Macalester’s location makes it easy for students to enjoy both urban and rural field trips.

Most college instruction, naturally, takes place inside a classroom. But Macalester’s location in the center of a major urban area, surrounded by a geographically varied countryside, makes another kind of learning possible: field trips.

Although there are no official figures on how many of these outings take place annually, the Civic Engagement Center keeps busy helping professors find experiential learning opportunities for their classes. “These opportunities allow students, faculty, and staff to apply course themes to a particular context and discover new and unexpected topics for research and action,” says the Civic Engagement Center’s associate director Paul Schadewald.

These field trips run the gamut from attending evening performances at the world famous Guthrie Theater to weekends spent fossil hunting in southeastern Minnesota. Says theater professor Beth Cleary, who frequently takes her theater students to Twin Cities plays, “Our location in this great urban arts area means theater and dance students can see the field of our study and training. Students can see professionals work, they can research and appraise theater and dance institutions, their seasons and missions. Students see alumni work onstage, in performance and design, and they meet professional artists who are eager to know Macalester students because they are bright and critical, and they demand and strive toward work that is artistically superb and socially relevant. It’s really a glorious connection!”

Religious studies professor Erik Davis revels in the wealth of religious sites in the metro area. Small-town colleges cannot hope to offer their students the chance to visit a Jewish synagogue, Muslim mosque, Hindu temple—even a Cambodian Buddhist Temple like the one found just 45 minutes away, which Davis’s classes visit regularly.

Whether they’re peering at penguins in The Bell Museum of Natural History’s private research collection or exploring the Mystic Lake Casino for a Native American land ownership project, students are out and about, learning from the rich offerings made possible by Mac’s major metro location.

December 19 2012

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