COVINGTON — Some college sociology students might expect to stay in their own communities to learn about social behavior and interactions, but a group of Oxford College students recently traveled to Spain to study global political economy.
After spring classes ended, 13 students taking Deric Shannon’s Sociology 255 course traveled to Spain to get a closer look at “Global Political Economy and Sustainability.”
The students traveled for 10 days with Shannon, Oxford associate professor of sociology, and Amanda Yu-Nguyen, director of Oxford’s Center for Healthful Living. They visited Spanish cities such as Madrid, Segovia, Toledo, San Sebastian and Mondragon.
The class explored the global political economy and how its patterns and social relations create or suppress possibilities for sustainability.
Shannon used forms of experiential learning with his students during the trip to Spain. He has studied for many years in southern Europe’s largest country – first for his master’s thesis, and then preparing for this travel course and other classes he’s taught.
“Traveling with students is always exciting because you get a mix of some students who have traveled before and some who haven’t, so you get to see them experience it and their excitement for the first time,” said Yu-Nguyen. “I hope students can apply what they learned in the classroom and can compare it to the real world. Traveling forces students to be a little more independent and adventurous on their own.”
Students had free time to explore and often ate together to discuss their day.
In their sociology class, students studied how economies are organized and how they relate to various forms of power. They researched political economic concepts and scholarly work on sustainability to present in class. They also met with local guest lecturers to gain multiple perspectives and compare on their trip in Spain.
"Spain provides an interesting glimpse into some of the prospects and problems with social democracy, particularly how that set of institutional relationships can encourage or discourage our capacity to build sustainable and happy communities.," said Shannon. “Along with thinking critically about course concepts, I hope students see social relationships that are different than what they’re used to."
In addition to historical and present-day studies on the trip, the students enjoyed other adventures – including zip lining in Toledo, visiting a palace that inspired Disney’s Cinderella castle, and eating in San Sebastian, known for its many Michelin Star restaurants.
The course is offered as part of Oxford’s Experiential Learning program, which focuses on global learning alongside applied arts, service learning, student research and professional pathways.
Jill Adams, director of the program, says that travel programs at Oxford have over a 30-year history, anchored by two courses offered by now-retired faculty that were perennial favorites: a domestic desert geology course led by Steve Henderson and Mike McQuaide's social change course to Ecuador.
“These programs and others changed the lives of Oxford students for decades,” said Adams. “The current program carries on their legacy. The program has been expanding with new waves of faculty and student interest since 2016.”
To learn more about the EL program, visit www.oxford.edu