TRIP Courses Contextualize Education

TRIP Courses Contextualize Education

What would you give to travel to the setting of your favorite novel? Or to explore the home of the author herself? At no personal cost to students, this spring break the senior seminar class “Jane Austen,” taught by Associate Professor of English Jeff Strabone, got to do just that, flying to England for an Austen-themed tour thanks to TRIP (Traveling Research and Immersion Program).  

TRIP provides full funding for faculty-led trips to domestic or international locations, with the trips typically occurring during spring break. The money is allocated to classes whose professors have specifically applied for it from the Office of Study Away. For example, last year Professor Emeritus Janet Gezari received funding to take her English seminar “The Brontës” to England.

Proposals are reviewed by the Study Away Committee to decide which courses will receive the funding.

“The committee looks for proposals that will actively engage the faculty director and students in exploring the topics they are learning about in their coursework,” noted Shirley Parson, Director of the Office of Study Away. The Office aims to fund trips which will provide hands-on experience to strengthen the class discussions held back on campus.

“Besides seeing Austen’s homes, relevant museums and the real-world settings of her novels, we also visited sites that exemplified period theories of landscape gardening and architecture,” commented Strabone on his seminar’s trip to England. “Our interpretation of Austen’s work since the trip has been richer and deeper for having experienced firsthand the crucial importance of place in her novels.” This was the first time Strabone applied for TRIP funding since he joined the College in 2010.

The TRIP program began in March 1999 under a different name: PEGS (Partners Exploring Global Society). At first it was funded with President Claire Gaudiani’s (1988-2001) discretionary funds until a grant proposal was submitted.

“Jane Austen” was not the only class to receive funding this year. From March 13 to March 19, director of Africana Studies Professor David Canton and assistant director Professor Andrea Baldwin took the “Introduction to Africana Studies” course to Accra, Ghana. They spent two days in the town of Berekuso at Ashesi University College, where Connecticut College is currently working to develop exchange and SATA programs.

“During the two days at Ashesi students sat in a Ghanaian Popular Culture and Leadership Seminar Class, viewed the movie Selma with Ashesi students and participated in a discussion. We drove to Cape Coast, Ghana and visited Cape Coast and Elmina Slave Dungeons where students had the opportunity to see where Europeans held enslaved Africans,” said Canton. The class spent a day at Jamestown and met James Barnor, private photographer for Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. Barnor also photographed Muhammad Ali’s visit to Ghana in 1964.

The students toured the beautiful, sculptural Kwame Nkrumah Memorial and met Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, a Ghanaian artist, who told them about his “Nkyinkyim Installation,” which translates to “journey of Ghanaian Ancestors.”

“TRIP is one of the College’s signature programs. It provides students an opportunity to visit foreign countries and in some instances prepares them for study away. I would like to thank all of the donors who help make TRIPs possible,” added Canton. The recent voyage to Ghana was his third TRIP experience; in a previous excursion, Canton took his “Civil Rights” seminar to Atlanta in Fall 2014.

Professor Joyce Bennett’s “Anthropology of Tourism” class traveled to a more local location over spring break.

“We went to NYC, where we engaged in different kinds of tourism. We did sustainable tourism by visiting the Highline and investigating the farm-to-table restaurant movement. We participated in and analyzed dark tourism by engaging in a 9/11 tour of the site, museum and the observatory tower. And finally, we engaged in culinary and ethnic tourism through a culinary tour of Chinatown,” explained Bennett. The trip was cut short by a snowstorm, so the class will continue their experience with a culinary tour of Italian food in Federal Hill in Providence.

Nevertheless, the TRIP provided a special opportunity for students to explore the topics they had discussed so thoroughly in class, since as Bennett puts it, “Talking about and experiencing different kinds of tourism are very different things.”

“For example, we know that sustainable tourism is problematic in several ways, but by going, doing, and seeing, we could see how many ‘sustainable’ activities are still harmful and/or exploitative,” she said.
Interacting with the guides and other tourists at the 9/11 site highlighted the importance of memorialization to humans for the students, Bennett added, and talking to company owners during the class’s culinary and ethnic tourism allowed students to question “authenticity.”

“Our discussions are deeper, rooted in real-world examples we all share,” remarked Bennett. “The kind of bonding we did and the ability to draw on similar intellectual materials makes for much more meaningful discussion and allows us to push the theoretical implications of the work we read further than we could before.”

Students interested in TRIPs should check College listings and keep in mind that most TRIP courses require an application.