Exploration and Service Learning in Alaska – GM 270

This course provides students with a cultural immersion experience with persons having disabilities living in the diverse and fascinating state of Alaska.  Hosted by Hope Community Resources, Inc., Alaska’s largest provider of community-based services to adults with disabilities, students in this course work on a wide variety of service projects that can include recreational outings, fund-raising events, facility maintenance, and various administrative tasks.  While providing a valuable community service, students also explore two important themes in Alaskan life: close communion with its stunning natural environment and the unique heritage of Native Alaskan peoples.

Exploration & Service Learning in Alaska fulfills the Diversity Across the Curriculum (DAC) requirement in the Wartburg Plan of Essential Education.  It is graded on a P/D/F basis and is open to students of all majors and interests.

Where We’re Going and What We’ll Do
As a group of 10-12 participants, we will depart from Waterloo or Cedar Rapids and spend 24 days in Alaska, based in Anchorage, a city of 280,000 residents located on Cook Inlet and surrounded by the Chugach Mountains in the south-central part of the state.  Our host agency is Hope Community Resources, Inc., which has been providing support, and advocacy services to adults with various disabilities since 1967.  On most days, students will be divided into small groups and assigned to work in various aspects of Hope’s operations.  Work shifts are rotated frequently, so that you’ll have a wide variety of experiences.  Students might be working directly with Hope, Inc. consumers on developing independent living skills, helping to organize a talent show, assisting with the agency’s annual Rock ‘n Roll-a-Thon fund-raiser, and pitching in with the painting, landscaping, and other tasks that are an on-going part of agency operations.  All students will have the opportunity to interact with Hope, Inc. consumers and staff and the chance to develop friendships that, hopefully, will extend long past the conclusion of the trip.

There will also be field trips, lectures, and other activities designed to teach you about Alaska’s unique heritage, natural resources, and cultural diversity.  Many of the consumers and staff we encounter are members or descendants of the different Native Alaskan groups, each with its own important traditions.  When you’re not working on the agency’s service projects, you’ll be able to explore the city and surrounding areas on your own or with fellow students.  These include parks, shopping areas, coffee houses, and hiking trails in the nearby mountains.  Hope, Inc. provides our group with vans, which students can use for transportation to the many sites of interest in the area.

During the last week of the trip, the class travels to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula for a 5-day visit to the scenic cities of Soldotna, Homer and Seward.  Recreational events include hiking, sea kayaking, a marine wildlife cruise, and a visit to the Alaska Sealife Center.  

Supervision & Travel Arrangements
The course will be led and taught by a member of the social work faculty.  It has been offered every other year since 2004.

During our stay in Anchorage, housing will be provided by Hope Community Resources, Inc. either in group homes it maintains for visitors or in local hostels.  Kitchen facilities are available; students may either purchase and prepare their own meals (a cost-effective option) or dine at local restaurants which cater to all tastes and budgets.

The fee for this course ranges from $2,300 – $2,800 depending on airfare costs and will cover the following expenses:

  • Roundtrip airfare to/from Anchorage
  • All lodging
  • Use of vans in Anchorage (students pay for fuel)
  • Fees and admission charges for museums, group tours, and the recreational activities on the excursion to the Kenai Peninsula
  • All taxes and gratuities

Students are responsible for:

  • Transportation to/from our point of departure
  • Most meals
  • Personal items and shopping

All of the trip participants are expected to attend a series of pre-departure meetings that will be scheduled during the Winter Term.  These meetings are designed to provide you with some basic knowledge of Alaskan culture, adult disabilities, and the philosophy that guides the work of Hope, Inc.  We’ll also be using our group meetings to learn more about each other and to establish important trip policies.  Dates, times, and the location for these meetings will be arranged by the trip leader next January.  

It is important to note that your participation in the trip is contingent on your participation in the pre-departure meetings.  Being on academic or other probation could also prevent you from going.  Students who are off-campus during the Winter Term may receive this preparatory orientation via distance learning, at the discretion of the instructor.

For more information, contact: 
Professor Lynn Peters
Old Main #203-E