SRU offers an array of faculty-led study abroad programs during spring break


Man on a zip line in Costa Rica

Among the more than 20 faculty-led programs offered by Slippery Rock University during spring break 2019 is a trip to Costa Rica to explore the nation’s sustainable adventure tourism industry.

Oct. 31, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - While classroom lessons provide Slippery Rock University students with a window to the world, many students prefer to actually step out and discover that world for themselves through faculty-led study abroad programs. However, the window to travel during the 2019 spring break is closing fast. The Office of Global Engagement has set a Nov. 16 registration deadline.

Students can choose from more than 20 programs offered March 7-17. Destinations include Central America and Europe among others. Registration has been simplified this year with a new online portal available by clicking here.

"The goal of these programs is exposure for the students so they can experience different cultures, how to be a global citizen and how to use those skills when they come back," said Noora Alie, assistant director of international student services in SRU's Office of Global Engagement. "Several faculty are planning some amazing trips and some of them have been doing it for years, so they have a following and students know what to expect. Students are going to have experiences that they wouldn't have on their own."

Some of the popular annual programs geared toward specific majors include Linda Zane, associate professor of elementary education and early childhood, leading her seventh trip to Sweden, and Bruce Boliver, assistant professor of hospitality, event management and tourism, taking a group to Italy.

There are new programs this year and programs not tailored for specific majors that are also a great way to experience the world. Alie and Tess Thrower, assistant director of global exchanges and partnerships are leading a program for the first time. They will be taking a group of at least 20 students to the United Kingdom to visit SRU partner institutions Canterbury Christ Church University and Kingston University.

"Students will get to learn about the education system abroad, and because it's led by the Office for Global Engagement, we are central for international programs, so this will be helpful for students who have never been abroad and who are interested in working or studying abroad," Alie said. "We're not going to have students sitting in a class listening to a professor, we'll have them interact with the students (at the partner institutions) and talk about the differences in the cultures and then go out in the city and experience the culture."

Matt Lerman, a graduate student in student affairs in higher education from Hackettstown, New Jersey, jumped at the opportunity to enroll in Alie and Thrower's London program after he missed out on opportunities to travel as an undergraduate at Montclair State University.

"That's one of my biggest regrets, not studying abroad as an undergraduate," said Lerman, who is a graduate assistant for Fraternity and Sorority Life at SRU. "Coming to SRU and knowing that I still have the opportunity to study abroad, and though it might not be for a whole semester, I'll still be able to get that good experience and what it means to study abroad. Visiting two universities in London will also make it easy for me to connect to my master's program even though it's not connected to a course."

Alie's trip is one of three SRU programs that will be based in London. She chose the destination for its proximity to institutions that have exchange partnerships with SRU. The United Kingdom is also one of four European countries visited by multiple SRU programs in the spring, including Sweden, Italy and Greece.

Another new offering for 2019 is Jeffrey Smith, assistant professor of physical and health education, taking a group to Costa Rica, March 8-16, to learn about outdoor adventure education, which is an emphasis track that students can choose within the physical activity and fitness management major. The University also offers a minor in adventure fitness.

"We're going to explore teaching, leading and managing outdoor adventure in one of the world's top destinations for sustainable adventure," said Smith, a frequent visitor to Costa Rica, who has connections there with entrepreneurs and guides who work in the outdoor adventure industry. "Adventure tourism leaves an economic, cultural and environmental impact on countries, and Costa Rica is a model for the rest of the world as one of the most biodiverse places on the planet as far as aquatic, plant and wildlife. Costa Rica has a stable government and they know what they have is valuable to Costa Ricans and they want to keep it that way by reining in development and channeling it as a sustainable enterprise that just doesn't take but it helps the local economy and sustains the environment."

In addition to visiting businesses that offer activities like stand-up paddle boarding or zip-line canopy tours, the group will tour two national parks. No prerequisite courses or majors are required to enroll, but students within the adventure fitness minor and the physical activity and fitness management major will get first preference for the 15 available spots.

Between 300-400 SRU students travel abroad in faculty-led programs each year, including trips planned for winter break, spring break and pre-summer session, and each traveling party can range from 15-40 students. While the objectives may vary based on class affiliation or the faculty's expertise, all the program enhance students' skills as global citizens.

"(Student learn by) just being aware that there are different cultures, how to being open-minded and to be able to understand and engage with people from different cultures," Alie said. "Everyone's coming from a different place. People might say, 'The UK; how different could that be?;' but you could be very surprised."

The cost may also be surprising - in its affordability. Because SRU helps subsidize its study-abroad programs, students pay $2,099, which includes transportation, housing and some meals.

"We've had a lot of students join who never had an international experience," Alie said. "The smaller, spring-break trips are a more affordable option compared to a semester-long study abroad program."

The following is a complete list of faculty-led programs for spring break 2019:
• London, United Kingdom with Douglas Strahler, assistant professor of communication.
• Lisbon and Porto, Portugal with Christine Pease-Hernandez, assistant professor of communication.
• San Salavador, Bahamas with Tamra Schiappa, professor of geography, geology and environment.
• San Jose, Costa Rica with Jeffrey Smith, assistant professor of physical and health education.
• Havana, Cuba with Bonnie Siple, associate professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences.
• London, Canterbury and Kingston upon Thames, United Kingdom, with Noora Alie, assistant director of international student services, and Tess Thrower, assistant director of global exchanges and partnerships, Office of Global Engagement.
• London, United Kingdom with Nick Artman, assistant professor of communication.
• Paris, France with Thomas Como, professor of art.
• Munich, Germany, and Vienna, Austria with Melanie Anderson, professor of business, and Diane Galbraith, professor of business.
• Athens, Greece with Alice Del Vecchio, assistant professor of interdisciplinary programs.
• Athens and Crete, Greece with John Golden, assistant professor of business.
• Dublin and Limerick, Ireland with Susan Kushner, associate professor of physical therapy.
• Florence and Milan, Italy with Bruce Boliver, assistant professor of hospitality, event management and tourism.
• Florence, Rome and Venice, Italy with David Jordan, professor of business, and Rajeeb Poudel, associate professor of business.
• Florence and Milan, Italy with Jeananne Nicholls, professor of business.
• Florence and Rome, Italy with Michelle Amodei, assistant professor of elementary education and early childhood.
• Mexico City and Yucatan Penninsula, Mexico with Aksel Casson, assistant professor of interdisciplinary programs.
• Amsterdam, Netherlands with Jennifer Willford, associate professor of psychology.
• Stockholm, Sweden with Allison Peiritsch, assistant professor of communication.
• Kristianstad and Stockholm, Sweden with Linda Zane, associate professor of elementary education and early childhood.
• St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands with Eric Bieniek, assistant professor of special education.

Additionally, the Marching Pride, SRU's marching band, will travel to Dublin and Limerick, Ireland, March 14-21, to march in two parades, including Dublin's St. Patrick's Day Festival, March 17. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |