The entire Newman University freshman class traveled to Topeka, Kansas, Thursday, Nov. 8, to visit three locations: The Ritchie House, Brown vs. Board of Education (BOE) and the state capitol. This was the first time an entire freshman class traveled together on a field trip of this nature — and staff and faculty agreed it was a great experience.
During the summer before their freshman year, all incoming students read “The Immortal 10: A Story from the Kansas Underground Railroad” as a common reading for their Traditions and Transitions (T&T) classes.
Rosemary Niedens, associate vice president for academic affairs, said she wanted to give the students a chance to see part of the underground railroad history in person, adding that she wanted the students to experience that historical timeline to current day.
“The Ritchie House was the key location for the Topeka field trip,” explained Niedens. “At the house, students could see for themselves the location where slaves were hidden for safety on the Underground Railroad. It allowed the students to see the conditions in which runaways were smuggled, to stand where those individuals stood 150 years ago.
“The goal for the trip was to allow students to gain a greater understanding and empathy for those who were seeking freedom,” Niedens added. “This was reinforced through the visit to the Brown v. BOE historical site documenting the historical civil rights court decision nearly 65 years ago. And the visit to the Kansas state capitol allowed students to appreciate present-day processes of law.”
The freshman students seemed to all have a common takeaway when asked about the field trip: making new friends and bonding with peers they already share classes with.
Austin Schwartz, a theatre and communication major, said, “A benefit in a trip like this for freshmen is just getting to know other students. The fact is that a lot of us don’t know each other. Now we’re a few months into the semester and we get to grow more as a group.”
Schwarts said getting to know his classmates wasn’t the only thing he will take away from the trip. He said visiting the capitol was a great experience, one he hadn’t had since he was a child.
“I got to come here in fifth grade and didn’t appreciate it to its full extent,” he explained. “Now that I’ve learned more, I looked forward to visiting these places and seeing first-hand … the places we went to. I went on the dome tour and that was fun to go up that high and look over downtown. The view was rewarding and the experience was worth it.”
Sheridan Sommer, a biology major at Newman, said, “I was looking forward to this trip because it’s a chance to bond with other people in my class and get to know each other. When I was younger I paged at the capitol and I got to help out with the senators.”
Sommer added that the trip added to the great experience she is getting from her T&T class.
“T&T has definitely helped us interact more with people by doing service projects, to come together and form an idea for that project, and then to work together to complete it.”
Newman President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D., joined the travelers. She said, “It could not have been a better day and more memorable experience for our freshmen.”
The trip was such a success that faculty members said they are already thinking about next year.
Cheryl Golden, Ph.D., professor of history and director of international studies, said, “Some of us are already brainstorming about next year. Our students had a great time and learned a great deal. This was a memory maker and a great way to head into the holidays with T&T as we reflect this week on all we learned on our road trip.”