I don't like to travel. I'll tell you why soon.
You might find that strange in a talk titled "Extramural Honors"
Here we are intramurally, where we spend most of our time. We spend some of it in the classroom, nearly a third of it in bed, and we eat three times a day, at least.
When we go extramural, we leave our usual haunts a go to new and different places. The easiest of the escapades is the field trip. Ostensibly we will learn something new when we visit a museum, attend a play, or run with the bulls in Pamplona.
We can get more involved and spend days, weeks, or semesters away from home. That takes more time and effort but also brings a higher potential reward.
I'm going to share with you some of the things I learned while traveling and, after, some of the things we hope honors students get to learn when they travel.
So, why don't I like to travel? There are several reasons.
The first reason is that for the first 13 years of my life I never spent more than 3 years in any one place.
My parents met during World War II in Cairo. My mother was a student at the American University there and my father, a sergeant in the Counter Intelligence Corps was taking a course there.
When the war was over, he was shipped home. Two years later, after much wheeling and dealing he was back, this time working for the US State Department.
I did not come along until two years later. I don't remember anything I'm about to tell you, but let me assure you it's all true.
While still in my mother's womb, we were bombed in Cairo in the 1948 war.
In February 1949 my parents left for home leave to Philadelphia, where my father grew up and where his family lived. I was born on February 21 of that year. The next day the nurse brought her a cherry pie. She wondered if that was an American custom, not realizing it was Washington's birthday. So, she learned something new.
A month later, we were all in the air flying back to Cairo on a TWA Constellation. I made the papers: "Long flight for a small tyke" the headline read. I'll bet my parents didn't get much sleep on that flight.
We left Cairo a couple of years later and the traveling really began. My father bought a new Chevy in New York City. It broke down in Manhattan a few miles later. I can still remember the policewoman whistling at us. That might be my earliest memory, in fact.
We continued our family Odyssey. First, in Bogota. Then in Argentina, After that Cuba, and finally in Santiago, Chile
We flew (prop planes), sailed on ships (Delta Line and Grace Line). Visited the Virgin Islands, Sao Paulo, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, New Orleans the Panama Canal, Guayaquil, Callao, Arica, Antofagasta, and Valparaiso.
In between postings, we stayed at my grandmother's house in Philadelphia. There, I saw TV for the first time; the New York Giants were playing the Philadelphia Phillies. I learned that the giants were not gigantic. Why did they call them giants, I wondered.
While discovering the misnomer that was the NY Giants the street outside exploded in the cries of youths. My father quickly sent me outside to mob the iceman and his horse (yes, he cameth in those days). Going along with the mob a secured a chunk of crystal clear ice. My father beamed and I wondered, what was the thrill.
Later, when I had my own children I would learn that the joys and toys of one generation do not automatically pass over to the next.
We sailed from Chile to NYC in 1963. I was 14 and, by then, a jaded traveler. Along the way I had lived through 3 revolutions (Colombia, Argentina, and Cuba) and barely missed another that took place later in Chile. No, there was no connection or correlation with my father's postings and political turmoil. He was an accountant, not a spy.
On my first day in class in Maryland, I learned students don't stand up to answer their teacher's questions in American schools. Furthermore, the desks are not designed for quick popping up like the ones at my last school in Santiago.
By the time I was 14, I had traveled well over 60,000 air and sea miles. Enough I said!
College in Baltimore was only 40 miles away. But graduation led me South to Baton Rouge. More learning followed. Back then public phone calls (remember those?) in Louisiana were only a nickel. I must have lost $10 before I learned and quit using dimes!
I learned to drink coffee in Louisiana, when I asked why there were two urns in the cafeteria line. Found it a Kroger's in Magnolia when I interviewed here in 1980.
Moved again, this time to Milwaukee. First real job after grad school. Learned that it snows from November to April there. It's cold too. 56 straight days of the high temperature being below freezing.
Moved here. Interviewed in March 1980. Drove from Shreveport to Magnolia is one of those memorable thunderstorms we get here. Ida Flemister picked me up. She was probably my age now then. I asked her if she'd mind me driving. She did not. My first lesson in driving in South Arkansas in the rain at night.
If you count Toronto (hey, it's South of Detroit!), I only left the country once in 35 years.
In 2009 I became the director of the Honors College and I realized I'd have to travel more. It was part of the job. Honors and extramural education go together, extramural travel is an honors thing.
So, I bit the bullet and broke out my suitcase. First stop was Ames, Iowa for Honors Director training.
