New study away courses set in NYC, HI

Wheaton’s first domestic study away program will be held in New York City in late spring.

Mellon grant supports unique educational experiences in modernism, music

Wheaton students will have the chance to explore German and Austrian modernism in New York City and be immersed in the music, dance and culture of Hawaii through the college’s first domestic study away courses, being offered over the next year.

The late spring and fall 2018 courses are the first of four that are being developed through a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, awarded to Wheaton in fall 2016. The grant, which aims to promote the teaching and professional application of humanities, also is funding the development of faculty interest groups, on-campus courses and a speaker series.

“The idea behind the grant, and behind these courses, is to help our students in the humanities to be able to articulate to themselves and others why having a degree in the humanities matters,” said Professor of Philosophy Nancy Kendrick, who is coordinating the grant. “It’s important to help students see why what it is they’re doing as classics majors, or English majors, or art majors—how this training contributes to their ability to be part of the world, professionally and in other ways.” 

These study away courses expand on Wheaton’s already strong offering of faculty-led programs, such as “The Arts in Ireland” and “Tanzania: Education and Development.” As with these programs, faculty are responsible for making arrangements (with support from Wheaton offices)—from finding housing and organizing travel to planning site visits and guest lectures.

Offering study away opportunities within the U.S. expands Wheaton’s educational opportunities and helps to serve its diverse student population, Kendrick said.

“While we certainly want to encourage students to study abroad, some students may not be able to or may not want to, and so both short-term and semester-long domestic programs could offer an alternative,” she said. “For our international students, domestic study may be more interesting.”

Iolani Palace, capitol of the Hawai’ian monarchy until overthrown by the United States, 1893 (Photo by Matthew Allen)

The Mellon grant is covering the development of two short-term courses as well as two full-semester courses, the first of which is titled “Hawaiian Expressivity in Socio-Cultural Context” and will be offered in fall 2018.

“When the Mellon grant was announced and faculty were invited to envision a semester-long study away experience for a group of Wheaton students, we immediately thought of Hawaii. We have been teaching about Hawaiian culture—music, dance and history—for many years in our ethnomusicology classes,” said Instructor of Music Julie Searles, who is teaching the course with Professor of Music Matthew Allen.

The program actually consists of three separate courses, plus an independent study, spaced out over 12 weeks. Courses will focus on Hawaiian music and dance; history, social structure and language; and critical issues on the islands, such as tourism development and the cultural impact of colonialism, according to the course description.

The students will take field trips to places such as the Iolani Palace and Polynesian Cultural Center in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, and ancient fishing villages and temples on the island of Hawaii, Searles said.

“We’re hoping students will continue to develop sensitivity to people and cultures outside their immediate experience and to see how expressive traditions are inevitably linked to the representation of identity—how an individual sees him or herself as an individual and/or participant within a larger social context,” she said of the course.

Students taking the semester-long course will pay regular tuition to the college, as they would for an international study program.

Associate Professor of Music Delvyn Case and Visiting Assistant Professor of German Laura Bohn Case are teaching the first short-term domestic study-away course, “German and Austrian Modernism in New York City,” running May 21 through June 3.

“Laura and I have overlapping interests in modernism, particularly of the Austrian/German stripe. She wrote her dissertation on one of the major Austrian modernist authors, and most of my composition teachers came from the Austrian modernist school,” Case said, of why they wanted to teach the course. “We also both embrace a wide variety of art forms in our teaching and research, so we are passionate about exploring the relevance of the visual arts, theater, film and dance to our specific disciplines.”

As a hub of world-class art, music and culture, New York City seemed an ideal destination for this sort of intense study, Case said.

“We will attend classical and jazz concerts at Lincoln Center; visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art; take a New York City architecture tour; and go to a theater and/or dance production,” he said. “Students will also participate in hands-on workshops led by New York-based artists.”

Students attending the short-term course will pay a program fee, as they would for other faculty-led programs during summer or winter break. Merit scholarship stipends can be used to help cover those costs.

Both study away courses are available to all majors, with registration open now.