NORFOLK, NE - Students at Northeast Community College will be taking advantage of educational travel opportunities in record numbers this upcoming semester. A total of 57 students will be traveling to one of three locations in spring 2020: the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, and Ireland.
“We try to offer a travel experience every year,” said Pam Saalfeld, director of the Center for Global Engagement. “Every couple of years, however, we manage to offer more than one opportunity, and this year, we hit the travel jackpot.”
Nine students and three faculty members from Northeast’s biology department - Angie Jackson, Erin Kucera, and Dr. Irina Weitzmann - will travel to Puerto Rico as part of a biology class that examines environmental issues. While Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, the country is very international in many ways and will provide students with an excellent location to study water and air quality.
“While no passport is required, Puerto Rico will introduce our students to differences in environment, language, lifestyles, and the like,” Saalfeld said.
Students will enroll in the full-semester Introduction to Environmental Issues class, but the travel itself will occur over Northeast’s winter break in March. January and February will be time for students to familiarize themselves with the basics of travel, learn to use equipment and become acquainted with each other and their faculty leaders. Upon their return, the rest of the term will be used to analyze their data, rethink their hypotheses, and prepare a formal project based on their experiences.
Fourteen students are excitedly preparing to travel to the United Kingdom - specifically England and Scotland - to study agricultural techniques in those countries. Faculty leaders Brandon Keller and Sarah Sellin, two of Northeast’s agriculture instructors, will lead the students to various locations, such as a black-face sheep farm, a meat processing plant, a falconry training program, and a local dairy operation, among other educational and cultural sites.
While open to any Northeast student, the participants are understandably majoring in some area of agriculture. Keller sees this as an opportunity for his students to see the importance of an international market for the agricultural industry.
“The most important thing I think students will take away from this trip is the fact that it doesn’t matter where they are in the world, all agricultural producers have the same goals: to be good stewards of the land and help feed the world,” he said.
The students are required to enroll in an Agriculture Capstone course during the spring term prior to their May 17, 2020 departure. The travel experience itself is also for credit and can be used in substitution of the student’s summer co-op.
Flying nearly side-by-side of the ag students will be 34 students bound for a 10-day excursion to Ireland, the first cooperative travel opportunity organized by the Nebraska Community College Global Leadership, a consortium of five of the six Nebraska community colleges. The 34 students are not just enrolled at Northeast; many are students from Central Community College, Mid-Plains Community College, Southeast Community College, and Western Nebraska Community College.
Saalfeld, Northeast’s representative on the consortium, is coordinating the efforts of enrolling the students, collecting and making payments, and arranging the travel logistics.
“It’s been an interesting challenge,” she said.
The process has been a great example of how different offices can come together to make everything seem effortless.
“(Northeast Registrar) Makala Maple and her staff figured out how to get students from other colleges in our system; Deb Dreher and others in our Business Office keep track of the contracts and payments; Carla Streff, executive director of technology services, and her staff are advising on how to get all these students from all over the state together for monthly ‘meetings,’” Saalfeld said. “I couldn’t do it without them.”
The consortium partnered with the Institute of Study Abroad-Ireland, whose headquarters is located in Bundoran, County Donegal. The consortium members became acquainted with Dr. Niamh Hammill and her staff through various professional organizations. Dr. Hammill will develop and teach the curriculum on site, punctuated with field trips related to the lectures.
Five faculty - one from each community college - will accompany the students and will base additional instruction on the daily lessons taught by Hammill and guest lecturers. Faculty leader from Northeast will be American history and government instructor, Gary Timm.
Students will fly out of Omaha or Denver, depending on their proximity to either airport, on May 18, 2020, arriving in Dublin the following day.
Ten Northeast Community College students and four instructors traveled to Costa Rica for an eight-day learning experience in 2017. A record number of students will travel internationally with Northeast as part of their studies in 2020.