Faculty to Lead Students on Six Summer Study Abroad Programs

Most know little more about Rwanda than the 1994 genocide that devastated the country. But Gerise Herndon, professor of English and director of Nebraska Wesleyan’s Gender Studies Program, hopes the students she leads to Africa in June will discover that Rwanda is now a changed nation.

Herndon is heading Nebraska Wesleyan University’s first faculty-led study abroad program for credit to Africa.

Two decades after the genocide, Rwandans are working together to eliminate corruption and increase gender equity in government. Today, there is more female representation in Rwanda’s parliament than in any other country in the world at 64 percent.

Herndon, who spent a year-long sabbatical in Rwanda, wants students to match genocide studies with an understanding of the nation’s progress. She hopes that students will embrace Rwandan culture and leave Western ideals behind.

“I hope that students can see an image of Africa that does not fit stereotypes,” she said.

Ten NWU students will spend one month in Rwanda where they will attend class and visit genocide memorials, reconciliation communities and non-profit organizations. They will also participate in a service learning project assisting a grassroots cooperative for women who were sexually assaulted during the genocide. Individually, students will also participate in internships designed to match their interests and majors, which vary from education, gender studies and psychology to theatre and computer science.

In preparation for their journey to Africa, students studied a variety of texts and documentaries to learn about the history and culture of post-genocide Rwanda.

Junior Lauren Ziegenbein, a biology and Spanish double major from Omaha, was inspired to travel to Rwanda after learning about the country’s history in a class taught by Herndon.

“I am very excited to experience for myself the hope and happiness of Rwanda only 20 years after the genocide took place,” said Ziegenbein. “Spending one month in Rwanda will further my global studies and human rights interests through interactions and my internship.”

Chloe Petit, a 2014 theatre arts and communication major graduate from Belgium, is returning to Rwanda for a second time. This time she wants to be more than a tourist.

 “I’m excited to experience the country in depth through a different lens,” she said.

Herndon’s study abroad program to Africa is one of six faculty-led experienced planned this summer. Others include:

Greece and Italy: Religion and Healing: Ancient & Modern Examples: Professors David Peabody (religion) and Jeri Brandt (nursing) will lead students on a program that will explore ancient religions, including Greek and Roman mythology and Christianity. They will also visit ancient healing sites and modern hospitals and clinics.

India Society and Development:  Political science professor Bob Oberst will lead student to India to learn about modern development efforts. Students will work in the Himalaya Mountains with Waste Warriors, an environmental group.

Exploring Austrian and German Identity in the Modern: Professors Karlan Jensen (communication studies), Patrick Hayden Roy (history), Joann Fuess (German) and Sarah Berkeley (art) will lead a group to Austria and Germany to explore museums and landmarks in Vienna, Nurnburg, and Berlin to investigate the evolution of German identity in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Experiencing the Culture of Japan: History professor and Director of Global Studies Steven Wills will take students to Japan to participate in service learning projects across the island of Honshu, while learning about traditional Japanese culture and history. They will experience the sights and sounds of a nation that is on the cutting edge of art, fashion, and technology.

Applied Marine Biology in Honduras: Biology professor Jerry Bricker will travel with students to Honduras to learn about marine reef ecology by sampling, monitoring and assessing reef ecosystem health. In addition to swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving, each student will conduct an independent research project.

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Gerise Herndon is leading NWU students to Rwanda. This marks the first academic credit program to Africa.
Biology students will travel to Honduras to study marine biology.