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Extraordinary off-campus opportunities

  By Blake Rasmussen '05  

Supporting Cornell courses

Thanks to the flexibility of the block plan, numerous off-campus courses already are taught by Cornell faculty. In 2005-06 Cornell faculty took their students to the Bahamas, Japan, England, Chicago, St. Louis, New Zealand, New Mexico, the Boundary Waters, and Louisiana.


Students in Roman Archaeology followed the footsteps of the Romans, including this stop at the Temple of Hera in Paestum, Italy.

"Faculty have been teacing off-campus for years, but it's a tremendous burden," said professor James Martin, who chaired the subcommittee. "It's constant administrative work. They do it because they think it's worth it."

And nearly universally, that's true. Professor after professor cited off-campus courses as among their most valuable and rewarding, both for them and their students.

Martin teaches Wagner and Wagnerism at the Newberry Library in Chicago, where students are able to do research at what Martin calls "one of the major research libraries in the world."

The geology department has long been a leader in off-campus study, regularly taking students abroad [see related story on page 18]. Spanish professor Carol Lacy-Salazar led one of the more ambitious off-campus courses in recent memory, taking a group of students to Bolivia for a semester in 2004 to learn Spanish, volunteer, and explore South America.


Biology professor Bob Black joins students around the campfire at the end of the day during an Environmental Ethics course taught in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.

Students stayed with host families and Lacy-Salazar taught her classes in the living room of an apartment she rents.

Butala, who was on Lacy-Salazar's Bolivia trip, said staying with the families was the best part for her.

"Developing my relationship with my host family was most memorable," said Butala, who stays in touch with her hosts. "Meal times, when you get to know them and their culture, were the best."

The trips can also strengthen bonds back home. Last year students from the Cornell Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Singers trabeled and performed across Italy for the Music in Italy course.

"We all learn together, live together, work together, eat together, celebrate together all day, every day during a block of intensity and performance pressure," says music professor Lisa Hearne. "Such an intense experience resonates with our students for the rest of their lives, and it will always bond us together as Cornellians."


Senior Alyssa Borowske looks at algal overgrowth on corals at Telephone Pole Reef off of San Salvador, Bahamas.

Enriching students

UItimately, the advances in international and domestic off-campus study are to benefit students by giving them experiences in the world beyond the Cornell bubble and a sense of what their future may hold.

"The best thing was being among like-minded individuals," said Wagner of her research course in the Bahamas with professor Craig Tepper, "You could talk about what you were doing in the lab, and what you were doing in science, and you were among your peers in a very true sense."

For some it even helps shape their post-Cornell plans.

"I was on the fence for chemistry grad school or med school," said Walker. "Going on this trip definitely confirmed that I wanted to go to med school. It was very enlightening."

In the coming years, Cornell will have more students like Walker, enlightened students with world experiences who discover themselves in the depths of the ocean, with a family in Bolivia, or viewing a painting in Japan.

"Off-campus study across the board is a critical part of our academic plan," said Tooley. "Giving students opportunities to study jazz in St. Louis, art in New York, and economics in Chicago is exactly what we should be doing. These opportunities capture the freedom, boundary-breaking, and hands-on immersion in educational experiences that the block plan is about."


Monkeys befriended Tara Alcazar '05 (left) and senior Kori Ault at a park for rescued animals in Bolivia during a semester abroad with Spanish professor Carol Lacy-Salazar.


A geology class takes a dive on the Bahamas' Telephone Pole Reef to study transition from coral dominace to algal dominance.

 

 

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