Spring break at Mount Saint Mary’s University is often no break at all for Athenians who have decided to use the time to study abroad, explore their passions and serve their community. From a humanitarian mission on the U.S.-Mexico border and a pilgrimage to Rome, to science lab work on Catalina Island and a snowy expedition to Yosemite, spring time is go time at the Mount.
Mount Saint Mary’s Community Engagement team took 10 students to San Diego as part of an alternative spring break mission to learn about immigration issues and to serve with a San Diego-based nonprofit called Border Angels. The group hiked along well-traveled migration routes near the border, and visited a makeshift cemetery that holds the remains of those who have not survived the journey. In an effort to prevent such suffering, students brought water jugs into the desert and stashed them in the hardy scrub that dots the arid landscape.
During the trip, Athenians also served as mentors and role models for high school students from a sister CSJ school in the Bay Area who were also volunteering with Border Angels. After returning home, the Mount students shared about their experience and what they learned about immigration issues, during the University’s Academic Symposium in April. A San Diego TV station also ran a story on the group’s service and included interviews with students and staff from the Mount.
Business trip to China
Knowing that organizational leaders in the 21st century need to think globally, Mount Saint Mary’s MBA program immerses students in an international market as a complement to study in each student’s third semester. This spring, MBA students and faculty traveled on a nine-day trip to China, where they were hosted by one of the University’s sister schools, Gannan University. The trip was led by Katherine Whitman, an alumna and a longtime associate professor of economics and international business.
Thanks to the support of Gannan’s faculty and administration, students had the chance to visit a wide variety of companies, including the research and development labs of a pharmaceutical company, the factory of a Canadian-Chinese joint venture producing Ford auto transmissions, and a firm making high-precision cutting tools. The travel study program also offered plenty of time for cultural excursions, including a final stop in Hong Kong, one of the world’s major transportation and financial centers.
Catalina Island: STEM research
For the past several years, spring break for some of the Mount’s STEM students has meant the opportunity to conduct some research on the open seas and at the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island.
This year, students studying biology and environmental studies had the chance to do geoscience lab work at the Wrigley Institute, including the filtration of seawater for bacteria. Of course, there was also time to do conduct some snorkeling observations in one of the Southern California marine protected areas.
Campus Ministry pilgrimage to Rome
Led by Gail Gresser, director of Campus Ministry, and Fr. Felix Just, SJ, 23 members of the Mount community journeyed to Rome, the heart of the global church. Pilgrims had the chance to explore ancient Rome, including the Colosseum as well as the city’s basilicas, catacombs and the historic Jewish Ghetto. Students also traced the Mount’s Sisters of St. Joseph and Jesuit heritage to present-day settings.
While the group had plenty of time to immerse themselves in the City’s history, they also engaged in contemporary issues through visits and lectures surrounding topics like the global refugee crisis and service to those who are homeless and living in poverty. Through these efforts, pilgrims visited the offices of the Jesuit Refugee Service and the burgeoning Sant’Egidio community. Along the way, the group also encountered Pope Francis twice during their travels, including at his festive weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Center for Global Initiatives: L.A. international
Mount students don’t only go out into the world. The University also brings the world to the Mount, through global programming and also through international faculty and student exchanges. For international students spending a semester or a full school year at the Mount, spring break offers a chance to discover more about their host city.
This year, Jacqueline Ha-Maki, coordinator of international student and scholar services for the Mount’s Center for Global Initiatives, led a dozen international students and professors (from schools in China, Japan and from CSJ sister schools in the United States) on a two-day tour of Los Angeles. Their circuit included stops in ethnic neighborhoods, visits to cultural centers and even an outing to Disneyland. In recent years, these programs have taken international guests everywhere from the Getty Center and Huntington Library to Korea Town, Olvera Street and Universal Studios.
MSMU to Mexico City
From the National Palace to the Teotihuacan Pyramids, the Mount’s trip to Mexico City took in as much as possible during a nine-day excursion that primarily included business students from the University’s Weekend/Evening College. The trip was facilitated by Neal Anderberg, an adjunct professor who teaches business, advertising and social enterprise courses.
Highlights included time at Universidad Latina, another MSMU sister university where students received presentations on the politics and economics of the U.S.-Mexico relationship; a visit to the Institute for Social Development, where local efforts are under way to end gender-based violence and promote women’s rights and social equality; and, of course, a visit to the region’s famous pyramids of Teotihuacan. There was also plenty of time built into the schedule for cultural exploration, including trips to view Diego Rivera murals, the Frida Kahlo Museum, the Basilica of Guadalupe and even an evening taking in some Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling matches.
Yosemite in the snow
Springtime can still mean snow, especially if you’re hiking the valleys and mountains of California’s famed Yosemite National Park. In a trip sponsored by the Mount Weekender program of the University’s Office of Student Programming and Commuter Services, undergrad students had the opportunity to roam through a winter wonderland throughout the Yosemite Valley. For many, this was their first time experiencing the majesty of Yosemite; for some, it was also their first time experiencing snow. While overlooking the park’s iconic Tunnel View, there was even a kindred moment shared between current Mount students and three alumnae who also happened to be visiting the park.
Throughout the adventure, students took advantage of their time outdoors to create snow angels, start snowball fights, and catch freefalling flakes on their hands and tongues. They incorporated some Mount Wellness lessons into their time, too. Aloha Buenaventura, PsyD, assistant professor of psychology, joined the group and coached students on the importance of self-care and offered strategies and solutions for approaching the stresses of everyday life.