Faculty-led Travel


By Meg (Canning) Musante ’02

Lynn Shelley, Ph.D., was impressed with her students’ brains during her course, Service Learning in Psychology, and she was blown away by their hearts during a related service work trip to Guatemala a year ago. In the unique course, students meet regularly during the semester and then travel to complete 40 hours of service learning, coordinated through a local mission and led by Dr. Shelley.

For the first half of the semester, junior and senior psychology majors—for the most part—learn about “voluntourism” and the ethics behind the trip, for which they collectively raise $8,000 to $10,000. “We serve the people and learn from the local experts while we’re there,” says Dr. Shelley. “We’re there to learn about Guatemala’s culture and some of the issues its citizens face, from poverty, malnutrition, and lack of access to medical and psychological care, and lack of clean water and sanitation.”

Kat Howland ’19 admitted she was hesitant at first but is so thankful she went on the trip. “I stepped out of my comfort zone,” Howland says. “Now, in my job, I am less intimidated to handle situations from the beginning to the end.”

Howland and her 12 classmates fed infants in the Casa Jackson malnutrition center, provided protein meals to 200 children in a teen outreach center, and delivered water filtration systems to 12 families in the mountains, providing them with clean water for up to 10 years.

The group also built a home for the Godinez family, says student Jocelyn Hill ’20. “We used our own hands to benefit this family in a way that will change their lives,” she says. “Although it was not always easy, the family’s prayer at the end made us all realize that we were a part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Another afternoon, the students visited Hermano Pedro, a hospital and care center for individuals with disabilities and disorders, such as cerebral palsy. “We played with children because they receive little to no stimulation,” says Nicholas Cox ’19. “The experience was completely out of our comfort zones. School cannot prepare one for that type of powerful experience.”

For a number of the students, the Guatemala service learning trip was the most memorable experience during their time in college. “I learned how grateful I am for everyday life, as well as how amazing it feels to lend a helping hand, learn from others, and make connections I will remember for the rest of my life,” Howland says.

While the students spent most of their time giving back to the community, they also made sure to wake up early to watch the sun rise, barter at the markets, explore Antigua, and practice communicating with people who speak a different language. During their free day, the students climbed more than 8,300 feet to the top of Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano. Roasting marshmallows over the hotspots and admiring the views of Antigua were experiences they will never forget, says Maggie Kane ’20.

Also last spring, another faculty-led trip took place farther south. Professors Jennifer Hanselman, Ph.D., and Carsten Braun, Ph.D., led 14 students to the Galapagos Islands as the culmination of a tropical ecology course. Students explored the historic architecture, experienced a wide variety of tropical foods and fish, and snorkeled with whitetip reef sharks. “They were excited, passionate, and connected to what we learned during the semester,” says Dr. Hanselman. “It was an experience they will not soon forget.”


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