Dr. Nancy Albers-Miller, Dean of the PLU School of Business, and I have been teaching courses on board cruise ships sailing the eastern Caribbean this January Term—we call it “J-Term@Sea.” Dean Miller is teaching two versions of a marketing course and I’m teaching Caribbean literature and history. Altogether, we have 34 students, plus staff assistance from PLU Head Baker Erica Fickeisen for the first week; Dr. Miller’s Assistant, Julie Paulsen, for the second week; and PLU Director of Dining and Culinary Services Erin McGinnis for the third week. Most of our class time is spent in separate classrooms in the conference center of the ship, but we gather both classes the night before each new port of call for “Port Reports”: the literature students report on the history and culture of the upcoming port, while the business students report on the economy, tourist product, and other business aspects. We also reflect after each port on what we’ve observed and learned. The students in the two classes are all mixed in their cabins and in their explorations of the ports of call.
It was a special delight to be able to introduce my J-Term@Sea students to the seniors at my high school, All Saints Cathedral School in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. After having a great buffet lunch featuring local specialties like goat meat stew, curry chicken, fungi (okra and cornmeal), pigeon peas and rice, fried plantains, and soursop and mango ice cream at the Petite Pump Room restaurant, owned by my classmate, Mikey Watson, and his wife, Judy, we walked through the town of Charlotte Amalie to All Saints Cathedral School to meet with the seniors. I gave a short speech on how happy I was to be “home” and able to speak at my alma mater, and then I invited the high school students to mingle with the PLU students. I urged the high school students to ask about college from the Lutes, and I encouraged the Lutes to ask questions of the All Saints Vikings about life in the Virgin Islands. Most of the people our students have come in contact with on this trip have been people working in the tourist trade: taxi drivers, tour guides, waitstaff, hotel employees. This was a chance to spend some time with people not involved with tourism. The Lutes were impressed with the All Saints students—especially the way so many of them seemed to know what they wanted to major in in college: theater, chemistry, mortuary science, psychology, chemical engineering, sociology, business, communication, English, economics, and history. The Principal of All Saints, Ms. Carla Sarauw, and the College Counselor, Ms. Dena Langdon, stressed how much it meant to them and the whole school to have close connections to PLU, and Dena pointed out to the group that “It looks like PLU could use some more of the diversity that our All Saints students could bring!”
We returned to St. Thomas a few days later and got to meet with some students from other high schools on the island, including a group of Junior ROTC students who were interested in PLU’s Lute Battalion of Army ROTC. We met at the Frederick Lutheran Church, which is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year, making it the oldest Lutheran church in the Western Hemisphere. Pastor LB Tatum kindly arranged to gather the students and hosted us in his Congregation Hall. Our students were again impressed with the high schoolers—their desire to go off island for college, the clarity of some of their ideas about what to major in, and the artistic abilities of one student who showed us his portfolio. Several mothers and a grandmother joined us as well to find out more about colleges in general and PLU in particular. It was another great experience for all involved.