Carnegie Mellon Programs Promote Cultural Exchange Inspired by a Trip to Sparta, Greece
By Eric Sloss, CFA Press Release, July 29, 2004
PITTSBURGH-This summer, Carnegie Mellon students had the opportunity to participate in a summer study program in Sparta, Greece, and in an educational program that combines fine arts, humanities and natural sciences. The program, "Sparta, Greece: Inquiry and Vision," was offered by Carnegie Mellon's Bachelor of Humanities and Arts (BHA) and Bachelor of Science and Arts (BSA) undergraduate degree programs.
All students who participated in this program were required to select a topic to explore while in Greece. Students will complete the program in the fall when they present their final projects.
From June 12 to 26, program leader Patricia Maurides, director of interdisciplinary degree programs, oversaw 11 Carnegie Mellon undergraduate students in Sparta, Greece. Other participants included Lowry Burgess, professor of art, and Dionysis Rigopoulos, a Carnegie Mellon alumnus. Maurides said it was Burgess and Rigopoulos who first envisioned Sparta as a place for multidisciplinary research and creative work, and she further developed an opportunity for interdisciplinary study for undergraduates.
"The most important goal of this trip was for the students to develop their own interdisciplinary projects inspired by Greek culture. The individual projects served as a way for students to dictate their own experiences. We wanted the students to connect to something personally," said Maurides.
While in Sparta, students also found themselves in the roles of ambassadors; students met with the mayor and the bishops of the city. They enjoyed access to the city's cultural and educational resources. The group also spent time visiting important historical areas such as the century Byzantine towns of Monemvasia and Mystras, and sites associated with myths including the Neolithic caves of Diros, the birthplace of Poseidon and the underground springs said to have inspired the second labor of Hercules.
"Sparta, Greece: Inquiry and Vision" was broken up into three parts: a spring 2004 mini-course, the summer study-abroad trip and final presentations scheduled for the fall semester. This three-part structure helped Maurides provide a comprehensive educational experience. Before embarking on the trip, students were required to take the mini-course, which was designed to foster awareness about modern Greek culture. Guest lecturers included Areti Papanastasiou, Dimitris Kraniou, Ioanna Pagani and Georgia Chronis, who traveled from Sparta to present "From Ancient Myth to Present: An Educational Program of the Coumantaros Art Gallery of Sparta, Branch of the National Gallery of Greece." Students will finish their projects over the summer and reconvene in the fall for presentations.
Rising senior Wendy Wu, whose concentrations are architecture and anthropology, used her experience in Greece to develop a research topic for her summer fellowship and for her BHA senior project. Wu's project proposes drawing as a possible way to conduct visual anthropological research as opposed to the more popular still or motion photography. Although the essence of her project is the process, not Sparta, Wu does not believe that she could have found the same inspiration anywhere else, "Sparta really helped me release myself and allowed my project to take on a more creative and innovative process." This experience has made such a lasting impact on Wu that after she graduates in May 2005, she plans to return to Greece for a year to continue her research.
This program, although offered through the BHA and BSA interdisciplinary degree programs, was really an opportunity for any students interested in interdisciplinary collaboration. "Sparta, Greece: Inquiry and Vision" was successful not only in helping BHA and BSA students blend their two concentrations, but also in teaching other students how to collaborate with other disciplines. In fact, seven of the 11 students who participated in this program were from outside of the BHA and BSA programs.
"They wanted an opportunity for something beyond their discipline," said Maurides. For example, one student from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is writing a screenplay reflective of Greek culture, while two students from the College of Fine Arts are drawing inspiration from the city of Sparta to create a complementary set design.
This study-abroad trip was successful not only in providing a rewarding experience for the students, but also in increasing the visibility of Carnegie Mellon in Greece. Maurides hopes to offer this same program again, possibly even as soon as next year. She said the new connections made on this trip promise to make future trips even more rewarding.
For more information about "Sparta, Greece: Inquiry and Vision" or the BHA and BSA degree programs, contact Patricia Maurides at 412-268-8326. For more information on the College of Fine Arts visit www.cmu.edu/cfa.