Trip Allows Students To Study In West

March 30, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Tara Lestarjette

Crane and students
Assistant professor of history Jeff Crane lectures in front of Delicate Arch in Arches National Monument, Moab, Utah during last year's trip.

From classes to internships, summer provides a number of opportunities for the students of Sam Houston State University to further their education.

For those who want to move beyond the classroom setting, many departments offer the chance to travel with professors to gain knowledge, life-skills and class credit.

Assistant professors Jeff Crane and Scott Kaukonen have led history and English courses, respectively, across the country for the past few years. Both professors joined the faculty in the fall of 2006 and discovered they shared a love for the American West and literature.

“The relationship between history, literature and writing is a relatively clear one, but we expect our students on the trip to be able to draw upon their knowledge of politics, economics, geology, biology, art, tourism, archaeology and architecture,” Kaukonen said.

On May 17-31, 18 students will travel by passenger van as a part of Crane’s History 470 “American West” and Kaukonen’s English 380W “Advanced Composition” classes. The summer I courses will journey through Denver and Ouray, Colo.; the Arches National Monument in Utah; and through the Monument Valley to Canyon de Chelly in Chinle, Ariz. The trip will end with a tour of northern New Mexico.

While the setting may be atypical, students are involved in traditional classroom assignments during the trip, according to Kaukonen.

“There's an extensive reading list this year, which is supplemented by other readings of those who have important things to say about the West,” Kaukonen said. “We will be traveling through the locales in which the events took place and learning about what the authors are writing.

“One of the two major essays the students write requires them to reflect upon, analyze, and write about their relationship to the places they have lived or consider themselves to be from,” Kaukonen said. “The assignment recognizes that we're all from somewhere, and we're shaped by those places even if we often are not aware of all the ways that happens.”

Though Kaukonen believes that traveling abroad is very beneficial, he said he understands how finances and time are not always available to students. Traveling within the U.S. does not require a passport and is less expensive, and scholarships are also available.

“When you travel, it not only changes your relationship to the places you go, but also your relationship to the places that are familiar to you,” Kaukonen said. “Often we don't realize what's distinct or even interesting about our home until we've gone elsewhere. This recognition causes critical thinking about relationships to other places, people and ourselves.”

To qualify, students must meet the standard course prerequisites and submit a letter of recommendation. A meeting with the professor is required. A preparatory hike, film screening and a packing meeting equip students with the information and preparation needed.

“We strap on our hiking boots, grab our water bottles and sunscreen and hike up to Delicate Arch outside Moab or to the White House Ruins in Canyon de Chelly,” said Kaukonen. “We pitch our tents and cook over an open fire. We get to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. We seek to create a pretty intense two-week experience where the students are immersed in the region about which they are learning.”

Tuition and an additional $750 are due by April 20, which covers transportation, meals, motel rooms, campsite, museum and park fees.

“We want our students to feel empowered to map out an itinerary and hit the road for all the wonderful parks and places there are to see,” said Kaukonen. “It's a lot of work and travel; we're all exhausted by the time we arrive back in Huntsville, but the experience always rewards the effort.”

For more information on traveling with the English 380 course, contact Kaukonen at or 936.294.1407 or on the History 470 course, contact Crane at or 936.294.4443.



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