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Summer Engages UT Faculty and Students

Published: September 01, 2009
From Mexico to Tanzania, UT students and faculty spent the summer researching, volunteering and travelling around the world, growing as individuals and as academics.

For Kevin Jagnandan, a senior in marine science, spending the summer out in the field with graduate students was affirming for his career path. Jagnandan interned for the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama’s Marine Science Institution. He assisted with field research in projects like the study of coastal Alabama breakwater systems, Alabama oyster reef restoration and the impacts of predator on prey and community diversity. His most involved project was the tagging and release of sharks for a shark longline survey.

“I’ve been wanting to go to grad school so this gave me a good opportunity for networking and seeing what grad students do,” said Jagnandan, president of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society.

UT’s nursing students headed south of the border to Mexico where they worked with orphans teaching dental hygiene and basic health education. This was the first time the nursing program offered the trip to Mexico as in previous years they went to Ecuador. Associate director Kim Curry said the change offers students a chance to practice Spanish, both in treating patients and in conversation.

“If anything, Mexico is a country we should know more about,” said Curry, who will be leading another trip in January. “In our country we really have a narrow view of what constitutes medical care.”

Curry said students are exposed to traditional healing through medicinal plants, educated on Mexico’s healthcare system and engaged in culture sharing.

“I learned early on that you have to step out of your own culture,” Curry said. “You just can’t replace that experience. It opens your eyes.”

For a photo gallery of the team’s trip, click here.

Tanner White, a senior in international and cultural studies, went to Africa in June with downtown Tampa’s First Presbyterian Church. It was his second mission trip to Tanzania and he was joined by senior Elly Carrere and Jaime Herzig ‘09. Maureen Rorech Dunkel, immediate past chair of the UT Board of Trustees, has gone on this mission trip in previous years as well.

“It is definitely a powerful experience. It changes the way you live day-to-day life,” said White, whose team built a security wall around the local school for protection against the crime in the surrounding slum. “It highlights that we don’t need all these material things. The people there are so full of joy while their pockets and stomachs are empty.”

That kind of culture sharing is what drew UT professor Kevin Fridy to a love of Ghana. He studied abroad while in college and it changed his thinking and career goals. This summer he used a UT Dana and Delo grant to study local government in Northern Ghana and then joined UT English professor Arthur Hollist for a UT travel abroad course with seven students.

“This gives students a chance to get their feet wet before making the jump,” said Fridy, who will lead a community-based development trip to Ghana this spring.

Chris Gurrie, assistant professor and director of speech, was awarded a Council on International Educational Exchange faculty development grant by UT. He chose to go to Australia where the hot topic is climate change and drought.

“I wanted to hear how they talk about the problem,” Gurrie said. “It was interesting to hear how their citizens talk about drought compared to Floridians. In Australia, more people are aware of climate change. Not as many people resist the fact that something funky is going on. Politics never came up.”