Faculty-led trips provide ‘global classrooms’


"As You Like It" playbill

Slippery Rock University students will take part in a scene from William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” during their visit to the 2016 Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada.

May 12, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - For more than six decades, the many plays of William Shakespeare have come to life every summer in the small, southern Ontario city of Stratford.

At little more than 10 square miles, the former railroad junction would likely go unnoticed on the Canadian landscape were it not for the hundreds of thousands of theatre-going tourists that descend upon the town every year for the internationally recognized Stratford Festival.

With many famed actors having graced the Stratford stage - Alex Guinness, Christopher Plummer and Peter Ustinov among them - at one time or another, it's easy to see why.

"Above all else, (the works of) Shakespeare (were) meant to be performed," said Tim Oldakowski, a Slippery Rock University assistant professor of English. "To truly appreciate the nuances of his work, one has to see it performed, hear the words spoken, watch the gestures and movements of the actors in combination with the sounds, colors and lighting to gain a deeper understanding."

Oldakowski and a group of 10 SRU students will gain that deeper understanding when they attend the festival June 20-24 as one of seven summer session study abroad trips. The trips, led by SRU faculty, will provide more than 90 students with the opportunity to mix an international travel experience with their academic program.

For Oldakowski's group, the experience will go beyond simply crossing the Canadian border.

"One of the plays being featured while we are there is 'As You Like It,'" said Oldakowski. "There is a wedding scene during the production that features what they call a 'goat dance' and our group has been invited to take part in the scene as dancers.

"I'm a huge proponent of active learning, so to have such an opportunity presented to us, to be participants in the production, is a wonderful bonus and the students are thrilled to take part in such a unique experience."

Lia Paradis, associate professor of history, who will lead a group of 12 to World War I sites across England and France, hopes to provide her students with an understanding of how the past directly impacts the present on a global scale.

"When you can provide an opportunity for students to look out across the landscape, standing on the same ground where significant and life-changing history unfolded, it helps them to not see things in the abstract, but to better grasp the impact of real events on real people," said Paradis.

To that end, Paradis and her students will visit a number of battlefields, cemeteries and museums to gain insight on how important global and political events - including the Cold War - can be traced back and linked directly to the First World War.

"I want them to not think of what they'll see as having happened in the past, but rather how the choices and decisions made then began a progression toward what would happen not only decades into the future, but how that impacts our world today," Paradis said.

In addition to the educational benefits of such trips, Rachela Permenter, professor of English, hopes that students accompanying her to Italy will become more connected to the world through such a journey.

"The opportunity for them to be enveloped in such an endeavor can be life changing," said Permenter. "To be able to watch them grow as people from the beginning of the trip to the end and how they begin to connect the learning to their daily lives and who they are is fascinating.

"Seeing them mature right in front of your eyes in so wonderful and special. As an educator, taking part in such an event really provides evidence that you've helped someone learn and that is so rewarding."

SRU summer study abroad trips and faculty include:

  • Nola Nolen, associate professor of dance and Ursula Payne, professor of dance, will conduct a dance seminar in Italy;
  • Timothy Oldakowski, associated professor of English, will teach Shakespeare in Canada;
  • Lia Paradis, associate professor of history, will teach World War I history in England and France;
  • Rachela Permenter, professor of English, and Mark O'Connor, associate professor of English, will teach Italian literature and travel/food writing in Italy;
  • David Skeele, professor of theatre, will teach international theatre in Scotland;
  • Jennifer Willford, assistant professor of psychology, will teach "Children's Experience of War: Conflict Adversity and Resilience" in the Czech Republic; and
  • Yukako Ishimaru, instructor of modern languages and cultures, will teach a Japanese language course at Saga University in Japan

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 | robert.king@sru.edu