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Great American Cities program takes students on journey through history

October 31, 2011

Have you ever wanted to explore the nation’s most legendary memorials and monuments while earning college credit? Now you can thanks to Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

Jacquelyn Scott and Patrick Grzanka, both lecturers at Barrett, plan to present a brand new, five-week Great American Cities honors program titled “Remembering America: Identity, Narrative and the City” beginning May 2012.

To prepare for their journey, the class will spend the first week watching lectures presented by both Grzanka and Scott pertaining to the cities they will visit. Students also will interact with each other online through chat and discussion boards as they learn the cultural histories of their destinations.

Following this, students will spend three weeks visiting New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, surveying the economic and historical struggles that shaped the United States. They will be given assignments connected to historical landmarks and will be asked to observe the cultural landscape around them.

“We want to help students understand how different culture can be, even within the United States,” Grzanka said. “You don’t have to get on a plane and go to France to experience different cultural dynamics. You can simply go to another part of this country and see a completely different way of life.”

Scott will teach students to move beyond the role of tourist to become travelers – culturally sensitive individuals who learn not only about new places, but ultimately, more about themselves.

“Travelers are changed by their experiences,” Scott said. “My course 'Writing about Self and Place' gives students the opportunity to document and reflect upon their travel experiences and how those experiences are affecting their individual and national identities."

To fulfill the service-learning component of the program, students will work with the U.S. National Park Service in Washington, D.C., along with the Make It Right Foundation in New Orleans to better the communities they are researching. In Washington, D.C., trip goers will learn about the process of maintaining and preserving a national monument, while New Orleans will offer the chance to speak with residents affected by Hurricane Katrina and assist the Make It Right staff.

In the final week, students will submit a joint multimedia portfolio that will serve as the final project for both classes. The project will be a compilation of reflective academic writing and their best travel essays.

“We are giving them an opportunity to see things differently, and to think about who we are as Americans,” Grzanka said.

Those interested in signing up for the Great American Cities Course can learn more at