Global LEAD Ecuador Beckons OU Students

More than 130 students from 30 universities are traveling to Ecuador, Greece and Cape Town, South Africa this summer with the official launch of Oglethorpe’s partnership with Global LEAD. Each will participate in Global LEAD‘s unique study abroad experience, which connects leadership, service-learning curriculum, adventure and local culture to help students better understand their role in a larger, global context.

Among the group heading to Ecuador later this week are Oglethorpe senior Bri Mongerson, a communications and rhetoric studies major, and junior Emmanuel Brantley, a business and Spanish major. Dr. Mario Chandler, associate professor of Spanish at Oglethorpe, is serving as academic director for the Ecuador program.

Dr. Chandler has an extensive background in study abroad trips, and will lead the academic curriculum for the group of 25 students in Ecuador. In addition to the core elements of leadership, service learning and personal development, Dr. Chandler will weave in Ecuadorian history and context into the class to further connect the curriculum with the host country.

Before they leave on their adventure, we asked Bri and Emmanuel to share how they were feeling.  Check out what they had to say below and in the video above…

Bri Mongerson

Bri Mongerson ’14

“I decided to go on Global LEAD after meeting (Global LEAD staff) Caro, Joanna, and Lauren at the study abroad fair at Georgia Tech,” said Bri. “When I met them, I had no idea that OU was going to partner with GL. Once I found that out, it made my decision that much more easier. I wanted to go to Ecuador for the different environment and culture. I am so excited to meet the people and learn more about their community. One thing that makes me nervous is the fact that I will be gone from my family and friends for five weeks but I know that this experience will be life changing!”

EB Photo 1

Emmanuel Brantley ’15

“The chance to stand on the equator, breathe the Amazonian air, tour the Galapagos Islands and mix with a distinct culture while exploring a new side of me in this capacity made Ecuador seem like it a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Emmanuel. “However, I was hesitant to apply and not sure if I would want to go through with it. This would be my first experience abroad… After a conversation with my Spanish professor, Dr. Mario Chandler, I was completely sold on the idea of going to Ecuador. He reminded me that I would have my awesome Global LEAD family (how could I forget that?) and made me realize that sometimes it is okay when things do not go as originally planned and that I have to continue growing in my academic career… Today, I am most excited to visit some of the smaller towns in Ecuador like Tena and Otavalo. There I expect to gain a true feel of Ecuador’s hidden treasures.”

Find out more about study abroad opportunities through Global LEAD!

“Eyes on Africa” Course Offers Students A New Look at History

The Seminar group poses at Sullivan's Island

French Professor Jay Lutz and I designed a First Year Seminar course called “Eyes on Africa.”  The seminar explores the culture, literature, people and current events related to the African continent.  In addition to our focus on the continent, the seminar makes relevant connections to the African Diaspora—the manifestation of African culture outside of the continent. This manifestation includes Africa’s indelible impact on the United States through the influence of black Americans.

In exploring the rich contribution of Africans on the United States, we thought it appropriate to take our class on a journey  to Charleston, South Carolina,  the historic city many call “ground zero” of African American culture in the United States.  Charleston has this designation because as the fifth largest city in late 17th century colonial North America it was a major slave port, receiving tens of thousands of African men and women destined to toil in South Carolina plantations, rice fields, and urban centers.  Moreover, it is estimated that more than half of all African Americans, no matter where in the U.S. they reside, had at least one ancestor who was trafficked through the Charleston port.

Students visited the Old Slave Mart Museum.

Our FYS had the privilege of being escorted throughout much of our Charleston tour by South Carolina historian and author Wayne Anthony O’Bryant, who was generous enough to give the entire FYS an autographed copy of his book, In the Footprints of a Giant: The Vesey Connection, which traces Denmark Vesey’s life and legacy through the author’s childhood recollections and revelations.

