Summer travel classes finding departure difficult

Summer session travel study classes at UAA are finding it difficult to get off the ground. Professor Carol Dee's study tour of Italy has been cancelled while professor Tom Wiltsey's Civil War study tour of Virginia was impeded though is set for a June 13 departure.

Both professors have discovered that UAA lacks the procedures to advertise travel classes and assist in arrangements. Both have realized that, at least for this year, they are on their own.

“Tom and Carol are definitely on the front edge of this program,” Ivy Spohnholz, UAA's Special Programs and Marketing Coordinator for Summer Session said.

Spohnholz's position is new and she works alone.

“There is no budget for more staff,” she said.

Spohnholz is working to establish procedure for future travel opportunities. Much of the problem is due to timing. The summer catalog is not available until March and students can register through the end of May. Without a set class list the university cannot submit price quote requests. The university requires a bid process for purchasing, whether for plywood or plane tickets. The process takes time.

“What the university should be doing is to make these travel opportunities available.” Dee said.

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Spohnholz has been working on it. Her idea is to create a “resource guide” that will provide information on summer travel classes well before the class catalog becomes available. Students can then see what will be offered, approximate cost and dates, and register early allowing the university ample time for travel arrangements.

Dee's trip failed due to a lack of registration, not planning on her part. She lived in Italy for 23 years but travel classes require enough students to cover the faculty salary.

“I've never worked so hard on anything in my life to get nowhere with it,” Dee said. But it wasn't a lack of interest that derailed Dee's trip. She received over 20 phone calls from people interested, but was unable to give a firm cost or itinerary.

Wiltsey's came dangerously close. Only four students registered and he will not receive full pay, though is determined to see this trip succeed.

“I'm receiving slightly less than half pay,” Wiltsey said. His expenses will have to come out of his own pocket. His desire is for this study tour to be repeated.

“I'm hoping for an annual or biannual program, but not for free,” he said. “If you are going to offer the class you must make some commitment to the instructor.”

There is hope as two other classes successfully completed study trips between the spring and summer semesters. The geology department took students to the Colorado Plateau Basin in Nevada while a biology course trekked to Kodiak.

The Civil War study tour will encompass the battlefields of Virginia and includes stops at Harper's Ferry, the sight of abolitionist John Brown's raid on the U.S arsenal in 1859, Antietam and Gettysburg. Wiltsey will emphasize the geography of the area and its affects on military operations.

Wiltsey also teaches a Civil War lecture class in the fall. The class covers the period from the Compromise of 1850 through Reconstruction and details the crucial events of the 1850s, strategies and logistics of the war, and the overwhelming transformation of American society following Confederate General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox in1865.