New York City

by Steve Charles, Editor

January 12, 2005

"For me, that’s the ultimate thrill of this Campaign: That all of us know in our souls that young men will be coming here for years and saying, ‘I never imagined I could do this.’"

Wabash President Andy Ford H’03

 

I was in a church in Mexico watching a woman sacrifice a chicken to a jaguar god when I first realized just what the Campaign for Leadership would mean for Wabash students.

Tagging along with 15 of them through the indigenous villages of Chiapas, I’d been chronicling their visits with a people these students hadn’t even heard of before coming to Wabash, much less dreamed of meeting.

I eavesdropped on students’ conversations as they struggled to come to terms with these encounters that had added layers of understanding and mystery to their views of the world. I walked through the streets of San Cristobal with a student who said he’d been inspired to make a difference in his own community after meeting an activist in Chiapas.

That 10-day trip transformed an interesting class in Mexican history into a life-changing adventure.

When I returned from Mexico I learned that the goal for the Campaign for Leadership had been increased, in part, so that every Wabash student could experience an immersion trip, regardless of his ability to pay for it. I tried to do my part to spread the word, writing articles, preparing PowerPoint presentations for Honor Scholarship weekend, and even making a speech or two.

But I wished I could have captured such teachable moments in the students’ own words, and seen it through their eyes.

Thanks to Warren Rosenberg and his students in the New York in Film and Literature class, we’ve done that in this edition of WM.

Warren’s charge to his students after their return from a week in New York City was "to create your own representation of the city in the medium of your choice" and entitle it "My New York." In "Learning for the City," we’ve excerpted words and images from those projects and from students’ journals. I hope you’ll sense the camaraderie, the exhilaration, the contradictory emotions, the applied critical thinking, and the self-discovery these immersion experiences ignite. Exploring the streets of New York, students made the city their own and took ownership of their education. That transformation will have repercussions throughout their Wabash careers and beyond.

During the autumn celebration of the successfully concluded Campaign for Leadership, President Andy Ford said: "One dimension of this campaign will never get old, and that’s the thrill you experience when you talk to students and they say, ‘I never imagined I could do this.’"

Our Summer 2005 edition will include a comprehensive look at how the time, talent, and treasure of so many student, alumni, faculty, parent, and staff contributors to that Campaign have shaped teaching and learning at Wabash.

But in this issue, you’ll read about junior Nguyen Tang Le, who would probably admit that he’d never imagined working with Kofi Anan or meeting Elie Weisel during his Coons Public Affairs Internship at the United Nations.

The same could be said of Ben Tritle ’06, inspired by an ornithologist in the Amazon Basin during the College’s Ecuador Summer Program.

Or senior Nick Myers, who studied in Honduras and Cuba before assisting Professor Bill Placher ’70 with a book on vocation this summer.

Or mathematics and physics majors studying in the newly renovated Goodrich Hall.

And there’s always New York City:

"There was something about New York—about its lights, sounds, streets, and ways," says junior Russ Harbaugh. "I can’t hold it. I can’t touch it. But I felt it.

"It changed me, and I’ll never forget it."

 


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