Gordon in the News: last updated 02/14/2008

Students Apply Their Christian Faith at New Study Abroad Program In Cape Town, South Africa

December 21, 2007

Kristin Schwabauer
Office of College Communications

WENHAM, MA-The Global Education Office at Gordon College has just launched Gordon in South Africa, a new semester-abroad program that focuses on issues of reconciliation and social justice. Students will take courses that focus on South Africa's recent struggles with democracy as well as its struggles with poverty and HIV/AIDS.

In January ten Gordon students will travel to South Africa to begin their studies. Classes will take place at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), an institution intent on drawing people of all races from all over South Africa and the world to its campus. Participating students will also complete a 14-week internship with nongovernmental organizations in and around Cape Town--dealing with church issues, socioeconomic development, work with children, conservation, wildlife, environmentalism, etc.

"Starting a program in South Africa is the culmination of years of planning, praying and piloting," says Cliff Hersey, dean for global education at Gordon. "We want our students to be in South Africa to listen and learn. South Africa has amazing things to teach us about community, about the poor, about race and about new directions in theological understanding. If you go with a listening heart you can't be there for very long without being changed."

In 2006 and 2007 two groups of students traveled to Cape Town to pilot this new program before it officially launched. Both groups were challenged and profoundly impacted by their trips. Tim Lewis, a senior at Gordon, says of his time in South Africa, "It was simultaneously beautiful and ugly, peaceful and agitated, easy and difficult. I experienced beautiful people living in poverty and disease and in flourishing wealth, all within the context of a remarkably impressive landscape."

Dr. Ivy George, professor of sociology at Gordon, has been heavily involved in getting this new program off the ground. "Gordon in South Africa will give our students the opportunity to witness first hand the palpable realities affecting every South African citizen like the challenges of multi-party politics in a newly emergent democracy, the AIDS epidemic, increasing concerns with civil safety, the inequities in the spheres of income, housing, education, employment, gender relations, and the impact of international financial institutions on the South African economy."

In January George will teach the first portion of a new course entitled "South African Social Change and Development" to prepare students before they leave. In mid-May she will travel to South Africa to teach the second portion of the course. "The primary goal of the program," adds George, "is to provide students with an opportunity to encounter a transitional society in Africa and to reflect on the nature of the social change and development taking place there. Students will not only be studying, they will also be making connections with apartheid in South Africa and segregation in the U.S.-focusing on how U.S. culture affects post-apartheid South Africa."

Claire Collins, a 2005 graduate of Gordon and a native of Durban, South Africa, will be the Gordon in South Africa program director. As such, Collins will manage trips, lectures and day-to-day activities for students. "South Africa is a young country. We've had a difficult past, and at times it feels like we have a very unanswerable future, but together, day by day, we are working it out as people."

For more information on the Gordon in South Africa program or to see photo journals from students who participated in the pilot program, please visit http://www.gordon.edu/southafricaseminar


Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The college offers majors in 36 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian colleges.