LGBTQ program to take students abroad for spring break

Jailyn Menefee

Molly Merryman, associate professor and director of the LGBTQ program, has worked alongside the Office of Global Education to provide 12-14 students with the opportunity to study abroad in Greece this spring break.

The study abroad program was created this past August and has been expanded by Merryman along with Lauren Vachon, an assistant professor in the LGBTQ program, over the last couple of months.  

The group of students will travel to Greece where they will study gender roles in ancient and Modern Greek culture.

“There are two classes (that) students can take on this trip. A one credit hour class (that is a) travel class and it’s called Democracy and Desire: Gender and Sexuality in Greece, and those students just go on the spring break trip,” Vachon said.

Applied Outreach and Global Understandings in Gender and Sexuality is the second class taught. It is a three-credit-hour, full-semester class that Merryman teaches. It takes a look at gender and sexuality in terms of travel. It will also cover ethical issues and how to travel respectfully to other countries.

Even though the program is in its first year, Vachon, Merryman and Nick Vasiloff from the Office of Global Education are committed to furthering this trip to make it available to other students.

“We definitely want to do it every spring break and we have also thought of expanding it a little and doing a summer travel program,” Vachon said.

Vachon hopes the program can develop and grow from the successes of the first year.

“I think every year we would hope we can improve it and this is the first year and the first year is very experimental,” Vachon said.

Irene Altieri, an LGBTQ Student Center intern, said this trip will also give her a chance to meet with family who live in Greece.

“I saw this program during welcome weekend for the LGBTQ center and I saw that it was for Greece. I got really excited because my family is from Greece and I’m actually going to get a chance to meet my family while I’m there,” Altieri said.

Some students who aren’t in the LGBTQ program, said they are going on the trip just to get the experience and learn about gender and sexuality in a different country.

For example, Jessica Kotik, a sophomore psychology student, said gender and sexuality is a large part of her field of studies and is looking forward to using what she learns abroad for her career in the future.  

“I want to be a school psychologist and I will (be) working with kids who (might) struggle with their gender or identifying one,” Kotik said. “I thought this would be a good learning opportunity and I feel like I can really take back something I can use for a future career.”

While on the trip, Vachon will be collecting data to see how travel abroad experiences can improve learning outcomes for students in the classroom.

“We are going to be doing a little (bit) of research as, well (as) hoping to be able to prove (that) a travel abroad experience for students broadens their perspectives, gives them more critical thinking skills, and changes their attitudes,” Vachon said.

The LGBTQ program is looking to further this opportunity to more students to different locations teaching different classes.

“The Center definitely wants to have travel as a component of (where) we are going,” Vachon said. “To do so, there will be trips to other countries with other topics like an LGBTQ-related travel. We would like to do (topics on) women, maybe sex workers. A lot of different topics are potentially on the table for future trips,” Vachon said.

Jailyn Menefee is the social sciences reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]