Our seminar group visited and learned about the domestic and international slave trade at Charleston’s Old Slave Mart Museum.  Originally, Ryan’s Mart, this very building held slave auctions where men, women, and children were bought, sold, and traded.  The museum has sobering exhibits focused on the institution of slavery and its importance to the economy and general development of colonial South Carolina. The black population of colonial South Carolina frequently equaled or exceeded that of whites, which permitted a thorough diffusion of African culture, art, music, dance, architecture, craft, cuisine, spirituality, and even language in the region and beyond.  Some of the most significant slave insurrections in colonial America, including the Stono Rebellion of 1739 and the Demark Vesey’s famous revolt of 1822 occurred in or around Charleston. 

We also toured the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture.  Founded in 1865 by the American Missionary Association as the Avery Normal School, this institution, for nearly a century, groomed Charleston area African Americans for professional and academic careers until its doors closed in 1954.  Today, the Avery is not only a research center, but also an archives and a museum containing valuable historical documents related to local African American culture as well as to the African diaspora.

Our group also traveled to Columbia, S.C., where we visited the African American Monument, the first and only monument dedicated to African American culture built on the grounds of a state capitol.  The granite and bronze monument sculpted by Ed Dwight opened in 2001 and uses a series of expressive panels to trace African American culture from the arrival of Africans to South Carolina shores to the present.

A map at Sullivan's Island shows the path of slaves from Africa to the Americas.

Before returning to Oglethorpe, our FYS explored Sullivan’s Island, a place with significant historical significance despite its relatively low-key status as a Charleston-area landmark.  A major battle of the American Revolution took place at Fort Sullivan (now Fort Moultrie).  However, prior to becoming a Revolutionary-era battleground site, for much of the 18th century, Sullivan’s Island served as a “quarantine station” for Africans arriving in the United States before beginning their new lives as slaves.  It is estimated that 40% of African Americans can trace an ancestors through Sullivan’s Island, making this sacred site akin to an “African-American Ellis Island.”

Dr. Mario Chandler is Associate Professor of Spanish. He received his B.A. from Iowa State University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from The University of Georgia.

History In the Making: Oglethorpe Visits Cuba

Dr. Mario Chandler and Dr. Viviana Plotnik, together with President Schall, led a group of OU students on an educational trip to Cuba over winter break as part of a course focusing on Cuban history, politics and culture.  This is the first Oglethorpe University educational trip to this country.

The course, taken for academic credit, included extensive lectures, readings, films, homework, and other requirements. The trip focused on hands-on exploration of Havana’s extensive Asian heritage, the historical and contemporary importance of Cuba’s tobacco industry as well as the island’s economic importance.  After the trip, each student had to turn in a journal and each are required to write a reserach paper due later in the semester.

The trip coincided with Delta Airlines’ adding direct flights from Atlanta to Cuba in December 2011. The decision allows  for flights for passengers with close relatives in Cuba, for those who are involved in the medical or agricultural business sectors, or for education or religious activities. OU’s group was on one of the first  flights to Cuba, just a few days after Christmas. Dr. Chandler shared his thoughts on the trip with the OU Blog.

OU Blog: How did the trip to Cuba come to fruition?

Dr. Chandler: The idea for the OU trip to Cuba was inspired, in fact, by President Schall, who has great interest in the Spanish language and Latin American issues.  The President approached me and my colleague in Spanish, Dr. Viviana Plotnik, and shared with us his desire to see such an opportunity come to fruition for our students.  Dr. Plotnik and I designed the itinerary and course, which received an enthusiastic and immediate response from the campus community.  We were able to put all of the organization pieces together during the Fall 2011 semester.

OU Blog: Why was this trip important?

Dr. Chandler:  For me the trip to Cuba symbolized one important, but all-encompassing notion: opportunity.  This trip constituted an opportunity for Oglethorpe students to engage Cuban culture, history, and society on that country’s terms rather than through a five-decade long filter of misunderstanding and distrust between Cuba and our country.  Unfortunately, the average American students’ views about Cuba are often imbued with misunderstanding, so an opportunity to challenge popular opinion by allowing students to meet Cubans and engage issues from an internal perspective is a powerful and potentially transformative educational experience.  As Spanish professors, Dr. Plotnik and I couldn’t be more proud than to have had the chance to shepherd our students in their navigation of this wonderful opportunity, an exercise that takes place, ideally, in the people’s language…Spanish.

