Twenty-six WKU Glasgow students and faculty members spent their 2015 Spring Break traveling by coach through the eastern part of Kentucky to explore the unique history, geography and culture of the Commonwealth.
The Kentucky Experience is a new Study Away program at WKU that was specifically created for students who often have family, work and community responsibilities that make it difficult to enroll in travel programs that would otherwise take them out of state or overseas.
“We wanted to offer students a feasible and affordable alternative to the more traditional study away or abroad programs,” said Linda Fitzpatrick, a longtime Mathematics instructor and program leader on the trip. “We don’t often think about the distinctive places we can visit closer to home. Exploring Kentucky just made sense. Plus, with the financial support of WKU Glasgow’s Chancellor, Dr. Sally Ray, as well as generous contributions from WKU’s University, Potter and Ogden Colleges, the College of Health and Human Services, and the Departments of Social Work and History, we were able to drive our costs down to $375 per student – and that included all of our transportation, lodging, meals and entry fees.”
Never more than a half day’s drive from home, the group explored a variety of places-of-interest from Bardstown to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Frankfort and Lexington, Harlan County, Cumberland Falls State Park and points in between.
Shannon Matthews, a Nursing student traveling with her daughter Miranda, a freshman at WKU, said: “I got to see and do more in the last week than I have done in my entire life and it’s been incredible!”
Along the way, Instructor Amy Nemon’s Geography of Kentucky students delivered a series of informative presentations about the places the group visited. And, Kentucky History students were given the opportunity to explore those places they had only read about in Dr. Jennifer Hanley’s course.
From visiting a native seed farm in Upton, watching Kentucky Senators debate legislation in Frankfort, touring Lexington’s thoroughbred horse farms, traveling deep into a coal mine in Lynch, and enjoying dinner at Boone Tavern in Berea, the group – many of whom are Elementary Education students – profited from a broad range of experiences.
“Students were given a hands-on opportunity to interact within their physical and cultural landscapes which led to a better appreciation of Kentucky as a sense of place,” Nemon said. Students cited the Catholic Mass they attended in Bardstown and hiking up to the Natural Bridge in Slade as two of the most interesting places they visited.
Though exhausted from six days of touring and exploring, Dr. Simon Funge, an Assistant Professor of Social Work, and Leigh Ann Wells, a Math instructor, both said they would jump on a bus tomorrow morning to repeat the journey. Each of the faculty members on the trip said it was a journey of a lifetime – an opportunity to foster relationships with students outside of the classroom and to witness students broadening their worldview. As Patricia Witcher, a Communication Instructor, noted, “Many of these students had never been away from home for so long or had been to the places we visited, but now they feel more confident to explore other places and experiences. The possibilities are endless!”
The students and faculty have already begun to think about future trips. “Maybe we’ll explore the western part of the state – an area equally as interesting as it is different,” Dr. Hanley said.
Wherever they go, students on the Kentucky Experience are sure to have what Natasha Holt, an Accounting student, described as “a great time” and will also have the opportunity to make “many friends and memories!”
- For information about the program, visit wku.edu/studyaway/programs/kyexperience2015.php.
- Information about how you can support scholarships for students going on the trip is also available by contacting Linda Fitzpatrick at email@example.com or (270) 659-6940.
Contact: John Roberts, (270) 659-6984