Spring Term Destinations Include Ecuador, Scotland, China

“Hopping on an international flight was a challenge. But, once we got immersed into the culture and language, it was a great experience — one that I never could have gotten out of a book.” — Katie Keaton

For Katie Keaton, taking a three-week Spring Term class to Spain with 10 other students and a professor was one of the highlights of her Alma College education.

“It was the best thing I’ve done,” says Keaton, who enrolled in Sandy Lopez-Isnardi’s photojournalism class in Keaton’s junior year. “We each identified a primary focus for our photography project. My focus was Spanish architecture, and I was able to capture some remarkable photos as we traveled throughout southern Spain.

“I had never been on a plane, so hopping on an international flight was a challenge,” says Keaton, a senior from Clarkston. “But, once we got immersed into the culture and language, it was a great experience — one that I never could have gotten out of a book.”

Spring Term students visit Germany.Spring Term students visit Germany.

Spring Term is an opportunity for students to study a single academic topic for an entire month. With the option of on-campus or travel courses, students must take two Spring Term courses during their time at Alma.

Ecuador, England, Scotland, China, Germany and New Zealand are among the international destinations for Alma College students during the 2014 Spring Term, which begins April 27 and continues through May 22. Below is a roundup of this year’s courses:

International Trips

• Brian Doyle will lead biochemistry students in a study of an indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazon. San Jose de Payamino is a Kichwa community of roughly 300 people whose primitive lifestyle includes the use of medicinal plants from the surrounding rainforest.

• Biology students will study the birds found in the tropical cloud forests of the Andes in central Ecuador. The trip includes travel to the Bellavista Ecoreserve to observe, capture and measure the resident birds found there.

• Dave Clark’s behavioral ecology course will focus on the lizards of coastal Ecuador. Students will observe and study lizard behavior related to species recognition, mate choice, social organization and ecology.

• Nicola Findley will lead education students in an exploration of schooling in England. The class will be based in London, with trips to schools of various grade levels and philosophies in London and the surrounding area.

• Chi-Ping Chen’s students will study Victorian literature — story stories, novels and drama — in London. The class will walk the city to experience histories both factual and fictionally, visit period and author museums, and go to the theatre for comedy and drama.

Spring Term students visit Chicago.Spring Term students visit Chicago.

• German language professor Holly Liu will take students to Berlin for a study of the 20th century political systems that shaped the histories of Berlin and Germany. The trip will include a visit to Auschwitz to reflect on the Nazi crimes committed against the Jewish people.

• The Alma Choir will travel and perform in Scotland, including concerts in St. Andrews and at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. The students also will meet and perform with a Scottish Gaelic choir.

• Political science students will explore ethnic politics during their visit to Scotland, which will vote on independence in September 2014. The course will explore Scottish identity and nationalism with visits to historic sites.

• Eric Calhoun and Mel Nyman will lead students to New Zealand for an interdisciplinary study of the natural history, economics, politics, culture and climate of the southwestern Pacific Ocean island country. Highlights include a visit to several “Lord of the Rings” filming sites.

• A trip to China will include a study of the country’s growing economies and ancient traditions as well as the roles citizens now play in the global economy. Students will have opportunities to meet and interact with Chinese people of various ages and social-economic backgrounds.

• Dale Sanders will lead business students in a study of healthcare ideology and issues of disparity as they relate to women, children, the poor and minorities. The class will include trips to Toronto, Baltimore, Atlantic City and Washington, D.C.

Spring Term students prepare for a cross-country bike tour.Spring Term students prepare for a cross-country bike tour.

Domestic Trips

Several Spring Term classes will travel but stay within the United States. Literature students will kayak and camp in the Upper Peninsula wilderness with President Jeff Abernathy and study fishing in literature along the Au Sable River with Bob Vivian.

Integrative Physiology and Health Science students will study altitude physiology at Shrine Mountain in Colorado. New Media Studies students will visit digital film production facilities in Chicago. Political science students will study historical topics at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

Community health students will conduct heart health fairs in local schools with sixth grade children. Education students will explore science education at the Forest Hill Nature Center.

On Campus

Classes on campus cover a variety of topics, including “Plagues and Peoples,” which will combine scientific and historical explorations of the connections between major epidemics and world history, and “Michigan Archaeological Fieldwork,” which will focus on excavating the site of Alma College’s Old Main building that was destroyed by fire in 1969.


Story published on March 21, 2014