OU Blog: How was the Oglethorpe group received by the local people?

Dr. Chandler: Our OU group members were consummate ambassadors throughout our Cuban journey.  We were proud to see our students using the Spanish language for engaging in daily contact with Cubans, for holding conversations and maintaining discussions, and for cultivating acquaintances that extended beyond the typical tourist demarcations.  Frequently, throughout our Cuban travels, we used public transportation alongside Cubans going about their daily tasks or ate peanuts while strolling the country’s prados and malecons, in small but significant ways bringing us closer to our Cuban hosts and erasing barriers on both sides whether real or invented.

If you would like to learn more about this trip, Dr. Chandler, Dr. Plotnik, and Oglethorpe students will give a presentation about their experiences as part of tomorrow’s OU Day celebrations. Join the conversation, “OU Student Reflections on Cuban Culture–What Happens in Cuba Doesn’t Stay in Cuba,” on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:10 p.m. in the Conant Performing Arts Center. For more photos from the Cuba trip, check out Flickr. For more information about Oglethorpe’s study abroad program, check out OUSA’s page.

Liberal Arts & Sciences Symposium Spotlights Students’ Efforts

At the morning Biology Poster Session, Mary Vallerie explained her work on "Planned Elimination and Regulations of Raccoon Rabies in the United States by Virtue of Collaboration."

Tuesday was a day of intellectual celebration as Oglethorpe hosted a full day of academic presentations at its 2011 Liberal Arts and Sciences Symposium.  The annual symposium provides a forum for students and faculty to discuss and learn from a series of student-led presentations in their fields of study.  This year, topics ranged from “A Sampling of Current Research in Personality Psychology” to “Media Messages and Effects: An Exploration of Our Contemporary Media Environment” to “Service-Learning in Moscow – HIS 290: Russia’s Social Crisis.”

Mr. NDongo, author of "Historia and Tragedia del Guinea Equitorial," autographs an OU student's book.

This year, attendees also had the opportunity to hear from Mr. Donato NDongo Bidyogo, a well-known writer from Equatorial Guinea. Now a resident of Spain, he spoke about the impact of colonialism, the African influence on Spanish language and literature, and the individual “self” in modern writing.

To top off the day-long celebration of student achievement, the afternoon’s annual Honors and Awards Convocation recognized individuals who had excelled during the academic year.

Dr. Jeffrey Collins presents several students with awards to honor their hard work throughout the year.

Northern Spain: OU Students’ Colorful Classroom

Here, the group stands in front of one of Barcelona’s most iconic skyline structures---the Sagrada Familia.

Over winter break, a group of Oglethorpe students and staff traveled to the  “land of the setting sun” to discover northern Spain’s rich past and incredible culture.  

Led by Dr. Mario Chandler, the short-term study abroad trip focused exclusively on the extensive cultural and linguistic diversity north of the Iberian Peninsula. 

“It was my hope that my students would gain a greater appreciation for the mind-boggling complexity of Spanish culture,” said Dr. Chandler, who, in the past, has led groups of OU students to both Central and Southern Spain. He wanted them to see that there are many components (Basque, Celtic, Moorish, and Roman, for example) that make up the Spanish ‘whole.’ 

Several students reported that they were able to use the language skills they’d learned in the classroom while out and about in Northern Spain, acting as “consummate ambassadors” for their country and gaining more confidence in their Spanish skills. 

Bilbao, Spain: The short-term study abroad group visited the Guggenheim Museum, featuring modern and contemporary international art.

“Everywhere we went there was an opportunity to utilize our knowledge,” said Jimmy Turner, a Spanish major who had never traveled overseas before.  “I took the opportunity to test out my skills by speaking with a concierge at a hotel in which I was staying. We spoke for about two hours about sports, America, friction amongst the autonomies, and many more topics. It was an exciting experience because it showed me where I was in my Spanish and helped me improve my skills.” Continue reading