Next was Washington, DC for the annual meeting of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC, or as we call it, the "mother ship"). That has become an annual affair, for me and for SAU honors students. Those meetings have been held in Phoenix, Kansas City, Boston, New Orleans, and Chicago.
In fact, we just heard back from NCHC regarding our submissions to the 2016 program and I'm proud to announce that David and I will take 8 students to this year's meeting in Seattle. (Do they serve coffee there, I wonder?)
The students are presenting 3 separate posters.
Zachary Hardy and Kayla O'Neal are going to their second NCHC meeting. Both are in the Game and Computer Animation program.
Laura Nash, McKenzie Matthews, and Caleb Sikes will present the results of their research on the difference between the Grimm and Disney versions of Snow White. Guess what their majors are? No, it's not English. They are in Ag Education!
To me, this says much about honors students. They have a broad outlook on life.
William Barton, too, will travel with us to Seattle. William is one of our few transfer students and our ONLY non-traditional student. He will present research he conducted in Dr. Wilson's Research Methods class, research he presented yesterday in Conway at the annual meeting of the Arkansas Symposium for Psychology students.
We also travel by bus to various locales visiting museums, art galleries, and other attractions such as the Clinton Presidential Library. To save money by not paying a driver, I qualified for a Class C license. (I have not been able to convince David to do the same, I'll keep trying.] Those travels have taken us to Ft. Worth, Little Rock, and Shreveport. Next year, we hope to travel to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge for our first overnight trip.
Passports will be required for our international travel. My efforts to secure a new passport were daunting, to say the least.
First off, don't take your hospital birth certificate, that won't work, I discovered.
Second, NEVER mail anything to the post office in Sterling, VA. The post office that checks for anthrax and other nasty stuff. They lost my Pennsylvania birth certificate.
Third, don't pay extra to have the State Department look for your old passports. They could not find my old ones, and it was a diplomatic passport, a record in a much smaller universe.
Fourth, go to Hot Springs. Believe it or not you can get a passport there quickly for a few dollars more.
I finally got my new passport and used it to travel to Havana just about a year ago.
You must remember that I spent 3 years there before, during, and after the Revolution.
Going back after 55 years was surreal.
I got tired of identifying old American cars, but never saw our 57 Chevy.
I quickly realized that the old order had changed. Now, all Cubans were in the same, leaky boat. Each earning less than $25 a month and all scraping by to earn the necessary extra money to live, be it by driving a cab or renting out rooms.
But, I also noticed that they all could read. That was not the case before.
They all had medical insurance and a national health infrastructure existed. Definitely not the case before.
I felt welcomed and never unsafe. There are police (nearly all unarmed) everywhere.
As you may know, I was tasked by SAU to develop an exchange program with a Cuban University.
I'm happy to report those plans are well underway and that we should sign an agreement by August. The wheels at the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education turn slowly. But they know me personally thanks to that visit.
They were the ones who urged SAU to send Dr. Juping Wang and I there again in February to an international educational meeting. There we found our future partner.
SAU will partner with the University of Artemisa and our first exchange will be to send Steven Ochs, chair of the Art Department there to cooperatively plan and construct a decorative concrete project. Ochs is an expert in public decorative concrete, as you know.
Later, Artemisa will send a group to Magnolia during our second Summer Session (Cuban schools do not meet in July and August) and build another project here.
Artemisa is about 45 miles from Havana and is an agricultural school (like us). So, the next project will likely be in that area.
Not having been to Cuba in 55 years, I find it strange that I will visit the island 3 times in one year. Yes, I'm taking a group to Cuba in less than a month. One member will be an honors student, Laura Nash. Another SAU student will be with us, Julianna Williams. Also traveling with us will be SAU folks Betty and Jim McCollum, local accountant Will Wood, my brother (who also lived there 56 years ago), and my wife Julie, making her second trip there.
We will visit Havana, Santa Clara, Trinidad, and Cienfuegos, those last are places I have never been to before. I'm not really looking forward to our visit to the Bay of Pigs Museum. Thanks JFK.
But wait, there's more.
We are planning yet another international trip one year from now. This one is to Paris (no we are not driving West on Highway 82). The other Paris; the one where Lindbergh landed in 1927. That Paris.
So, I'm traveling. I still hate packing, airports, small airline seats, cancelled flights, customs, being wanded, taking my shoes off, and short layovers. But, what's an Honors College Director to do? Stay home?