Eight students from the Ashland University Honors Program who participated in the Honors Grecian and Turkish Odyssey that took place this summer pose for a photo in front of the Phillippeion in Olympia, Greece. Dr. Chris Swanson and the students (l-r) – Naomi Eberly, Samantha Diemer, Alexandra Higgins, Amanda Mayes, Jennifer Dodd, Erika Gallion, Stephanie Stoops and Janice Richards – took the 11-day journey to Greece and Turkey as part of the Honors Program bi-annual trip.
Dr. Chris Swanson, associate professor of mathematics and director of the Honors Program, said the trip fits the mission of the Ashland University Honors Program, which is to offer academically talented undergraduate students cross-disciplinary experiences, participation in an intellectual community devoted to discussion and dialogue, and special projects and courses that challenge the mind.
“I believe the Honors study abroad trips tied to the Honors Interdisciplinary Seminar course help us meet each part of the mission. The course is cross-disciplinary by nature, with faculty members from four different disciplines teaching topics of the course,” Swanson said. “The trip helps develop camaraderie among the students that helps promote the intellectual community devoted to discussion and dialogue.”
Students also were required to complete several projects related to Greece and Turkey as part of the trip. “More generally, I believe that students receive a great benefit by experiencing other cultures, ideally breaking down some of the preconceived notions they may have had about these cultures,” he said.
In addition, Swanson said he wants to leave the students with a sense of awe - awe in the realization that they walked on the same ground that Socrates and Plato once did; awe in encountering archaeological sites of civilizations that existed as early as the 13th century BC, almost 3000 years before the United States was a country; and awe in visiting elaborately decorated structures like the Hagia Sophia.
“I hope the trip will help to enhance the students’ future academic and non-academic lives, so that when they encounter people, books or films tied to Greece or Turkey, they can think back to their trip and develop more accurate imagery,” he said.
Swanson added that he also hopes that students gain an appreciation of other cultures and recognize that it is difficult to completely understand other cultures by simply reading about them in books, periodicals and newspapers.
There is an Honors Study Abroad trip tied to the Honors Interdisciplinary course every other spring semester (spring of odd years). The previous trip was the Honors Capitals of Europe trip during which students visited London, Paris, Prague and Berlin. “I am currently investigating the possible sites for our trip in 2015,” Swanson said.
Swanson maintained a journal during the trip, and this journal and photos taken during the trip can be seen on the Honors Program blog at:
Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2013, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###