Students experience cultural diversity in Chicago

Wed, 2013-01-16 14:03 -- univcomm
January 16, 2013

Each year, Anderson University students embark on a trip to learn more about social issues in an urban environment. Lolly Bargerstock-Oyler, assistant professor of social work, takes a group of about 16 students into poverty-stricken areas of Chicago, where the students are exposed to different cultures.

Bargerstock-Oyler’s Social Problems class spends the semester looking at various social groups and studying the diverse cultures and the social and economic problems that face each group. The students then have the opportunity to spend a weekend living in an environment different than their own.

“The purpose of this trip is to provide an experiential learning opportunity for the students that moves what we have been learning from inside the classroom into an urban environment,” said Bargerstock-Oyler.

During the most recent trip, students visited social service agencies working with various demographics in Chicago. The students also attended a play that portrayed the struggles of heroin addiction, an issue that is relevant in the city.

Along with spending time with Chicago-based service agencies, the students visited various neighborhoods in Chicago such as Pilsen, a large Mexican-American neighborhood. Students also spent time at a civil rights organization, learning what is being done to continue the advancement of social equality.

“After attending the trip, students often have a newfound understanding of the issues discussed inside the classroom,” said Bargerstock-Oyler. “They better recognize how complex the issues are. Most importantly, many students gain more empathy for their fellow humans that are impacted by the problems we explore.”

Rachel Labens, a junior family science major, participated in the trip. “We went on a bus tour through Chicago’s culturally diverse neighborhoods,” said Labens. “Within a mere 30 blocks, we traveled through very affluent neighborhoods, the poorest slums, and through Chinatown. I had the opportunity to experience so much on this trip, not only seeing diversity up close but getting to better understand the social problems we were learning in class and how they were affecting each group of people.”

It is student experiences like Labens’ that encourage Bargerstock-Oyler to organize this trip every year. “Personally, I find the Chicago trip a rewarding experience as an instructor,” said Bargerstock-Oyler. “I have had students tell me, several years after, how significant the trip was to them and how it continues to impact their view of the world.”

— Kimberly Werline is a senior from Anderson, Ind., majoring in communication arts. Werline is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.