parent of a student who had just returned from India, I wanted to learn more. Here is a screenshot of her post:
I, too, know all about that “Wow” and the “chance of a lifetime.” I was a reluctant (at first) participant in a study-abroad experience while in college in the early-1990s and the experience completely transformed my worldview. I had an encourager on campus and parents who supported me, too.
So, I asked for the proposal for the trip to India, a portion of which I share below:
The purpose of this study abroad trip is to tie together the fields of Women’s and Gender Studies, Public Health, Literature, and Fine Arts. We have chosen India as the ideal place to combine these, as students will get the opportunity to learn about, witness, and participate in grass-roots activism by women in a way not often experienced in America.
The program will build upon course work that many of the students will have already had in Women’s and Gender Studies, English, and/or the Public Health major. Issues such as sexual violence, dowry, sexuality, environmental issues affecting lives of women, women’s rights and power in India are often just read about in classes; this program will give the students actual experience talking about these issues with people who are working on them. At the end of the program, we hope that students will feel empowered to take what they have seen and learned during the trip and what they have done in their community engagement work in the post-trip 1-credit course and incorporate these experiences into their majors and ultimate careers. Ultimately, we want to empower them to develop sustainable ideas and dynamic solutions for working with the complex issues that continue to harm women’s lives worldwide. Whether the students will be artists, writers, doctors, professors, non-profit employees, or activists, we want the trip to give them the tools and the connections to see how they can create real change in the world.
I thought this experience sounded amazing. I also thought: This is exactly what is possible at a liberal arts college that emphasizes study abroad and cross-disciplinary collaboration. This is what happens when a college has a deep commitment to undergraduate education and an interest in stretching each student’s view of the world.
I am so glad to work at a college that sees this type of experience as important to a student’s education; has a faculty that is creative in developing meaningful programs; and provides Augie Choice funding so that all students can experience such a “chance of a lifetime.”