Eight Buena Vista University professors traveling to Mexico City had little reason to expect an explosive welcome.
Yet just as they approached, the Popocatepetl volcano began to erupt - nature's blast a fitting match for the excitement of the educators surrounding the trip - the beginnings of BVU's new "Bridges" internationally-themed, cross-disciplinary program.
Bridges is designed to unite three aspects of BVU academics: study travel, Academic and Cultural Events Series (ACES) performances and lectures, and courses from all five BVU schools. Each year, Bridges will focus on a geographical region. For 2003-04, the theme is "UNO: Uniting Diverse Opportunities in Latin American Studies."
While over 200 BVU students are expected to participate, many of the faculty members involved in the program have already had a taste of Latin America firsthand. With New American College Venture funding, eight BVU professors traveled to Mexico for a week-long cultural experience from which to draw in creating their planned Bridges courses.
Besides witnessing the surprise eruption of the Popocatepetl volcano (a three-minute explosion on July 19 that sent a plume almost two miles into the sky above the crater and spread a fine layer of ash all the way to Mexico City, 35 miles to the northwest), trip highlights included climbing the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon in Teotihuacan, observing religious processions, bartering with the merchants, going inside a pyramid in Cholula, visiting Aztec ruins in Mexico City, sharing authentic meals and even getting lost a few times.
"It was useful to experience the same sort of insecurities that our students will experience on their Latin American interim trips if they don't have a working knowledge of Spanish," laughs Tonsfeldt. "But our faculty development trip also reinforced for us one of the Bridges program's guiding principles - nature does not divide itself into categories; only people do."
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