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Beyond the Classroom Walls

When I first discovered Arcadia, there were three things that stood out to me: the beautiful campus, rigorous curriculum, and engaging professors. While the first two things are fantastic, my appreciation for my professors has grown more with time. They are what makes an education at Arcadia meaningful, taking what we learn in class as students and directly connecting it to experiences outside of the classroom.

Last spring, I took a course with Dr. Ana Maria Garcia called “Feminist Theory.” It is the kind of class that challenges what you think you know and what you think you know is entirely relevant. It is overwhelmingly common in academia to be told that you have to leave your personal experiences outside of the classroom. But, here, the opposite was true. Ana Maria wanted us to bring those memories, feelings, and events into the classroom, because they were relevant. In time we could see how our everyday lives were part of the puzzle of multiple oppressions. The theories that we were reading weren’t just there to give our brains some exercise—they meant something.

Toward the end of the semester, it was important to Ana Maria that we were energized by our learning and applied it to social action. So, we spent time outside of class helping put together “Human Trafficking Symposium: Lifting the Veil,” an event that raised awareness for and facilitated discussions about human trafficking in the greater Philadelphia area, nation, and world. We assembled a slideshow and packets of information and resources to motivate attendees to get involved after the event. I learned so much that day, about how close human trafficking is to our homes (though we might not want to believe that), how our purchasing decisions support forced labor, and how this issue affects not just girls and women, but boys and men as well.

The Human Trafficking Symposium was not the first time a professor emphasized the value of learning outside of the classroom. During my first semester I took “Theater and Theology,” a University Seminar that explores how theater arts have been used to connect with the transcendent, which got me to explore local places of worship. When I described this to friends back in Maryland, they were jealous that I was still taking field trips in college. Opportunities to learn in different environments are not rare at Arcadia. I recently wrote about a trip to Philadelphia that I took with my honors class and throughout the semester I’ve been visiting senior citizens in Warminster with another class. Getting off campus and changing up the desk and white board routine is what all students crave, and thankfully so many professors here understand that.

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