Jazmin Fontenot’s Passion for Nature and Civil Rights

dingle-day-4-593My honors students left Ireland 11 days ago, and I am resting and reflecting, and catching up on a few details during my stay here in Dunquin, Co. Kerry. In earlier posts, I wrote a bit about four of my eight students – in the next few posts, I’ll write a bit about the other four of my students. We had such a great learning journey – each of these eight students – with their own personalities, learning styles, rhythms and preferences, made such wonderful contributions to this group. It was marvelous to watch them as individuals – learning, processing, struggling to understand, being delighted and enchanted, talking and reflecting – through solitary and group cybersleuthing and research, through small group and whole group discussions, through blog responses, and through planned excursions and serendipitous in context impromptu encounters.

One of these fabulous Honors students, Jazmin Fontenot, was one of the CU Denver UHL (University Honors and Leadership) Program students who came to me the fall of 2013 with a request that I teach an Honors Maymester in Ireland. I was impressed with Jazmin’s perspicacity all along the way – she and Kate O’Connell met with me several times during the year as I planned the class and began to work on the huge number of details required for a learning experience in two countries over three weeks! She’s a quiet but determined young woman, and keenly interested in broadening her life experiences and worldview. I believe she now has a solid base from which to expand those goals – she served as one of our two student leaders and did a great job! Take a look at her blog to see the topics that deeply resonated with her – her love of nature and her deep emotional reaction to learning about The Troubles, hearing personal stories, and making profound and poignant connections to the Civil Rights movement in the US. Her post on Unspoken Love, the play we saw in Derry about mixed marriages (Catholics and Protestants) is moving.

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Austin Fogle’s Foodie and Nutrition Comparisons

MI-Fish-and-chips-newspaperAustin Folge, another of my wonderful CU Denver Honors Maymester students, is interested in comparisons. He’s been exploring and dissecting food culture in Ireland and Northern Ireland. In our spring 2014 Honors Seminar, he baked some homemade Irish soda bread and shepherd’s pie for the class as part of his final project presentation on Irish food culture. It was delicious! Take a look at his post, Day 7: Arrival in Belfast, A bit of a stroll, personal interest research, to read his very interesting reflections about finance and nutrition (the “grease factor”) comparisons between the US and Northern Ireland. Austin is taking this all in and methodically sifting through it all. It’s been great to watch him enjoying a new food culture! Take a look at Austin’s blog, and visit the other student blogs.

And this just in; today is National Fish and Chips Day in Ireland!
Photo credit: Irish Central

Peter Costea’s Love of Nature, People and Philosophical Musings

fuschiaPeter Costea is one of my Honors Maymester students, a Psychology major at CU Denver and by his own admission, a passionate people person. Take a look at one of his recent blog posts, A Study in Flowers. It is a beautiful wee meditation on the natural beauty of Ireland, and he positions his lovely flowers at the center of that calm and verdant world. His delightful and adept post, A Study In People (Wise Cyril), is a lovely tribute to beauty of another type; serendipity, the pleasure in taking time to listen and learn, and the power of discovering knowledge and friendship in the most unsuspecting places. The photos of Wise Cyril are stunning. Peter’s beautifully crafted story about Wise Cyril, autism and autism spectrum disorder, is wondrous! It brings to mind the people I’ve read and studied re: this topic, including: Temple Grandin’s amazing and beautiful memoir, Thinking in Pictures: Other Reports from My Life with Autism); Oliver Sacks’ marvelous books, Anthropologist on Mars (which takes its title from a phrase Templin Grandin spoke when Sacks asked her what it felt like to be autistic), Musicophilia, Migraine, Awakenings, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat; Daniel Tammet’s Born on a Blue Day; Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; and John Elder Robison’s Look Me in the Eye. Step inside Peter’s kind spirit and wise soul, and have a look at his blog and at all of these incredible student blogs! The flower photo is of one of my favorite Irish flowers, the fuschia (the Irish versions are smaller and more delicate).

Josh Blair’s Photography and Sense of Beauty

IMG_6821Josh Blair is another one of my great CU Denver Honors Maymester students. He’s working on a Major in Digital Design and double minoring in Leadership Studies and Art History. Take a look at the beautiful photographs on his blog and how he’s captured some lovely moments in serene and gorgeous natural settings, some somber learning activities, the lightness of spirit that everyone is experiencing, and the sheer fun and joy of this amazing trip. This is his photo of another Honors Maymester student, Kevie Kawasaki, delighting in the beauty and quiet of the Belfast Botanic Gardens. Josh has a beautiful sense of arranging things (photos, words, friends and new experiences) and his sense of wonder and joy is palpable! Take a look at the other student blogs, and drop them a line and let them know that you’re sharing a part of this learning journey with them!

Marie Angoulvant’s Digital Painting from High Tea at the Europa Hotel in Belfast

677142_origMarie Angoulvant is one of my CU Denver Honors Maymester students. She’s majoring in 3D Animation and double minoring in Leadership Studies and Art History. Take a look at this gorgeous digital painting she did of the wee glass teapot from our group high tea at Belfast’s Europa Hotel. Isn’t it gorgeous? She sketches a lot as we go along, and her posts are brimming with creative energy, lovely sketches, and excellent research on the topics at hand and others that web out from where she starts to those that deeply resonate along the way. She and another artist on this Maymester, Josh Blair, have especially enjoyed the art exhibits we’ve all experienced together and those we’ve discovered in context. What a fabulous journal and deep visual record Marie will have of her learning and creating! Take a look at her extraordinary blog and take a look at the other student blogs, as well. They’re all incredible and reflect individual personalities and style, learning preferences, and research protocol. Fabulous, Marie!

General Post Office (GPO)

IMG_0529This beautiful landmark building and iconic symbol of the 1916 Easter Rising always moves me – it was built in 1818 and is situated halfway along O’Connell Street, just a few blocks from where we’re staying on this Maymester course. Members of two small groups – the Irish Volunteers (under the leadership of Pádraig Pearse) and the Irish Citizen Army (under the leadership of James Connolly) seized the GPO as its headquarters on Easter Monday in 1916. Pádraig Pearse read out from the steps of the GPO to passers-by the Proclamation of the Irish Republic – a declaration that Ireland was now a republic and that his group was the provisional government.

The rebels remained inside for nearly a week, but relentless shelling from the British Army eventually forced them out. At first, many viewed the Rising critically, but as time passed that opinion changed and as W.B. Yeats wrote, a “terrible beauty was born” when, during the following weeks, 14 of the leaders were captured and executed in Kilmainham Gaol. The GPO Museum features a copy of the Proclamation and accounts from staff working that day, as well as a gorgeous collection of stamps.

The Easter Rising would probably had little impact on the Irish situation, had the British not made martyrs of the rebel leaders. Of the 77 given death sentences, 15 were executed – including the injured Connolly, who was shot while strapped to a chair. This brought about a sea change in public attitudes, and support for the Republicans rose dramatically.

I took this photo at sunset, a particularly poignant time of day – I am eager to see student observations and reactions to learning more about the Rising and visiting the Gaol, a sober and fascinating place. We’ll be visiting the Gaol with my CU Denver School of Business colleague, Jan Rutherford, and his Maymester class on Leadership and Entrepreneurship in Ireland – and it will be interesting for my Honors undergraduate students to engage with Jan’s Business graduate students. I’ve been to the Gaol many times over the last decade and it is such a powerful experience – bringing history to life in ways that are just not possible through reading and study alone. We’ll also be visiting the 1916 exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland.