This is the third year of the McCorkle Fellows program, which provides selected faculty members the opportunity to add international dimensions to the curriculum through their travels. Previous groups have traveled to South America and India.

June 23, 2008

Four Buena Vista University professors are spending the early part of July in Israel and Egypt on a trip that will broaden their field of knowledge in their academic specialties.

They are:

  • Dr. Peter Steinfeld, professor of religion and philosophy
  • Hollace Drake, assistant professor of speech and English
  • Dr. Katya Koubek, assistant professor of education/Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) 
  • Dr. Ann Petersen, professor of education

The group will arrive in Tel Aviv on July 1 and travel in Israel and Egypt, including a visit with Dr. Ahmad Ghabin, who will be a Visiting Fulbright Specialist this fall at BVU.  They will return home on July 11.

This is the third year of McCorkle Fellows program, which was established through the generosity of Dr. Paul McCorkle, a BVU Life Trustee and his late wife, Vivian, to provide selected faculty members with an opportunity for international travel to enhance their scholarly knowledge and to add international dimensions to the curriculum.  The first group, which also included Steinfeld, traveled to Argentina and Peru in 2006.  The second group traveled to India last year.

Steinfeld says his objective for this trip is to learn more about the fragile co-existence of Judaism, Islam and Christianity in the Middle East, in Israel, and more specifically in Jerusalem.  "As a teacher of religion, Jerusalem is the center of all three monotheistic religions," he says.  "My academic focus on the Holocaust is also at the center of my interest in wanting to learn more about Israel."

"More than that, I am fascinated with the centrality of the Middle East in geopolitics today," he adds. "I am especially interested in exploring how the Palestinian situation in Israel destabilizes the entire Middle East, and thereby the whole world."

"BVU students will inherit a world filled with complex and intractable problems," Steinfeld notes.  "Perhaps no problem has caused, and will continue to cause, so much global turmoil as the Palestinian issue.  Until Arabs know that their fellow Palestinians are being treated fairly and justly, there can be no global peace."

Though Petersen believes the experiences from this trip will be valuable in the classroom, she also has a special objective. "I am writing a book about the liberation of a slave labor camp, Ahlem, at the end of WWII and one of the liberators was Vernon Tott of Sioux City, who was in the 84th Infantry and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.   His experiences are the focus of my book," she says. 

Tott carried a camera throughout the war and was able to document the liberation of the camp.  Fifty years later, after rediscovering his photographs that had been stored in a shoebox following the war, he spent the next 10 years trying to locate the 32 survivors shown in the pictures and was able to locate 28.

Petersen has interviewed several of the camp survivors and has scheduled as part of this trip a meeting with two other survivors in Tel Aviv. "Tott died in 2005 about a week before he was to meet these two survivors in Israel, so I feel my trip is a way to close that circle. He had been ill with cancer for years and his family believes that his passion to find the survivors of the camp kept him alive."

Koubek says that ideally, her objective would have been to witness how Jewish-Arabic bilingual schools work and to learn about their successes, as well as the issues they need to overcome.  "Since the schools will not be in session at the time we are there, I hope to interview principals and teachers about their experiences," she says.

"In my TESL program I expect to be able to draw on those experiences to talk about issues such as acculturation versus assimilation processes, language development and factors that contribute to or impede becoming bilinguals," says Koubek.  She also anticipates the trip will enable her to add more depth to her classroom management and evaluation techniques course.

In addition to enriching discussions with students in the classrooms, the professors will also share their experiences in a series of meeting with members of the BVU campus community. Petersen will be on sabbatical during the 2008-09 academic year to work on her book, but will take part in these meetings.

The group's itinerary calls for spending the first two days in Jerusalem, including a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.  On July 3, they will travel to Tel Aviv to visit with the two Holocaust survivors.  On July 4, they will go to Tur'an, Israel (in Galilee) to meet with Dr. Ghabin.  On July 6, they will travel to the Dead Sea, visiting the archaeological site at Masada, as well as the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and Qumran National Park.  On July 7 they will travel to Egypt and visit the pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Egyptian Museum.  They will then travel to their final destination, Alexandria, home of the ancient Royal Library of Alexandria.