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Last year, after responding to a growing need for funds to help facilitate learning abroad, the Experiential Learning Fund (ELF) was established. Administered out of the International Institute, ELF is awarded by the II to support U-M faculty-led group travel for graduate and professional school students wishing to incorporate travel abroad as part of an ongoing course or program.
What makes this fund different from others is that it incorporates the II's directive of cross-disciplinary learning. As stated in the guidelines, "successful proposals will include a faculty member who is actively involved in site selection, planning and evaluation of the overseas experience. The International Institute has a preference for trips that include students and/or faculty from multiple units as well as initiatives that have potential for long-term engagement with the host country institutions."
Siobán Harlow, associate director of the International Institute, and Amy Kehoe, student services associate, look at several criteria when considering awarding money.
"We tried to identify best practices to help us develop a set of criteria for the fund," says Harlow. "The proposal needs to demonstrate strong ties to the curriculum; involvement of faculty; a return to the host country; and promote interdisciplinary engagement. It is very important that a variety of students from more than one department are involved in the trip."
In 2004 there were approximately 15 trips that received financial assistance from the ELF. They ranged from a trip to Spain to study geology, a trip to Turkey with a focus on archeology and art history to a Law School sponsored trip to Cambodia and a School of Public Policy trip to Cuba.
"The ideas can be germinated by students, but they have to find a faculty member to get involved. Also we expect that the host department will provide funding as well for the experience," says Kehoe. "Some departments are experienced with these kinds of overseas learning experiences and we ask that they assist other departments that may not have the same kind of experience. We see a value in efficiency within the U-M community."
Elaine Gazda, professor of art and archaeology and a curator at the Kelsey Museum, took six graduate students, majoring in archaeology, art history, Near Eastern studies and classical studies to Turkey last August with the assistance from the ELF. The trip followed in the footsteps of a 1924 expedition, led by Francis W. Kelsey then chair of Latin Language and Literature at U-M. That trip was to excavate the ancient city of Pisidian Antioch, while Gazda's included that site as well as many others. An exhibition at the Kelsey Museum with photos from this trip and the original trip in 1924 is planned for 2005 or 2006. The nine-day trip was exhausting, but as Gazda says, made an enormous difference to the students.
"When you read about the site you don't get the sense of the whole place. Being there makes it suddenly come together—why the site was built where it was and how it related to other sites. When we got to Antioch, the students took possession of it. They gained a whole new level of understanding and insight. For students who want to make a career in this field, the trip gave them intense exposure in a short amount of time. They had an opportunity to see just how much they love doing this," says Gazda.
The monies available through the ELF are for graduate and professional students only. Kehoe hastens to mention that there are plenty of other resources available for undergraduates through the Global Inter-cultural Experience for Undergraduates Program and other sources. She is also excited by the depth and breadth of proposals that are coming in.
"We are open to identifying ways to open overseas learning to other departments and students and enriching their educational experiences here at U-M," says Kehoe.
The seed money for the Experiential Learning Fund was provided by a grant from the Hewlett Foundation.
The following is a firsthand account of the learning experiences that U-M students had last May on a trip to Spain, funded partially by the Experiential Learning Fund.
"Hasta luego" is how we said 'goodbye' at the Barcelona airport, after eight days of traveling through Catalonia and the Spanish Pyrenees. This European trip was co-sponsored by funds from the Department of Geological Sciences and from the University of Michigan International Institute and allowed fifteen students and three faculty to visit one of the best exposed and well-studied orogenic belts.
The Pyrenean range is a fold and thrust belt that developed during the Tertiary, as the Iberian block converged towards the European Plate. Its metamorphic core marks the border between France and Spain, with foreland structures verging into both countries. Our trip, designed to recognize the deformed Mesozoic and Tertiary cover, started on May 28, when the group arrived at Barcelona from Detroit. After checking in the Spanish Council Residence (CSIC), most of us went to explore downtown. A few landmarks could be seen in the hours before we had our group dinner (who can to skip dinner in Spain!). The Cathedral, Gothic Square and Gaudi architecture were among the visited spots by our students. Paella, gazpacho and oviparous salads were the choice selection at our first dinner in Spain, a preview of what would come in the next several days.
The geologic part of the trip began the day after, about 150 km north of Barcelona, next to the famed Costa Brava (Girona). We enjoyed visiting the area (inspiration point and home of the Catalan painter Salvador Dali), where a set of ductile shear zones in the Paleozoic basement is marvelously exposed. Professor E. Druguet (Universitat Autonoma) kindly guided us through the area. The following day we headed west, across the Ebro Basin, the southern Foreland Basin of the Pyrenees, towards the town of Jaca. We visited the southern Pyrenean deformation front in the Ebro Basin, including progressive unconformities, syntectonic deposits and thrusts of Mesozoic units on Tertiary conglomeratic sandstones (molasses).
We spent the night in Jaca, in a small "fonda" in front of the Cathedral. The church was built in 1077-1130, right after the Christian re-conquest of the town, which had been taken by the Muslims years earlier. Jaca is located in a large E-W trending synform that developed during the Paleogene as a piggyback basin ahead of the evolving Pyrenees.
Driving east, we looked at several structures related to the Central Pyrenean Unit thrust sheets, as they were emplaced toward the south. These structures include N-S trending anticlines, almost perpendicular to the main Pyrenean thrust faults, which were probably related to lateral ramps of the southern Pyrenean frontal thrust. The following two days we stayed in Ainsa, a lovely medieval town, which we all enjoyed. The Monte Perdido National Park, north of Ainsa, is probably one of the most spectacular and vibrant parks in the country. We hiked in the park to visit the famous "Gavarnie nappe," possibly the first thrust described in any orogenic belt (L. Ramond, in 1801, noticed Cretaceous limestones beneath Paleozoic rocks, a feature that was difficult to reconcile with the prevailing idea of "neptunism" of that time).
The Tremp-Graus piggy-back basin forms an E-W trending synform that contains Eocene platform and continental sediments. In the footwall of the upper thrust sheets, these sediments grade into deeper marine turbidite and prodelta marls.
Like the (earlier visited) Ainsa Basin, the Graus-Tremp Basin was incorporated into the Southern Pyrenean thrust system, where new piggy-back basins developed.
During these days we joined a group of students from the University of Barcelona, led by Prof. J. A. Muñoz, who were exploring the cover structures along the ECORS profile. The ECORS (short for Étude Continentale et Océanique par Réflexion et Réfraction Sismique) is a 250 km long deep-seismic survey from the Aquitane Basin to the Ebro Basin (N and S foreland basins of the Pyrenees) across the Pyrenean fold-and-thrust belt that was co-sponsored by Spanish and French institutions and oil companies.
Michigan and Barcelona students and faculty shared views and field discuss ions for the next couple of days, which was a geologically as well as culturally enriching experience. We stayed just south of Tremp, in a summer camp facility. Great food there too (nothing new at that point!). Along with the Spanish group we visited the south segment of the ECORS profile, from Balaguer (southernmost Pyrenean deformation front) to Pobla de Segur, where we studied Paleozoic rocks that were involved in antiformal stacks without some sadness, we returned to Barcelona on Thursday, June 3. On the way back, we took some time to look at Montserrat, an impressive massif made up of Paleogene fan delta conglomerates that were deposited in the Southern margin of the Ebro Basin, while the Pyrenean thrust were being emplaced in the North. We spent the last night again at the CSIC Residence, in downtown Barcelona, capped with a pleasant group dinner. Overall, the trip to the Pyrenees was a great experience for both students and faculty, based on informal feedback. We believe that such international experiences will become a regular dish on the University of Michigan's geology menu.