Fort Hays State students reap long-term benefits from short-term class

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By Diane Gasper-O'Brien

University Relations and Marketing

HAYS, Kan. – The Department of Leadership Studies at Fort Hays State University has historically offered an international class to students late in the second semester or during the summer months.

This year, in a new twist, the department decided to give an intersession experience a try and add Virtual College students from around the country as well. The experiment was a success.

A total of 22 students, including six who take classes exclusively online, traveled to London in early January. Four faculty members also participated in the week-long trip. In addition to Leadership Studies, students from two other departments – Psychology and Criminal Justice – took part, as well as some in other disciplines.

“The three main departments participating in this trip have large virtual student populations,” said Kaley Klaus, instructor of leadership studies who coordinated the trip. “It was important for us to give them the opportunity to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Klaus is in her third year of teaching at Fort Hays State and was assigned the task of planning this year’s trip. Leadership Studies offers a short-term study abroad experience and extends requests to other departments to participate to offer an interdisciplinary course for as many students as possible.

When the Criminal Justice and Psychology departments decided to participate in the 2018 class, representatives from those disciplines brought up the idea of including Virtual College students.

“When you talk to virtual students, you get them on the opposite end of the spectrum – some aren’t as interested in the college life part, and others want to know as much as possible about what’s happening on campus,” Klaus said. “I was more than happy with the response from our virtual students and am delighted some were able to join us on the adventure. It’s a good start.”

One Virtual College student, Robert Austin, joined the group from Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Austin, a criminal justice major, said he took advantage of the opportunity because “being a virtual student, I don’t really get to participate in the college experience.”

Austin was delayed a few hours because of a major winter storm in the Southeast, but once he joined the FHSU contingent, he said, it was worth the wait.

“The class was very diverse with students from the three different majors going,” Austin said, "and the tours were set up in such a way that all three majors were able to experience London.”

Students and faculty explored the history of London, ranging from its constitutional monarchy and historical figures to historical sites that included houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court, Buckingham Palace and the Sigmund Freud Museum.

They also toured the Whitechapel district, home of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders, and met with retired law enforcement and government officials to discuss the country and city justice systems and political structures.

“I’m not a criminal justice major, but I thought it was really interesting to see the differences and similarities between our countries,” said Hays freshman Grace Wasinger, an on-campus student who also takes online classes.

Klaus said it was difficult to separate the on-campus students from those in the Virtual College.

David Coachman, Lawrence, who is working on an organizational leadership degree online, said he was worried about fitting in with the on-campus students but really wanted to go on the trip because he had never been to London.

“My fears were relieved once we got to the airport,” Coachman said. “I felt accepted and included from the start, and as the trip went on, I became friends with everyone in our group.”

Ditto for the on-campus students.

“This was a really diverse group, including non-traditional students,” said Wasinger, a pyschology major who had never been out of the country before this trip.

“I think these trips not only teach you a lot about other country’s belief systems and culture,” she added, “but you learn a lot about yourself and the other people traveling with you, too. I learned a lot more from this trip than a classroom setting or even from an online classroom setting.”

Dr. Jennifer Bonds-Raacke, who was chair of the Psychology Department when Klaus began planning the trip, said she “appreciates the diverse and varied backgrounds that virtual students bring with them to the classroom.”

“We strive to provide our virtual students with the enriched educational opportunities and high impact teaching techniques,” said Bonds-Raacke, now dean of the Graduate School. “Therefore, we could not envision a study abroad experience without virtual students.”

A complete list of students and faculty who participated in the intersession class follows. Students are listed alphabetically, followed by their major and hometown. Virtual College students are marked with an asterisk.

  • Students

Keri Asche, psychology, Burrton

Robert Austin*, criminal justice, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Devin Blackwood, music education, Garden City

Jacy Buchholz, organizational leadership, Ogallah

David Coachman*, organizational leadership, Lawrence

Hannah Dehn, psychology, Deerfield

Jamie Deuel*, psychology, La Crosse

Steven Hoyt, psychology, Garden City

Amanda Hurla, criminal justice, Topeka

Spencer Kochanowski, psychology, Salina

Jacob Korte, general studies, Gem

Jordan Larzalere*, psychology, Salina

Sarah Mick, psychology, Ellis

Allison Muth, organizational leadership, Great Bend

Raenee Patterson, organizational leadership, Norton

Anneka Sundell, criminal justice, Salina

Kyle Switala*, psychology, Fenton, Mich.

Taya Thornburg, psychology, Quinter

Justice Voss, psychology, Phillipsburg

Grace Wasinger, psychology, Hays

Collette West*, organizational leadership, Centerville, Utah

Samantha Whisenant, psychology, Liberal

  • Faculty

Kaley Klaus, instructor, leadership studies

Dr. Jennifer Bonds-Raacke, dean of the Graduate School, psychology professor

Dr. John Raacke, chair and associate professor, criminal justice

Dr. Trey Hill, interim chair and assistant professor, psychology


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