The Extended Studies Program, located in Taylor Hall 303, works to provide any student or community member with opportunities to expand their academic horizons.
While many small courses offered through Extended Studies use the Gunnison Valley’s geographical blessing as a limitless laboratory, the introduction of many new international courses helps bring different cultural influences and perspectives back to Western through students who have had experiences in a foreign environment.
Director of Extended Studies Erica Boucher sees these trips as an opportunity for Western to expand its reach as a university and for students to share their perspectives with other cultures and societies.
“[International courses] allow students to share their values and foundations while also putting themselves out of their comfort zones,” Boucher said.
Whether students choose a trip to Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, Paris or Peru, the opportunity to travel abroad gives them the freedom to actively pursue topics of personal importance in addition to creating real touchstones of knowledge.
“Cultural immersion provides a depth of experience unavailable in a traditional classroom setting and is often a leading influence towards pursuing a future career,” said Dr. Jeff Taylor, who will be leading a four-week to Paris focused on the French art market.
Taylor sees irreplaceable value in taking students to the places they study in the classroom.
“There is no substitute for seeing the real place … the reality of historical and global consequences becomes much more realized,” he added.
Professors and faculty lead almost all international trips offered through Extended Studies. A particularly exciting addition to the roster is a trip to the Himalayan town of Majkhali, India led by Brandon McNamara, a graduate student in the Master of Environmental Management (MEM) program.
Planning, coordinating and leading the trip is a large part of his master’s project. The trip will primarily focus on building out sustainability programs in the area in an environment that will foster newfound perspectives of sustainability and resiliency.
“The community will be our classroom,” McNamara said. “It will give students the ability to be self-starters and make their own discoveries.”
McNamara hopes to see students immerse themselves in the local culture on the trip. He also hopes that MEM students will continue organizing international and community-based initiatives as a part of their graduate experience.
“I want to build this as a legacy in the graduate program,” he said.
As the number of international trips increase, faculty are looking forward to see what how students incorporate their experiences in the classroom.
“[The students] bring back so many stories, perspectives and ideas about other solutions to problems ... they are able to fill in so much for their peers,” Taylor said.
Story by Peter Noon.