Exploring Cultural Crossroads

Dr. Herschler pictured at the Library of Celsus, an ancient Roman building in Ephesus, now part of Selcuk, Turkey.

He could be happy to simply consider himself to be an established expert in international affairs. But for Dr. Stephen Herschler, no amount of “book knowledge” can substitute for immersive experiences when learning about a culture or society. He easily “walks the talk,” engaging in the same real-world learning he encourages his students to pursue.

Dr. Herschler has lived on four continents, speaks three languages, and has taught comparative politics at Oglethorpe for 12 years. “I’ve spent time in Europe, Asia, and Africa, but the Middle East has always been a gap for me,” he admits. And, with the modernization of the Middle East and Islamic culture a vital part of the current global political conversation, it was a poignant time to gain a personal perspective.

This past summer, Dr. Herschler spent 10 days in Turkey with The Atlantic Institute, absorbing the rich culture, historical abundance, and political eccentricity of a country that is suspended between two very different worlds. Turkey has always found itself in an Turkey 20140614_095515identity crisis between the East and the West, creating a unique (and often confusing) cultural climate. This is why The Atlantic Institute, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, strives to bridge the gap between the Middle East and West by facilitating dialogue and fostering understanding. The organization is a derivative of the Istanbul Center, which bolsters the same goals to embrace diversity and build tolerance. This annual excursion of educators and civic leaders from the southeast is an opportunity to inform those who are in a position to share knowledge with students and citizens, hopefully spreading a better understanding of Turkey. Dr. Herschler joined other educators representing Atlanta-area institutions, including Agnes Scott College, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, and Morehouse College. The educators’ differing perspectives were a compelling part of the journey and, according to Dr. Herschler, reminiscent of the interdisciplinary conversations he witnesses in his Oglethorpe classes. “Hearing questions and comments from the varying disciplines made every day more interesting,” he said.

Indeed, the travelers’ diverse interests sometimes made for spontaneous adventures. While staying in the city of Sanliurfa, a fellow educator expressed interest in Turkish music, prompting their guide to arrange for an outing to a local university. The group was treated to an impromptu concert with classical Turkish instruments.

Turkey 20140612_112519During the 10-day trek, the crew also visited the cities of Istanbul, Gazi Antep, Ankara, Izmir, and Mardin-each of which contains stunning historical sites and manmade marvels. Greek and Roman ruins are scattered throughout the the land, sites of Biblical significance (such as the house of the Virgin Mary and the landing site of Noah’s Ark) are abundant, and of course, monuments such as Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are “must-see” edifices. According to Dr. Herschler, one particularly striking site was Gobekli Tepe, the world’s earliest known place of worship, which outdates Stonehenge by approximately six millennia.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESEvery day, Dr. Herschler and his peers took part in discussions on topics ranging from social reforms in Turkey to interfaith dialogues, and even learned about traditional Turkish carpet making. Each topic was presented from a uniquely Turkish perspective which opened the travelers’ minds to a side of the story they may have never before have heard. Their excursions were led by Turkish guides who were eager to share their knowledge, culture, and history. As Dr. Herschler learned more about the politics and current issues of Turkey, he started to form connections with the course material of the classes he teaches at Oglethorpe, especially Comparative Politics. This course—famous among OU politics majors—surveys a multiplicity of theories on the development and stability of international governments.

Upon his return, Dr. Herschler decided to add a series about Turkey to his syllabus, citing his trip as the impetus. “Before this experience, I possessed ‘book knowledge’ of Turkey and of Islam,” he said, “but I did not understand it fully as a living community. Now I know I can address the topic fairly.”

But, this experience affected much more than the content of his courses, he says. “My new knowledge facilitates connections with students who are interested in that Turkey 20140610_040619 1part of the world.” In fact, even while still in Istanbul, he connected with Oglethorpe student and advisee John Yager ’15, who was interning abroad for through Koç University in Instanbul. The two were able to catch up and talk Middle Eastern politics over an authentic Turkish dinner.

“Now, Turkey is a part of my life,” says Dr. Herschler. “And, I have become more attuned to Turkish culture here in Atlanta.” Asked about his plans to return, he admits he would love to go back to Turkey, but as always, has his sights set on even more international horizons. “I want to go back to Asia. It has been a decade since I’ve visited, and that is quite long enough.”

Christie Pearce ’15 has always had a love affair with the written word and—more recently—political science. She hopes to continue her post graduate education by studying political marketing and campaign strategies for female candidates in the United States.

