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Customized Learning 

Karen Gardner

A close-knit campus, MCLA students and faculty enjoy interacting with one other. Recently, four members of the Women's Center board - Frances Jones-Sneed, Susan Birns, Petra Hejnova and Amy Stevens - took some students they work with to New York City.

There, they visited the Brooklyn Museum to see Judy Chicago's exhibit, The Dinner Party, a groundbreaking work of feminist art from the mid-1970s that honors women throughout history.

"Here was an art exhibit that brought together great women from all time periods. Here was a trip that brought together feminists of different walks of life. It was a very eye-opening experience, and also very fun," said Alex Nichipor '12.

According to Stevens, who teaches women's studies and is the College's Web communications manager, "One of the great things about MCLA is that we are able to customize and deliver learning opportunities on both a large and, in this case, a small scale.

"An intimate outing like this gave the students time and space to see the art up close, to explore the exhibit at their own pace and then time to reflect upon the experience," Stevens said.

The trip, suggested Jones-Sneed, a history professor, was organized by Birns, the director of the Women's Center and a sociology professor at MCLA.

"They arranged the whole day, and showed us parts of the city we hadn't realized were there. It shows they really do want to get to know us outside of MCLA and want to provide opportunities for us that some students may never get otherwise," said Skyla Seamans '13.

"The museum has a permanent hall of feminist art and we spent some time in there, as well as exploring other parts of the museum that were of interest to us. From the museum, we took the subway back into lower Manhattan and walked through the Fulton Market to the Staten Island Ferry," Birns explained. "We took the free, round-trip ride to Staten Island and back. We got up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty, saw Ellis Island and a beautiful New York skyline."

From there, the group went up to Union Square and Strand's Book Store before a quick dinner in the multi-ethnic food court at Grand Central Station and the trip home.The experience, according to Birns, says much about the relationship between MCLA students and faculty.

"We are very committed to giving our students highly individualized attention and a wide variety of out-of-classroom educational opportunities," Birns said. "I think it is valuable for us to see the world through our students' eyes and to get to know them in a more personal context."

"A field trip such as this one allows the student to cultivate that relationship with their professors in ways that may not otherwise develop simply by being in class," said Hallie Jackson '13.

"It really showed that, at MCLA, you have a special bond with your teachers," said Brianna Vear '13.

According to Peggy Gallaher '13, such trips are "a complete departure from the college campus environment and thus a reminder that there is so much more out there to explore."

In addition, students benefit from the narration that the faculty provide on such a trip, as well as the benefit of their experience to help frame what they are seeing, according to Birns.

"I think it is valuable for all of us, students/faculty and faculty/faculty to have the opportunity to spend time together in that informal way," she said. "I know we all feel it was time well spent!"

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