Sociology course offers opportunity to study at Navajo reservation for credits

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Dr. Melanie Hildebrandt, an IUP sociology professor, will be taking applications for students who wish to be a part of a global service learning program in the Navajo Nation this summer.

Hildebrandt will travel with approximately 10 students to the largest Indian reservation in the United States during the
two-week program from May 14 to 25.

The group will visit Tuba City, Ariz., and Crownpoint, N.M., as well as “everything in-between,” Hildebrandt said.

This program is open for any students, and all majors are welcome. This will be the fourth year that Hildebrandt will make the trip out to the reservation with students – the first year was in 2011. She got the idea from a colleague’s affiliation with the organization.

“When [Dr. Melissa Swauger] joined our faculty, she had been working with this group in Pittsburgh called Amizade,” Hildebrandt said.

“They’re a nonprofit global learning service organization and they have programs all over the world. She had worked with them going to Jamaica.

“I saw they had a program in the Navajo Nation, and I jumped on that.”

Hildebrandt’s area of interest in sociology is racial and ethnic minorities. She said that she’s always been interested in the Native American culture and social inequality.

She will be splitting time between Tuba City and Crownpoint for the upcoming trip. This way, the group will hit both sides of the reservation with some key points in-between.

As a global service learning program, the focus is to have students learn about people and culture in a different setting than they’re used to through cultural immersion.

“The purpose of the course is to really teach deeply about a culture and spend time reflecting on what it means to be a global citizen and what it means to engage with a community,” Hildebrandt said. “What is the difference between service and charity?”

While there, students will do projects to help the community. Last time they went, a woman that owned sheep needed help spinning the wool after it had been sheared.

Hildebrandt said that the main focus of the trip is to expand horizons and explore other cultures.

“The actual service that we do is less important than the listening and learning about the Navajo culture,” Hildebrandt said.

“They’re very intent on trying to preserve the language and value the traditions.”

By going into the trip with the perspective that students can learn from this other culture, the group builds relationships with the people there and learn to respect cultural differences.

The submission deadline for applications is March 1.