Program offers travel funding

Gannon’s Student Development and Engagement is taking a new approach that involves current sophomores and juniors.

The T.R.A.V.E.L. program – Transforming Residents Abroad Via Engaged Learning – is encouraging current sophomores and juniors to consider staying in campus housing for their junior and senior years and participating in a living-learning program.

The T.R.A.V.E.L. program consists of seven separate trips – Thailand, Ireland, France, Deutschland, Rome, Africa and Scotland.

Each trip will take about 10 students, although some trips may take more. All trips will take place in May 2014, except for the Scotland trip, which will be in August 2014.

This year, the program is flexible as to where students are living – as long as it is on campus and they are accepted into the program, they are eligible for the $1,000 scholarship.

The program is inspired by the new vice president for Student Development and Engagement, Brian Nichols.

“Nichols made it clear that Gannon has an opportunity to engage students a little differently,” Alan Swigonski, Director of Waldron Campus Center, said. “His vision is to really do more with the cultural experience and globalization.”

Sunu Alexander, a sophomore pre-med biology major, said that learning about culture is essential for her.

“My family is Indian so culture plays a big role in my life,” Alexander said. “It really opens you up to things you would have never known or experienced on your own.”

Next year, it’s desirable that students going on one of the trips will live together in Harborview or North Hall, Arlene Montevecchio, Director of Center for Social Concerns said.

Thailand and Africa are the main service-learning trips that the program is offering, while the others focus more on education and sightseeing.

In Thailand, students will volunteer at two Catholic schools and an after-school program. Participants will also be learning the culture, food and sights of Thailand. The cost of this three-week trip will be $3,000.

Montevecchio is leading the trip to Africa which “focuses on women, world wisdom and the problem with HIV/AIDS,” Montevecchio said. Students will be volunteering at a home for girl scholars and visiting a village where elders care for children who are affected or infected by AIDS/HIV. The 10-12 day trip will cost roughly $3,500-$4,000.

Alexander said that she decided to apply for this program because she’s interested in traveling and experiencing new places and cultures.

“I’ve always had a fascination with the beauty and culture of Thailand,” Alexander said. “This trip offers the opportunity to teach little kids English and hopefully in return, we could learn about their language, too.”

As of Monday, 24 students have applied for the program.

“We are very pleased with the 24 students,” Montevecchio said. “That’s a really good start.”

Natalie Pertz, a junior theatre and communication arts major, said that she has a strong inclination to travel.

“I heard that the Scotland trip was included in the destination options and I knew that it was too good of an opportunity for me to look the other way,” Pertz said.

Swigonski said that the T.R.A.V.E.L. program is not an experiment because this is going to be a program that will be on-going.

“This is something I know that is going to develop and grow,” Swigonski said. “The goal is to increase the amount of students that are not just living on campus and studying global issues, but actually doing the traveling.”

Montevecchio also thinks the T.R.A.V.E.L. program is a great idea.

“When I was an undergrad, the most powerful experiences I had were doing a service trip to Washington, D.C. and studying abroad in England,” Montevecchio said.

Students will meet bi-weekly to study a topic and then travel to the country that is relevant to that topic. Biweekly meetings will also include discussions, movies and readings.

Pertz has been on several trips through Gannon, including the alternative break service trip to Detroit, The American Shakespeare Center in Virginia and the New York City trip.

“I think that the bi-weekly meetings will force me to set aside time in my wall-to-wall schedule to embrace this upcoming experience with continuous discussion, reflection and preparation,” Pertz said.

Applications for the program are reviewed and ranked by a committee of five faculty members and one student.

The committee looks at GPA, past experience with travel, leadership, service and also checks to make sure that they are in good health.

Alexander said that learning about culture is essential for her.

“My family is Indian so culture plays a big role in my life,” Alexander said. “It really opens you up to things you would have never known or experienced on our own.”

The T.R.A.V.E.L. program applications are due Tuesday – any questions may be directed to Montevecchio at [email protected]



[email protected]