Humes Program Travels Overseas Thanks to Donor

Harris Rogers ‘21

Staff Writer

Courtesy of Michaela Gibbons ‘22

While many Davidson students lounged on the beach or returned home to visit family, the students enrolled in the Davidson Humanities program, or “Humes,” embarked on a spring break trip of a different kind. Spreading out across Europe, the students set out to explore the histories and cultures of some of the world’s most iconic cities. Their destinations included Paris, Berlin, London, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. The overarching theme of the trips, and of the Humes program this semester, was revolution. Each of the faculty members that accompanied the groups brought to their respective trips an individual expertise and a unique focus, allowing the students to study revolution from a variety of perspectives across several disciplines.

 Based on the students’ own reflections, published on the Humes Davidson Travels web page, the Humes Program provided an opportunity to go abroad, experience new cultures, new perspectives, and challenge old biases. For some, this was the first time their perceptions had been challenged by witnessing life in a foreign country first hand.

The London trip combined features of the traditional Humanities program with new additions, including “the shifting boundaries of insiders and outsiders” according to Dr. Randy Ingram, who helped lead the trip, along with Dr. David Robb, archivist Sharon Bryd, and librarian Kelly Denzer. This meant studying the history of migration within the United Kingdom and linking “that history to current anxieties about migration in the U.K.” 

Ingram noted that by the end of the program “students had begun to pursue their individual interests,” an aspiration that he hopes to encourage. In accordance with the program’s aims, students attended a production of Richard II, which was the first production of Shakespeare by a cast entirely of women of color. The group also visited the Migration Museum and neighborhoods in which immigrants gathered in the 20th century.

 The Paris and Russia trips also made a powerful impact on students. Dr. Amanda Ewington, Dr. Burkhard Henke, Dr. Hilton Kelly, librarian Cara Evanson, and Technology & Innovation (T&I) designer Sundi Richard accompanied the students to Russia. Dr. Greta Munger led the Paris group and was joined by Dr. Caroline Fache, Dr. Patricia Tilburg, Dr. Garry Bertholf, Dr. Mauro Botelho, Alison Bradley from the library’s Collection Strategies, and T&I designer Daniel Lynds. In Paris the students travelled to the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, Versailles, and more traditional Parisian landmarks. However, they also analyzed the historical relationship between the city of Paris, urban geography, and Paris’s minority populations.

 In Russia, the students visited a memorial to the Siege of Leningrad, modern-day St. Petersburg, toured a variety of Russian Orthodox churches, went on a Soviet food tour, and surveyed Communist art and monuments. According to Matthew Schnizer ‘22, the trip to Russia “highlighted a lot of my own cultural prejudices I was not aware of.”  

Schnizer also discovered that “Russian people are not what their stereotype might suggest.” Rather, he found the Russian people he met and talked with to be welcoming and warm. The trip allowed Schnizer to develop a new, more accurate picture of a foreign space and increase his own cultural awareness.

 The Humes program has also expanded the ability of older students with a passion for the humanities to act as mentors. Taylor Drake ’21 serves as a Fellow in the Humes Program. He traveled to Berlin, where he found himself immersed in the “remembrance culture of Germany.” His group travelled to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp north of Berlin, where Jews, Communists, Social Democrats, “asocials,” homosexuals, and other minorities deemed inferior were imprisoned and tortured by their Nazi guards from 1936 to 1945. 

Drake was deeply moved by the experience and “would encourage any student to get involved in the Humanities program.” The trip to Berlin also included a meeting with a prominent member of the German Green Party, a Mozart opera, and extended walking tours of Berlin accompanied by lectures. Dr. Scott Denham, Dr. Yurika Tamura, Dr. Ann Fox, librarian Molly Kunkel, T&I fellow Annie Sadler, and Director of Communication Lisa Patterson  traveled with the students.

 While the Humes Program requires a class trip as part of the curriculum, this year’s travel options were noticeably grander in scale and cost. This increase in expense and logistical complexity was made possible by an anonymous donor and resources provided by the Bacca fund and the Cox Endowment. This allows Dr. Denham, who directs the abroad trips and currently serves as the chair of the Davidson Humanities program, to ensure that “no participant had to pay any money.”

Each trip was provided free of charge to participating students as an essential part of their curriculum in the Humes program. Denham assures his students, and those considering enrolling in the Humes program, that a student’s financial situation will never be allowed to prevent them from participating in an abroad trip. He aims to continue this commitment to his students “because it is fair and open and more democratic” than a system in which students are required to pay their own way, which could adversely affect their overall learning experience.

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