“My off-campus experience had a dramatic impact on my post-graduate ambitions”
Ryan Casserly went to Costa Rica, lived with a family in the hills surrounded by coffee plantations, and studied health care issues of migrant workers.
Brianna Buljung, on the other hand, lived in an apartment on Chicago’s Gold Coast while digging through archives and library collections researching women journalists in World War II.
Both of these Colorado College seniors participated in ACM off-campus study programs – Field Research in Costa Rica and the Newberry Seminar in Chicago. While the differences between their off-campus experiences are clearly evident, the similarities are much more striking and significant.
Brianna and Ryan engaged in ACM programs that emphasize intense, independent research with strong support and individual attention from program faculty. Both found that their off-campus studies greatly enriched their academic work when they returned to campus and have had a profound effect on their plans for the future.
This past weekend, Brianna and Ryan were part of a select group of students participating in the ACM 50th Anniversary Student Symposium on Off-Campus Study, a showcase of the academic and personal growth that quality off-campus study programs foster.
Newberry Seminar has “a dramatic impact” on future plans
When Brianna started the ACM Newberry Seminar in the Humanities, she expected to pursue a PhD in history after college. The Newberry was an opportunity, she says, “to gauge my interests in conducting intensive historical research. I also wanted to further develop my research skills and improve the quality of my writing.”
Brianna at the Newberry Library Book Fair
She certainly accomplished her goals on the program, which is based at the Newberry Library, one of the world’s leading independent research libraries. Hearing about Brianna’s interest in military history, her professor on the program suggested that she look at Dorothy Thompson and other World War II-era women journalists, using archival resources at the Newberry and elsewhere in the Chicago area.
“My interest in journalism has evolved from that conversation,” notes Brianna. “I was able to study a war that I find fascinating, while researching lesser-explored aspects of warfare like the home front and the impact journalism has had on its readership.”
When she returned to Colorado College, Brianna continued her research on World War II-era journalism in the senior capstone project for her history major. For Brianna, the effects of the Newberry Seminar will continue.
“My off-campus experience had a dramatic impact on my post-graduate ambitions,” says Brianna. “My experience at the Library, particularly interacting with librarians and conducting my research, has led me to consider becoming a librarian. As a result, I will begin a Library and Information Science program at the University of Denver in the fall.”
Challenged in a liberal arts style
An aspiring doctor and a neuroscience major on the pre-med track, Ryan was looking for an off-campus study program that would offer some experience in the medical field as well as a chance to improve his fluency in Spanish. On the advice of his mentor, Professor Mario Montaño, Ryan checked out ACM’s Field Research program in Costa Rica.
Ryan with members of his host family in Costa Rica
“Professor Montaño emphasized the extraordinary quality of the faculty, and their dedication to the students,” says Ryan. “I was challenged in a truly liberal arts style by the faculty and grew immensely as a student, Spanish speaker, and individual.”
In his independent project, Ryan investigated health services, particularly vaccinations, for migrant workers who annually traveled to Costa Rica to work on coffee plantations. Ryan conducted interviews with the migrants, who are members of the indigenous Ngobe tribe in Panama and often speak very little or no Spanish. He also talked with health care providers and local Costa Ricans, examining the cultural and linguistic impediments to providing health care.
The research skills Ryan gained on the program served him well when he returned to the Colorado College campus for his senior year. The challenges that he encountered – and thrived on – in conducting independent research in Costa Rica convinced him to write a senior thesis.
The ACM Field Research program also played an important part in Ryan’s planning for the future, he says, by providing an opportunity to explore the outcomes of work in the medical field.
“The individual research focus of the program gave me the freedom I needed to fulfill my goals in a study of medicine, albeit through an anthropological lens,” says Ryan. Following graduation in May, he will take the next step on the path to becoming a doctor by applying to medical schools for fall 2010.
Read more about the ACM Off-Campus Study Student Symposium, including a list of the participants and abstracts of their presentations.