New wave of courses, destinations greets student travelers

Short-term options for study and travel have increased rapidly at SUNY Oswego in recent years, including a unique, first-time program that culminates in May with a trip to Iceland.

The story of “Irish Cinema,” a study abroad quarter course at SUNY Oswego that takes students to the Emerald Isle.

Semester-long programs remain popular, but quarter courses and other short-term study/travel options—with shorter time commitments, potentially lower costs and close ties to specific courses—have pushed the total offerings for SUNY Oswego to more than 80 programs with nearly 350 students participating this year.

Joshua McKeown, director of international education and programs, credited a profusion of new quarter courses with making study/travel accessible to all students.

“It brings education abroad directly into the curriculum,” McKeown said.

The effort puts such destinations as Ireland, Congo, Brazil, Austria, Greece, Iceland and more within reach.

David Valentino, SUNY Oswego professor of geology, is teaching a new quarter course, “Earth’s Fury in Iceland.” Seven students, including three enrolled from other colleges, will travel to Iceland with Valentino from May 18 to 28.

The course offers intense study of ash, glaciers and geothermal activity. The eruption a year ago of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano provides students with a vivid geological experience to bring the coursework to life.

“These are opportunities that most people do not get,” Valentino said. “A chance to walk up to an active volcano and to walk on the very, very fresh lava formed this year.”

New destinations

McKeown said accessible study-abroad opportunities are what students want and what SUNY Oswego faculty can deliver.

“We are not slowing down in developing new programs. Many of our programs continue year to year and we also continue to develop new ones,” he said.

Some other new programs that offer firsthand experience in a short-term setting include:

* A course in Irish cinema with travel to Dublin, taught and led by Donald Masterson, professor emeritus of English and creative writing (see video link above)
* An interdisciplinary course in education, music and global and international studies, to Rio de Janeiro, taught by Tania Ramalho, associate professor of curriculum and instruction; Barbara Beyerbach, professor of curriculum and instruction; and Eric Schmitz, assistant professor of music
* “History of Sports,” to London, taught by Christopher Mack, associate professor of history
* A rhetorical studies course, to Greece, taught by Jessica Reeher, assistant professor of communication studies
* An interdisciplinary music and global and international studies course, to Vienna, taught by Robert Auler, associate professor of music, and Ana Djukic-Cocks, associate professor of German

Quarter courses have earned a place in the schedules of students, regardless of major.

“From multiple perspectives, it’s a powerful program model,” McKeown said. “It ties directly into the curriculum, but also it’s something students can do.”

Passionate pursuits

Meanwhile, the students traveling to Iceland will hike along the only spreading ridge – where Earth’s crust forms—above sea level.

“Go out, do some geology, experience it. Because that’s really how geologists learn best,” Valentino said. “You can be told things, you can be shown things, but really go out and experience it by yourself or with a partner.”

Josh Valentino, son of the professor and a senior geology major graduating in May, said he’s excited to study geology outside of New York and to take his first trip abroad. He pointed out a crucial benefit of such hands-on study-abroad programs: the ability to show what a career might be like.

“If you have a passion for it, you’ll find it out in the field,” the younger Valentino said.

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(Posted: Apr 29, 2011)

Tags: world awareness, study abroad, prospective students, international