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Hellwig to take leave of absence for summer 'Semester at Sea'

RELEASED: May 4, 2011

Beth Hellwig
Dr. Beth Hellwig

EAU CLAIRE —The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's vice chancellor of student affairs will serve as dean of students for the Summer 2011 Semester at Sea voyage aboard the MV Explorer.

Dr. Beth Hellwig will take a leave of absence from her position at UW-Eau Claire to travel to Europe and North Africa during a 66-day journey to eight countries. She will travel from the Bahamas to Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Morocco, and end in Boston, Mass. The voyage was originally scheduled to visit Egypt as well, but due to the current political climate, that portion of the trip was canceled.

This won't be Hellwig's first adventure with the program. She sailed in the spring of 2007, working as director of student life. Highlights of that trip included a walk through the rain forest in Puerto Rico, going on safari in South Africa, visiting the Taj Mahal in India and climbing the Great Wall of China.

According to Hellwig, the "Semester at Sea" program allows for people of all ages to become students of the globe.

"I sailed with children as young as six months, with lifelong learners who were 92 and 702 college students from around the world who had the ultimate living-learning experience," Hellwig said, adding that she sailed with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner and celebrated South African activist.

"I remember attending a service led by the Archbishop on the deck of our beautiful ship on Easter Sunday morning ... watching a whale jump out of the ocean, with dolphins alongside the ship, experiencing pure inspiration," Hellwig said.

Hellwig said she looks forward to experiencing life on a ship in the middle of the ocean and plans to take full advantage of a global studies course to learn about the ports she will visit.

"I was a study abroad coordinator for eight years of my life and had the opportunity to encourage students to study in all corners of the globe. It is such a pleasure for me to be inspired, challenged and filled with wonder and to continually learn more about how others experience the world," Hellwig said.

Hellwig's colleagues in the Student Affairs division will be responsible for day-to-day operations while she is away. Dean of Students Brian Carlisle will represent the division in meetings and decision-making procedures during her absence, and Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean of students, and Jacqueline Bonneville, assistant dean of students, also will be available.

Hellwig won't be the only UW-Eau Claire representative on the voyage. Kerry Day, Towers North hall director, will be a living-learning coordinator on the MV Explorer this summer. She will work with faculty and other staff to guide the combination of life beyond the classroom with the academic program.

Day has been interested in study abroad programs since she was an undergraduate student, and traveled abroad in collge and graduate school.

"I believe that it is one of the biggest ways that a college student can grow and develop as a person and be better prepared for the working world," she said.

Day learned about the Semester at Sea program in graduate school, but had to gain experience working in student affairs before she could apply. She said she looks forward to seeing students change and grow in ways they never thought possible in such a short amount of time.

Two UW-Eau Claire students, juniors Jade Schantzen, Lake Elmo, Minn., and Karen Hansen, Amery, also will take part in the program this summer.

Schantzen, a business major and international business minor, said she liked the idea of studying abroad in multiple countries instead of one.

"I am most looking forward to Turkey and Morocco," Schantzen said. "I think both of these countries vary the most from the U.S. and will provide a greater understanding of what life is like in other parts of the world."

Hansen said she is excited for the added opportunity of field programs, which are offered outside of regularly scheduled activities.

"I have signed up for a mountain bike tour in Barcelona, Spain, an overnight on the island of Capri in Italy, an overnight to beautiful Mykonos in Greece, service projects to orphanages and hospitals, and a day trip to Rome, just to name a few," Hansen said.

All students are required to take "Global Studies: The Art of the Mediterranean" while on board to learn about the locations they will be visiting. The program also has multiple student organizations aboard the ship, themed days and presentations about each country on the itinerary.



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