New Perspectives: Global LEAD Ecuador

In 2012, OU launched a new partnership with Global LEAD, an immersive nonprofit study abroad program that combines the principles of leadership, education, adventure and diplomacy into five-week trips to countries scattered around the globe. Created by dynamic entrepreneurs who have a heart for service and a spirit of adventure, Global LEAD is a program for young people, run by young people. Global LEAD aims to “transform the trajectory of individuals’ lives through leadership service and personal development,” – a mission that aligns with Oglethorpe’s goal for its students.
The unique program includes two weeks of classroom learning, two weeks of service learning, and one week of adventure. Oglethorpe serves as the academic coordinator for the program, approving all academic faculty, syllabi, course pedagogy and materials for the two courses: Leadership in Action and Global Citizenship & Service Learning. All participating students take Oglethorpe University courses within the context of Global LEAD’s programs in Ecuador, Greece and South Africa. Students from universities around the country earn six Oglethorpe credit hours that transfer to students’ home universities.Global LEAD -  Emmanuel, Dr. Chandler, Bri on Equator #2
In July 2013, Oglethorpe students Emmanuel Brantley ’15 and Briana Mongerson ’13 were the first Petrels to benefit from this new partnership. They journeyed to Ecuador alongside 22 students from other universities, led by Oglethorpe’s Dr. Mario Chandler, associate professor of Spanish. During the two weeks of academic instruction, Dr. Chandler taught two courses, developed to meet the requirements and goals of Oglethorpe’s curriculum.

Leadership in Action

The first course focused on teaching core principles of leadership by using the historical context and perspectives of South American peoples. The course, “Leadership in Action,” helped students to settle into the customs of their temporary home by helping them to converse and connect with local people, experience first-hand the daily lives and the history of Ecuadorians. From studying about the sobering history of the enslaved indigenous peoples, to learning how to hail a cab and which foods to order (or not) in restaurants, Global LEAD students were immersed in the culture of the Ecuadorian people in ways that exceeded the limits of textbooks.
“Dr. Chandler gave insight on how to be ‘the mindful traveler’ and impact Ecuador’s culture in a positive direction,” shared Global LEAD student Louise Powers, a junior at the University of Tennessee. “We even had a Survival Spanish class and put this to the test walking to the top of Basilica Del Voto Nacional and at the welcome dinner.”
The leadership training went further, teaching the students to push themselves out of their comfort zones in other ways. “The physical activities, like mountain biking and hiking, allow students to experience what we are talking about in class,” discovered Emmanuel. “It’s not just talking about who you are as a leader, but you are really able to bring what you are learning in class to life. You are leading yourself to be more fearless and to tackle these physical challenges.” Understanding historical and cultural perspectives and how to push themselves to be ‘fearless’ also helped to prepare the students for their coming weeks of service.

Global Citizenship & Service

Students segued into the service learning part of their experience during the second course, “Global Citizenship and Service,” which challenged students to create framework for service projects in Ecuador as well as for their home communities in the U.S.
“Our professor, Dr. Chandler, kicked off the morning with one of his most powerful lessons yet,” wrote Matt Edwards from University of Tennessee in a blog documenting the trip. “After discussing poverty and service in our local [Ecuadorian] communities, we shared problems we see in our own neighborhoods and brainstormed ways we can take action. …The lessons and tools we have been given to spark change and better our world are really becoming evident. It’s truly invigorating to be part of this group of brilliant young minds that is realizing its potential to impact the world.”
Students used what they learned in the classroom to transition into teaching ESL (English as a second language) to young Ecuadorian children. Students volunteered at an institute called Honrar la Vida (honor life), created to help educate, integrate and validate the cultural contributions of black Ecuadorian youth, called afroecuatorianos, who historically have been the victims of discrimination and marginalized in Ecuadorian society.
Students connected with the children of Honor La Vida, teaching them the English alphabet, days of the week, and songs to help them remember animal names. But, it was the children who made the biggest impression.
“Teaching ESL was one of the best learning experiences I have had in a long time,” said Oglethorpe’s Briana Mongerson, who hopes to continue teaching ESL. “I had kids ranging [in age] from 11-15 in the class and we covered the alphabet, colors, days of the week and their names…. Although these kids didn’t have much, they are filled with joy, smiles and hugs. I love the impact that they have made on me and never will forget those beautiful faces from Honar La Vida.”
“Most Global LEAD students come into the week thinking that they are going to give knowledge and time to the local students, but what we end up taking away is the love and gratitude of being able to share in their experience,” explained Carolyn Prebil, Global LEAD’s director of marketing and program director for the Ecuador trip. “It is incredible to see the bonds that form throughout the week despite any cultural or language barriers.”
Emmanuel, who is now serving as a Global LEAD ambassador to encourage other students to participate, agrees. “You hear that other study abroad trips make a big impact, but on this trip we were directly involved and in touch with the people, history and nature of the country—and it really had a life-changing impact.”
Find out more about Global LEAD’s programs at globalleadprogram.org.

