This mini-term is an integrative learning experience for up to 18 students that combines an intensive off-campus December service experience with academic inquiry and critical reflection about the social, political, cultural and economic issues in which such service is embedded.
The current focus is disaster recovery in the Louisiana Gulf coast. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita of 2005 severely damaged the city of New Orleans. In contrast, hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008 spared New Orleans from major damage, but Gustav's winds wreaked havoc on homes in the wetlands, and flooding from Ike a few weeks later was worse there than it had been in 2005. Then, in 2010, the entire region suffered through the Gulf Oil disaster.
Course of Study
Visiting both New Orleans and the Louisiana wetlands, students will complete an academic study of south Louisiana and the sociology of hurricane disaster(s) with reflection on these experiences and events. Activities vary from year to year, but past trips have included: working two weeks in community service projects, most likely in home building and repair; meeting with environmental experts, local service and recovery workers; and, doing actual wetlands restoration with BTNEP and/or the Nature Conservancy. Program specifics are always dependent on the outcome of the summer hurricane season.
This mini-term begins during the second half of fall term with four to five two-hour seminar sessions. Students are assigned reading and short writing assignments and begin keeping a journal of notes and reflections. Seminars will include a volunteer work day with a housing agency in Schenectady and training in relevant construction tasks.
During December, two weeks in Louisiana are preceded and followed by several days of preparation and debriefing on Union's campus. In January, students complete and present individual projects at a campus symposium. Students write about the project in a 12-15 page final paper.
To get a feeling of this experience, view the 35-minute video, The Big (Ain't So) Easy: A Volunteer's Story
, made by Shabana Hoosein (2011), who participated in the 2010 mini-term. Reading the blog
created by last year's group will also provide a perspective on the program.
Tuition, Costs & Scholarship Information
The tuition for this mini-term is significantly less than other mini-terms & covers virtually all expenses. Costs for the program are low because we live very simply in Louisiana. We stay together in dormitory accommodations and, for most of the trip, buy and prepare simple, communal meals. We normally also have additional funds available to provide need-based scholarship assistance.
Pre-requisites & Eligibility
No pre-requisites, but as this is an academic course with requirements during both fall and winter terms, students are advised to consider carefully the time commitment and effort required to successfully complete it alongside a normal course load. The Sociology Department's normal pre-requisite of SOC100 for upper-level department courses is waived for the program.
To be eligible to participate in this mini-term, the student must:
- Have an overall cumulative average of 2.5 at the time of application.
- Be in good academic standing and have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 for the term before the program.
- Successfully have completed two courses at Union College the term before their term abroad program. First year students may be accepted pending satisfactory completion of Fall Term.
- Complete the application process, which includes an additional application and essay specific to this mini-term.
- Students who are interested in the scholarship must fill out the scholarship application form.
(For specific dates, contact the International Programs Office, Old Chapel, Third Floor.)
- April: Application deadline is the third Friday of spring term.
- May: Accepted students must select "commit" or "decline" at the International Programs online application site to confirm participation
- Fall term: Seminar meetings, weeks 5-10
- November/December: Louisiana experience
- January: Individual project completion and symposium presentation
For More Information
Students may contact Professor Ellen Foster
, Lippman 207 or Professor Janet Grigsby
, Lippman 205. You may also read the Information Sheet for the 2017 Program