From hand-crafting dulcimers in the Maker Lab to studying stars on a cruise ship, ACU Honors students are learning in unusual settings designed to stretch their imagination and inspire their creativity.
This series of short courses called colloquia are taught by faculty in every discipline, covering fun and engaging topics, such as J.R.R. Tolkien: Middle Earth, Myth and the Movies; Experience in Food and Culture; and Small Towns, Big Dreams Road Trip. The most recent colloquium, Astronomy at Sea, took place aboard a cruise ship to Mexico and Honduras, where students studied astronomy, and Mayan culture and history.
“I chose this course, quite honestly, because of how exciting a class on a cruise ship sounded,” said Daniel Dossey, a junior psychology major and one of seven students to join faculty members Dr. Rusty Towell (’90) and Daniel Garcia (’04) on the ship. “It was incredible to learn in this particular setting.”
Towell, professor of engineering and physics and director of ACU’s NEXT Lab, shared his expertise in astronomy with students as they gazed at stars in the middle of the ocean, far from the city lights.
Before the cruise, class members met for two hours on campus and were assigned reading and astronomy observation homework, Towell said. While on the boat, they joined in two more hours of lectures, several nights of star gazing and a tour of Mayan ruins.
“Being able to see the stars in almost complete darkness was something I have not done in a long time,” Dossey said. “The experience was very humbling and reminded me that there are far greater things than the typical experiences and thoughts I tend to dwell upon on a daily basis.”
Garcia, instructor of management sciences in the College of Business Administration, is a native of Cancun, Mexico, and grew up learning about the culture and history of the ancient and present-day Mayans. That background made the trip especially meaningful for him as well as his students.
“I am proud of my country and its ancient history and culture, so it has been an honor to share some of it with the students,” he said.
He has visited most of the major Mayan sites many times and learns something new each time.
“I genuinely enjoy studying more in preparation every time we teach this class,” he said. “It allows me to gain a deeper understanding far beyond what I might have learned in high school or heard from a tour guide.”
The course met all of Dossey’s expectations and then some.
“Being able to learn about Mayan ruins experientially rather than simply in a traditional classroom setting was invaluable. It helped me to truly understand how Mayan people lived and the traditions/architecture that surrounded these people,” he said.
Towell echoed Dowell’s thoughts from a professor’s perspective.
“Teaching is always more effective when you can discuss shared experiences,” he said. “The ability to tour buildings from an ancient culture and view stars far from light pollution are excellent examples of learning experiences that must be experienced vs. just viewing pictures for maximum impact. These common experiences provide an excellent foundation to discuss many topics from history, culture, science and faith.”
Learn more about ACU’s Honors College
See the Honors Spring 2022 Colloquia Guide
– Robin Saylor
Feb. 24, 2022