Lehigh Valley Students Seize Spring Break Travel Opportunities
Mexico, Rome and West Virginia are 2013 destinations
With Penn State's spring break under way this week, students from the Lehigh Valley campus embarked on excursions designed to take their learning outside of the classroom and into the real world. Students traveling to Mexico and Rome are doing so as part of course-embedded short-term study abroad experiences, while another group of students heads to West Virginia to perform community service in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
As the leading exporter of agriculture to Pennsylvania, Mexico plays an important but sometimes unknown role in the state's economy. Former Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Samuel Hayes Jr., currently a member of Penn State's Board of Trustees, is not only acutely aware of this, but has also long desired to establish a partnership between Penn State and the University of Guanajuato, Mexico, to explore and share knowledge of this topic. A somewhat serendipitous meeting between Lehigh Valley campus associate professor of ESL education Mary Hutchinson and Hayes has brought this vision to reality. Combining Hayes's experience in Guanajuato and Hutchinson's experience in developing short-term embedded experiences has led to a rigorous itinerary that will immerse Penn State ecology and agriculture students in many aspects of Guanajuato's culture.
The majority of the students traveling to Mexico are currently taking BIO 297E, The Ecology and Agriculture of Guanajuato, a course that instructor of biology Karen Kackley-Dutt developed specifically for this experience. From visiting agave fields to touring a Green Giant vegetable processing plant, Penn State students will work alongside students from the Mexican university to explore significance of Guanajuato's agriculture industry and ecology. Each day they will blog about assigned topics and share pictures and video from their experience. Their blogs will be hosted at http://mexicoblog2013.wordpress.com. For more information about the trip, visit www.pslvasb.weebly.com.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, Lehigh Valley campus honors students also are using video technology to document their experiences in the ancient city of Rome, Italy. Prior to the trip, students in the International Cultures: Film and Literature course, taught by Barbara Cantalupo, associate professor of English, have been studying Robert Hughes' memoir Rome: A Cultural, Visual and Personal History as well as films by directors such as Frederico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, William Wyler, and Woody Allen, among others, who have used Rome as a backdrop for their films. During the trip, students will model their own visual memoir of Rome on one of these director's film making style and/or thematic concerns.
Meanwhile, students from the campus's Community Heroes club continue the long-standing tradition of a service-oriented Alternative Spring Break. This year they travel to rural West Virginia, where a blizzard spawned by Superstorm Sandy caused destruction to already flood-ravaged areas of the state. Students are helping to install new floors, work on roofs, paint, and provide exterior maintenance to homes still in need of repair.