Learning opportunities span the globe for CASL students

6/18/2018

Students have traveled to Iceland, Canada, Greece and the Land of Lincoln this summer.

College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters students in Springfield, Ill.
College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters students in Springfield, Ill.
Honors Program students learned about Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Ill., which is where he transitioned from struggling lawyer to successful presidential candidate.

There are many important Abraham Lincoln-focused sites—the 16th U.S. President’s likeness is featured on Mount Rushmore and he’s honored at the famous Washington D.C. memorial monument.

But to best understand one of America’s most iconic figures, Political Science Professor Ron Stockton took 14 students to where Lincoln transitioned from struggling lawyer to successful presidential candidate: Springfield, Ill. Stockton wanted students to have an experience beyond commemoration.

“How did someone who grew up barefoot in a house with a dirt floor and not much of a formal education become arguably the greatest American?” asked Stockton, who organized the excursion for the Honors Program. “I teach an Honors Program course on the modern era and there is a unit on Lincoln because he is such a definitive person. Going on location to Springfield takes the lesson and makes it a bit more real. It shows our students the process of becoming this now iconic person. At one time, he was an undistinguished and ill-educated person—albeit a highly self-reflective one with an extraordinary sense of determination. I wanted to show students Lincoln’s beginnings, his struggles and how other people helped him become the Lincoln we know today.”

Prior to the trip, Stockton, along with History Professor Gerry Moran and Political Science Associate Professor Michael Rosano, gave students an overview lecture on Lincoln’s childhood and additional formative experiences—like how Lincoln’s third grade textbook focused on the importance of gestures.

“If you look at drawings from the Gettysburg address, you can see his hands are just like what is shown in the textbook,” Stockton said.

While in central Illinois, students visited a variety of sites. All costs for the experience were covered by the Honors Program and a grant from the Hub for Teaching and Learning Resources’ Creative Teaching Fund. Highlights included the Lincoln Museum and Library; Lincoln’s home, which still includes furniture from Lincoln’s life there; Lincoln’s tomb, and a recreated frontier town northwest of Springfield named New Salem, where Lincoln received schooling, read for law, worked jobs like boatman and rail splitter, and eventually owned a general store.

Junior Jordan Wohl—who calls Lincoln his favorite president—said he especially enjoyed visiting the Old State House. The political science major got to see where Lincoln sat during his time in the Illinois legislature and gave the famous “A House Divided” speech in 1858 after accepting the Republican nomination for president.

“The tour guide allowed us to sit in the chairs. Lincoln’s was only one to the right of where I sat. I own a book with Lincoln’s speeches. I thought, ‘150 years ago, in this spot, I would have had a front row seat to hear him deliver it.’ Just being there was incredible.”

In addition to discovering more about his favorite political figure, Wohl said it was the first time he’s learned about a major historic event by closely studying an individual’s experiences.

“Looking at President Lincoln in an American history book, he doesn’t seem real. He was almost mythical to me; a person with super powers,” he said. “But walking down the same streets he did, learning about previous jobs he’s had and seeing where he lived—a place that wasn’t the White House— makes him real to me. Lincoln was a person who created change by pushing for what he believed was right and would unite the country. And that is something we can and should all work to do.”

Going global

Want to travel a little further? CASL students had learning opportunities that spanned the globe.

Canada

For five weeks, 24 students took part in the Ottawa Political Internship Program, where each student worked in an office of a Canadian senator or member of Parliament.

The internship—which has formally been in existence since 1984—gives students an opportunity to see America through a different political lens. Through the program, students worked on government legislation, media statements and formulated questions for their Member of Parliament to ask at the House of Common’s Question Period. Students also met government ministers, ambassadors and attended many receptions hosted by foreign countries.

"One of the many exciting moments this year was seeing French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Centre Block before the 44th G-7 Summit,” said Program Director Sheryl Edwards.

Greece

Philosophy Associate Professor Imran Aijaz led 14 Philosophy 301: Ancient Philosophy students on a three-week study abroad experience to visit the sites where Socrates, Plato and Aristotle lived and worked. To go along with the course teachings, students toured historical sites like the Acropolis, Agora, Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum.

Iceland

Geology Professor Jacob Napieralski took 15 students to Iceland for Geology 377/577: Geology Field Methods. They spent three weeks exploring the Nordic island nation and learned to interpret the landscapes they explored by associating them with concepts learned in class. They hiked areas including the Eldfell volcanic cone, southwestern Iceland’s The Great Geysir and the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which has a 200-foot drop.

“We explored geologic and natural wonders such as volcanoes, glaciers, geysers and waterfalls. It was the experience of a lifetime,” said Anna Wahl, who is studying environmental science. “Braving the ruggedness of the island as well as the elements was challenging at times, but it was good practice for those of us who are considering careers as field scientists. I am more confident than ever that I have chosen the right academic path.”

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