Faculty Members Plan Semester on a Voyage with “Semester at Sea.”

Faculty Members Plan Semester on a Voyage with “Semester at Sea.”

From left: Professor Andrea Smith and her husband, Matt, in front of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain; Professor Barry Penn-Hollar playing a drum with a market vendor in Ghana.

Professor of Philosophy and Religion Barry Penn-Hollar and Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages (Spanish) Andrea Smith are currently serving as faculty members for the Fall 2012 Semester at Sea experience.

Two Shenandoah University faculty members set sail this semester on a voyage with Semester at Sea. Professor of Philosophy and Religion Barry Penn-Hollar and Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages (Spanish) Andrea Smith are currently serving as faculty members for the Fall 2012 Semester at Sea experience. 
“I was very pleasantly surprised to be chosen as the Spanish faculty for Fall 2012,” said Smith. “There is usually a good bit of competition for the faculty positions, so I was ecstatic, not only to be chosen by Semester at Sea, but also because Shenandoah graciously allowed me to take a leave of absence.”

“The opportunity to visit so many incredible places, and get paid to do it, seemed like something no one in their right mind would pass up,” said Penn-Hollar. “I found this to be an appropriate way to use a sabbatical from Shenandoah given our commitment to encouraging the development of a global perspective in our community and in our teaching. I’ve no doubt that this experience will enhance my teaching for the rest of my career at Shenandoah.”

Semester at Sea is a program that takes a global comparative approach to study abroad using a ship as its traveling campus and sailing to between eight and thirteen destinations on each voyage. Its mission is to educate individuals for leadership, service, and success in shaping our interdependent world.

The ship departed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Thursday, Aug. 23, and since then, the group has traveled to Ireland, England, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, the Canary Islands, Ghana and South Africa. They will make stops in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Dominica before arriving back in the United States on Friday, Dec. 7, in Ft. Lauderdale.

Smith and Penn-Hollar have the opportunity to educate students from many different universities and colleges across the country during their time on the water, as faculty members teach while sailing between ports of call. While in port, there are required field labs for courses, and opportunities for sightseeing and independent travel.

“I have students with a wide range of abilities and degrees of interest and commitment, just as I have at Shenandoah,” said Penn-Hollar. “The challenge has always has been to help students ‘catch’ my own interest and curiosity about religious faith and its meaning in human life.”

Penn-Hollar teaches Liberation Theologies as well as two sections of World Religions. Smith is teaching two sections of Spanish 201, a required course for graduation, as well as an advanced cultural conversation course that focuses on one specific current issue for each port visited during the voyage.

“We have met fascinating people from around the world, including students, professors, staff, and adult learners,” said Smith. “The places we have seen in the port cities are indescribable! I never thought I would get to see and do most of the things I’ve gotten to do so far. My students are great, but they have also made me miss my students from Shenandoah.”

Field labs are an integral part of each course, and both professors have provided interesting and unique opportunities for their classes. One of Smith’s Spanish 201 sections had a day to explore Cádiz, Spain, which included a walking tour of the city led by a native Spaniard, a lecture about cultural norms in southern Spain, a visit to a market, a cooking class to learn how to make a local dish, and a flamenco lesson by a local dancer.

One of Penn-Hollar’s World Religions sections visited a Presbyterian Seminary in Ghana that specializes in the study of the various religious traditions in West Africa and especially Ghana. In South Africa, his other section of World Religions was hosted by a center devoted to the fostering of relationships between the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and African-Traditional communities in Cape Town.

Both faculty members are also lucky to have their spouses along for this incredible journey. This trip has a special twist for Penn-Hollar and his wife, Jayne, as they had the chance to spend a few days in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“We were married there over thirty years ago and have never had the chance to return,” said Penn-Hollar. “I’ve been telling people on the ship that we are on our second honeymoon, and we just happen to be bringing more than 500 others along for the celebration.” He has also been keeping a blog of his experiences throughout the semester, which is accessible at http://bjsas.blogspot.com.

Other highlights of the journey thus far include a homestay in Winneba, Ghana, going on safari in South Africa, and experiencing the great cities of Dublin, London, Antwerp, Lisbon, Seville and Cordoba. Smith is also looking forward to visiting Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil.

Members of the Shenandoah University faculty who have participated in Semester at Sea in the past include Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Calvin Allen, Professor of Philosophy and Religion John Copenhaver and Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish Tamara Bjelland.

For more information on Semester at Sea, visit http://www.semesteratsea.org.