Classroom experiences conclude with field work

Derek Thurber

Under the guidance of Bob Carson, professor of Geology & Environmental Studies, 23 students will travel to Yellowstone National Park this summer as the culmination of their semester-long class. Credit: Carson
Under the guidance of Bob Carson, professor of Geology & Environmental Studies, 23 students will travel to Yellowstone National Park this summer as the culmination of their semester-long class. Credit: Carson

Many Whitman students will use the upcoming summer to relax, make some extra money or travel. But some students will take the summer to learn more in an academic program and to bring something back to Whitman.

“This academic trip often transforms people’s curriculums of study. It has inspired many theses and has also inspired many career paths,” said Assistant Professor of Politics Aaron Bobrow-Strain and leader of the U.S./Mexico border trip. “Students often come back from a program like this more serious about their classroom work.”  

Trips that are going this summer include the U.S./Mexico border trip, the Yellowstone geology trip and many self-inspired trips by students through study abroad.  

The trip to Yellowstone National Park will be led by Bob Carson, professor of Geology & Environmental Studies. On Tuesday May 26, 23 Whitman students of all years and majors will depart from Whitman on a bus bound for Northern Wyoming.

“We are going to stop at everything that looks interesting, everything geological and at every mammal and bird we see along the way,” Carson said.

Though the trip is geared towards Geology and Environmental Studies majors, it is open to all students. The students register for a two-credit class which runs during the spring semester before they go on the trip. The class is designed to prepare the students for the different things they will be seeing while in Yellowstone.  

This class has been running for many years and always changes a bit each summer according to Carson. Alumni used to be allowed to go on the trip as well but in recent years the trip has more than filled up every time with current students.  

Another trip that is scheduled to take place this summer is to the U.S./Mexico border. This trip spans from May 31 to June 8 and will take 12 students to both the U.S. and Mexican sides of the border where students will spend their days talking with locals, border patrol agents, immigration officers and others about issues they have researched the semester leading up to the trip.


“In just the intense period of those few days it is the equivalent of about two semester-long courses in length in terms of face time,” said Bobrow-Strain.

These students meet several times over the course of the spring semester to prepare for the trip and then register for a two-credit class next fall after their tip in order to reflect on the experience.

This trip will be the fourth iteration of the U.S./Mexico border trip but it may be canceled by the college because of the recent outbreaks of swine flu.  

“Between flu and other immigration concerns I can’t think of a time when our vision of the border is more warped,” said Bobrow-Strain. “It is important for students to go there and talk with people on the ground.”

The students and professor will be waiting to hear from the Emergency Management Committee which is currently deciding on whether or not to let them go.

Besides these two Whitman-led academic trips, many other students choose to travel and study abroad during their free summers.  

Junior Amy Soderquist will be taking the summer to do two separate programs. One will be studying Vikings in Denmark and Sweden through Harvard University and the other will be studying political economics, philosophy and management in Greece.

“It is a challenge to continue to provide education during the summer but doing a program with Harvard will get me the same kind of education as at Whitman,” said Soderquist.

Many students take this opportunity to continue learning during their free time or to get experiences that will help them after they graduate from Whitman.

“The chance to participate in such a diverse program is geared more towards what I want to do after I graduate,” said Soderquist.

These academic programs can be found at Whitman or through other schools and provide the opportunity for many Whitman students to continue their education even when school is not in session.