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Friday, September 3, 2010

UNCP hits the roads for summer lessons

Dr. Michael Spivey, a professor in UNC Pembroke’s Sociology and Criminal Justice Department, led seven students on a summer trip that explored the paths and travails that allied forces took in the liberation of Europe during World War II.

Postcard from the English Channel —Front row from left: Jared Tennant and Leilani Criss; Back row from left: Jasmine Robinson, Dr. Michael Spivey, Brandon Akins, Amanda Kuhfahl, Joshua Torres and Andrew Morehead.

Postcard from the English Channel —Front row from left: Jared Tennant and Leilani Criss; Back row from left: Jasmine Robinson, Dr. Michael Spivey, Brandon Akins, Amanda Kuhfahl, Joshua Torres and Andrew Morehead.

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Their travels took them to London, England, Normandy and Paris, France, Bastogne, Belgium, and Cologne and Berlin, Germany.

“We had the opportunity to explore the underground ‘war rooms’ in London, where the invasion of Europe was planned,” said Brandon Akins, a history major and recent graduate. “We learned what it must have been like for people in London to endure the constant bombing of their city.”

Dr. Spivey said the journey covered many of the highlights of the war’s end. Many of the sites have been the subject of films and legend.

“We wanted to experience as much as possible what it was like for U.S. troops during their progress across Europe,” he said. “We shadowed them from England, across the English Channel, to Normandy on D-Day.

Site of a Battle — In the Ardennes where there was heavy fighting during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. The foxholes remain today.

Site of a Battle — In the Ardennes where there was heavy fighting during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. The foxholes remain today.

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“Then we followed the critical battles for the beaches along the Normandy coast, to the liberation of Paris, and the cold nights in the Ardennes Forest during the Battle of the Bulge,” Dr. Spivey said. “We ended up at the final battle for Berlin and the end of the war.”

After two days in London, the group crossed the English Channel by ferry and spent two days in the Normandy region. 

“It was a very moving time to be at the U.S. cemetery atop the bluffs overlooking the invasion sectors of Omaha Beach,” said Joshua Torres, a history major.

“Being there was one of the greatest moments of my life,” said Jared Tennant, a sociology major.

The students explored Omaha Beach and the gun emplacements at Pointe Du Hoc, the site where U.S. Rangers scaled the cliffs.

The group continued on to Paris and visited popular sites, such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. They spent two days visiting museums and areas related to the occupation and liberation of Paris.

Next they traveled by bus to Bastogne, Belgium. The city was pivotal during the Battle of the Bulge in winter 1945.  

“We were taken by a local guide out to the dense forest area where E Company of the 101st Airborne (depicted in the 10-part television series Band of Brothers) suffered through freezing days and nights in their foxholes defending the city,” said Amanda Kuhfahl. “We visited the actual foxholes, which can still be seen today, where E Company was dug in along a line of trees.”

The group traveled by train through Germany on their way to the war’s final days in Berlin. 

“We found Berlin to be a city of contradictions,” Dr. Spivey said. “The scars of the war are still everywhere to be found in the city. The problem with wartime bombs that are still buried around the city is that they continue to cost lives each year.”

Dr. Spivey said that it was a life-changing experience, and these were special days for all them.

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SOUTH to SOUTHWEST
American Indian literature class seeks out authors

A course in American Indian literature of the Southwest found UNC Pembroke students and professors on a memorable summer road trip.

With the authors — Front row (kneeling) from left: Jaela Franke, Dr. Jesse Peters and Sayward Locklear; Back row (standing) from left: Jennifer Cooper, Frank Cooper, Garrett Dial, author Evelina Lucero, Gary Ballard (sunglasses), Dr. Jane Haladay, author Joy Harjo, Dan Kimball and Marsha Earles.

With the authors — Front row (kneeling) from left: Jaela Franke, Dr. Jesse Peters and Sayward Locklear; Back row (standing) from left: Jennifer Cooper, Frank Cooper, Garrett Dial, author Evelina Lucero, Gary Ballard (sunglasses), Dr. Jane Haladay, author Joy Harjo, Dan Kimball and Marsha Earles.

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Dr. Jesse Peters, an English professor, and Dr. Jane Haladay of the American Indian Studies Department team-taught the course “Native American Literatures of the Southwest.”

The course is an introduction to significant 20th- and 21st-century American Indian authors of the Southwest region, specifically New Mexico and Arizona. It is a combined graduate course in English education and an upper-level undergraduate course in American Indian Studies that was taught during the first summer session.

Dr. Peters, Dr. Haladay and 17 students studied writers who address many issues related to their experiences as Indigenous peoples of the Southwestern United States, including considering the ways in which original Indigenous languages and oral traditions are rooted in their homelands.

The course culminated in an optional trip to the authors’ homelands in New Mexico to visit the cities, cultural sites, reservations and the authors themselves. 

Drs. Haladay and Peters and eight students — including several who had never traveled by plane — participated in the trip. Highlights included:

  • visiting Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan) Pueblo during the Pueblo Feast Day, where the group saw the Buffalo and Comanche dances and ate fresh horno (clay oven) bread
  • meeting Muscogee poet Joy Harjo, author of “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky,” one of the course texts, in Albuquerque for breakfast
  • visiting Sky City, the ancient village high atop a mesa at Acoma Pueblo
  • being hosted by tribal elders of the Cultural Affairs Committee at Isleta Pueblo, home of Evelina Lucero, author of another course text “Night Sky, Morning Star.”

Dr. Peters, who is also dean of the Esther Maynor Honors College, said it was a remarkable learning experience.

 “This class offers an incredible experiential learning opportunity for our students,” he said. “Visiting the places and landscapes associated with Native American literatures, as well as meeting with some of the authors pushes students to experience the world in new ways.

Poetry of solitude — Gary Ballard reads poetry in the Jemez Mountains.

Poetry of solitude Gary Ballard reads poetry in the Jemez Mountains.

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“I think they start to see literature as more than interesting stories; they start to understand the power of words,” Dr. Peters continued. “They also see how stories fit together to create histories, realities, connections, disconnections and even notions of self.”

One powerful moment was a stop to read poetry by Acoma author Simon Ortiz from a secluded vista high in the Jemez Mountains. English education graduate student Gary Ballard participated.

“Through this hands-on experience, I gained a deeper appreciation for the literature, as well as for the culture and people,” Ballard said. “As a non-Native, I was able to gain a new perspective and find ways to incorporate Native literature in the high school curriculum I currently teach (at Scotland High School).”

Dr. Peters noted that graduate students like Ballard, who infuse the material they have learned from the Southwest Literature course into their own classrooms, embody the original mission of UNCP. 

“It is fitting that our University with its rich Native American heritage provides opportunities like these for our students,” Dr. Peters said.

Ballard saw how those who took the trip “were able to make connections between what we had read and what we were able to live and breathe as we traveled in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and points in between.”  

Overall, Ballard and his fellow travelers felt that “travel opportunities in conjunction with a college-level course do much to make the undergraduate and graduate programs at UNCP highly competitive and desirable.”

“It was a lively, dynamic and really fun summer session,” Dr. Haladay remarked.  “And the New Mexico travel was just one of those charmed trips. Everyone we interacted with was generous with their time and their stories. 

“They went out of their way to feast us with green chile and homemade tamales, chat with us and let us know they respected us for having traveled to their part of the world to meet them,” she continued. “All this because the literature of their people spoke to us way out in Southeastern North Carolina.”

Dr. Peters offered a final thought.

“I think Dr. Haladay and I would teach this course every semester if they would let us,” he said.

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