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Service-Learning in the Navajo Nation

In May 2013, eight students from diverse majors and class years spent two weeks living, learning, and volunteering in the Navajo Nation – the largest Native American reservation in the United States, located in the Four Corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.  This “awesome adventure” was made possible through a partnership among Dr. Edward Karshner, Associate Professor of English, the OSCE, the Center for Global Engagement, and the Office of Engaged Learning.  All students who participated in the trip were required to take either a Mythology or a Comparative Philosophy course with Dr. Karshner.

This first-of-its-kind service-learning trip allowed students to see first-hand some of the sacred sites studied in the two courses including: Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.  Students also visited the Aztec Ruins National Monument, Four Corners Navajo Tribal Park, Navajo Lake, and downtown Albuquerque.  

In addition to touring these important cultural sites, students rolled up their sleeves and volunteered with elementary school children at the Navajo Lutheran Mission School in Rock Point, Arizona and at the home of the late Francis Burnside, a highly regarded Navajo healer and previous RMU Rooney International Scholar.  While at his home in Pine Springs, Arizona, students painted the house, weeded the garden and stacked firewood – all the while enjoying kind hospitality from the family, including traditional Navajo foods around an open fire.

Those of us who had the opportunity to participate in this “awesome adventure” are still reveling in our memories of the trip.  A similar adventure is planned for May 2015.  To learn more contact Dr. Edward Karshner or stop in the OSCE!