With global travel on hold, Goshen adds Southwest as SST destination

Students experience Navajo, Hopi cultures in Arizona

Goshen College students wander between the rock canvases at Petroglyph Canyon in Arizona. — David Lind/Goshen College Goshen College students wander between the rock canvases at Petroglyph Canyon in Arizona. — David Lind/Goshen College

Goshen College has been known for its study abroad program, Study-Service Term, since it began requiring international education more than 50 years ago. When the pandemic brought global travel to a halt, the college adapted SST to include a domestic option. 

Eighteen students traveled to the Southwest this summer to spend six weeks exploring the Navajo and Hopi cultures as part of a new SST option.

Before COVID-19, the college had planned to offer two courses in Arizona, hoping to appeal to students who might not be able to travel abroad for a full semester.

Jan Bender Shetler, director of international education, organized the courses through her connections with the Navajo and Hopi communities in Arizona. 

When COVID-19 led to the cancellation of SST units in Ecuador and Senegal, the Arizona courses became the inspiration for an alternative SST experience. 

Before departing, students took an on-campus May term class on Native American cultures, with professor of sociology and SST leader David Lind, and an online global issues course on Indigenous rights with Native American scholar Sarah Augustine.

These courses highlighted the U.S. history of racial discrimination against Indigenous people and allowed students to learn about the global context of Indigenous rights issues.

The students — along with Lind, his spouse and fellow leader Kendra Yoder, associate professor of sociology, and their three children — arrived at Black Mountain Mennonite Church in Navajo Nation, their home base for the next three weeks, on June 15. Pastor Daniel Smiley and other church members welcomed them. 

Students learned about the Navajo language with a local teacher, attended church camp at Black Mountain Mennonite Church, took a crash course in traditional pottery techniques from 1996 Goshen alum Mary Mitchell Trejo and spent three days living with Navajo host families. 

On July 4, the group traveled to the Hopi Peace Academic Center, a Mennonite-affiliated school, where they stayed for three weeks. 

The students began the service component of their time by helping lead math and reading camps. They also visited Grand Canyon National Park and Kodachrome Basin State Park. 

Mariah Kaufman, a senior music and secondary education double major from Lawrence, Kan., found that her favorite SST experiences related to the natural landscapes.

“I fell in love with the desert in a way that I hadn’t expected,” she said. “It helped me to have a greater empathy for the sacredness of space and location that many Native Americans hold.”

The college hopes to make the Arizona program a permanent SST unit.

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