By Lindsey (Walker) Strength ’10
For the past 10 years, Professor of English Dr. Paul Kilpatrick has offered a unique course to capture the integrated quality of God’s creation. Puerto Rico is a core class that crosses borders between the humanities and the sciences to give students an understanding of how all the disciplines are vitally interconnected.
“The goal of the course is not to analyze and dissect, but to simply look through lots of windows onto an integrated whole, i.e. the island of Puerto Rico,” Kilpatrick explains.
The course invites students to explore the island through these windows and see the relationships between different areas of study. A few of these windows include the psychology of the political and economic history of the island, the sociological implications of the geography and its impact on the music, dance, food, literature and art.
To help students make these connections, a number of Geneva professors speak on topics within their disciplines and how they relate specifically to Puerto Rico. Then, over the 10 days of spring break, students actually travel to Puerto Rico to experience each of these areas in person.
“I've had students say, ‘this trip changed my life and the way I think about learning,’” Kilpatrick says. “One student in particular said, ‘I hated school. I couldn't wait to get out and start my career, but now, because of this course, I'm going to grad school.’”
He adds that it’s not just the students who are impacted by the trip and class. “In almost every case, professors have come back changed because they see the potential for interconnectedness.”
Kilpatrick spent eight years teaching at the University of Puerto Rico, and he returned with a desire share the richness of the country with students and colleagues from Geneva College. He teamed up with Professor of Math and Astronomy Dr. John Stein, whose life-long dream was to take students to Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory. Together, they started talking to other professors who would come on board and share the diversity of their academic curiosity with students.
“It’s the ultimate sociology class,” says Professor of Sociology Dr. Brad Frey, who has participated in the course for the last three years. “Dr. Kilpatrick has this remarkable vision for the wholeness of learning: we don't experience creation in separate pieces but in whole things. This class brings in faculty from every discipline on campus in an attempt to put together the whole picture of this island and its people and culture. It’s about how God holds it all together and how all the different pieces cohere from a Christian perspective.”