OU Theatre Presents “By the Bog of Cats”

Oglethorpe Theatre will present “By the Bog of Cats”, an Irish retelling of the Greek Tragedy “Medea”, on November 21-23, 2013 at 8 p.m. in the Conant Performing Arts Center. Watch this video to find out more and to check out student cast members’ Irish accents!

Oglethorpe Wins Four MarCom Awards for Communications

Carillon Spring 2013 cover high resOglethorpe’s University Communications received top honors recently, winning four 2013 MarCom Awards, which recognize creative work that achieves a high level of excellence and sets a benchmark for other industries in the field.

Oglethorpe’s top awards were the first place Platinum Award for the Oglethorpe University Carillon magazine, Spring 2013 edition and the Gold Award for the 2012-2013 admission viewbook, sent to prospective students during recruitment.

Pegasus_logo_final_RETINAIn addition, Oglethorpe received honorable mentions for the video “Oglethorpe University at the Core” (view below) and the logo for Pegasus Creative, Oglethorpe’s student communications agency launched by University Communications in fall 2012.

The MarCom Awards are an annual competition for marketing and communication professionals around the world. Platinum and Gold Awards are a tremendous achievement and are presented to institutions which display the highest level of artistry in their fields.The pieces recognized are magazines, videos, pamphlets, and posters with impressive graphic design and creative content. Each entry is judged by members of the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, which consists of thousands of media and creative professionals who are experienced in the recognition of remarkable workmanship.marcomlogo

Gold and Platinum awards are symbolized by a handcrafted statuette which graces the trophy cases of Fortune 500 Companies, independent media conglomerates… and now the halls of Oglethorpe University.

Distinguished Guests on Campus for Turner Lynch Campus Center Opening Celebration

There was no shortage of distinguished guests on campus for the weekend of festivities celebrating the official opening of the new Turner Lynch Campus Center.

Dialogue & Deliberation, a three-part lecture series on Thursday, October 24, featured national leaders in higher education, philanthropy, and business.

Atlanta CEOs discuss “Closing the Gap,” addressing the economy and the implications of the market for achieving the “American Dream.” Featuring: Jack Guynn, Moderator (Retired President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta); John Wieland, Chairman and CEO, John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods; Robert Balentine, Chairman and CEO, Balentine; Richard Smith, Chairman and CEO, Equifax; and, Thomas Fanning, Chairman, President and CEO, Southern Company.

Atlanta area philanthropists discuss “Philanthropy and Change” and how agents of change can impact their communities locally and around the globe. Featuring:
John Stephenson, moderator and executive director, J. Bulow Campbell Foundation; Lillian Giornelli, president, CF Foundation; Penelope McPhee, president, The Arthur M. Blank Foundation; and, Kathleen Pattillo, co-founder and trustee, The Rockdale Foundation.

University presidents from around the country discuss “What Are We Doing Right in Higher Education?” addressing the state of higher education. Featuring: Kevin Riley, moderator and editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Dr. Mark Becker, president, Georgia State University; Dr. John McCardell, vice chancellor, Sewanee: The University of the South; Dr. John Sexton, president, New York University; Dr. James Wagner, president, Emory University; and, Dr. Lawrence Schall, president, Oglethorpe University.

Kinko's founding partners John and Annie Odell with their daughter Katie Odell, a 2012 Oglethorpe graduate.

Kinko’s founding partners John and Annie Odell with their daughter Katie Odell, a 2012 Oglethorpe graduate.

On Friday, October 25, the Oglethorpe Women’s Network hosted “Why OWNership Matters: Duplicating Kinko’s Success,” as part of the Rikard Lecture Series, which introduces students to current issues in business as presented by successful business and civic leaders.

Guest speakers were Annie and John Odell, parents of OU alumna Katie Odell ’12 and the founding partners of Kinko’s. They shared their inspiring personal and professional success story of growing and expanding Kinko’s. The Kinko’s business model of ownership set a standard for its founding partners and customers to live, work and play in their communities. Annie also spoke about the balance between motherhood and her career, telling anecdotes about her eldest son running around in a playpen at the back of her store, and Katie scanning her face with the copy machines. Her family became a part of the Kinko’s family, and vice versa. She says that the love she and her colleagues had for their work and their customers was the key to their success.

The weekend’s Fall Festival also drew a crowd to experience the new Turner Lynch Campus Center and to celebrate the season: