Offering a unique opportunity to Western’s Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies students, the Adventure Learning Grant (ALG) provides a $20,000 stipend awarded annually to three adventurous students looking to close their textbooks and experience alternative lifestyles and cultures around the world.
Junior Clare Casey was introduced to the Adventure Learning Grants as an incoming Fairhaven student. She was awarded the grant this year to travel to the Torres Strait Islands, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia beginning in mid-September.
“I have immense gratitude to Fairhaven,” Casey said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen, but so far this is like the epitome of the magic of learning about yourself, your community, and being present in your process because there’s only so much you can do to plan such an incredible adventure.”
The grant was sponsored by former Fairhaven Professor David Mason in an effort to give students an opportunity to challenge the traditional flow of knowledge and information by exploring new perspectives and integrating experiences into learning.
To be considered for the grant, students must write two essays explaining what they hope to learn on the trip as well as how they plan to expand upon their education abroad. Fairhaven College faculty member and ALG Coordinator Andrew Brown said students will then interview with five Fairhaven faculty, including Brown, where they look for preparedness, critical self-reflection, and a sense of curiosity and humility in candidates.
Brown said the purpose of the grants are determined by the recipient, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to apply learning in a less structured way.
I have no idea what’s going to happen, but so far this is like the epitome of the magic of learning about yourself, your community, and being present in your process because there’s only so much you can do to plan such an incredible adventure.
“The grants give you a chance to pause from all the information of higher education and expand upon what you’ve learned with diverse perspectives that aren’t U.S.-centric, that aren’t academic,” they said. “You come back with a self-directed, receptive and wide-reaching perspective on education.”
Casey’s concentration at Fairhaven involves Encoding Expressive Revitalization of the Child in a Natural World as well as Arts Enterprise and Cultural Innovation. She hopes to apply what she’s learned to looking at expressive arts and traditions through the lens of indigeneity and childhood.
“I’m looking forward to exploring a new landscape and facing the challenges of being in a community that is uncomfortable and different from what I’ve experienced,” she said. “I’m excited to be surrounded by different art forms, traditions and meeting the children of the world.”
Also leaving on the grant this fall, Fairhaven student Sequoia Pullella Barca is going to Ecuador to work with Colombian refugees, and Gloria Goñi-McAteer is traveling to Chile to look at the impacts of the globalized fishing industry on traditional fishing practices.
Grace Coffey, a senior at Western from Ilwaco, was awarded an ALG last year and traveled through the Andes Mountains in Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Peru. Coffey’s major in Urban Planning though the Huxley College of the Environment and working in Fairhaven’s Outback Farm influenced her interest in rural agriculture and economies.
“It was amazing to have a chance to examine my interests and myself by seeing what I would do with this opportunity — and what I did with it was go to South America, as I was interested in learning about rural economies and urban planning in that part of the world.”
Coffey said her travels fell into two patterns: working on rural small farms to experience the lifestyle, and exploring cities like Valparaíso and Medellín. She said it was fascinating to look at what’s happening in urban planning in South America where there’s a lot of innovation and quickly changing infrastructure.
Upon arriving back in the U.S., grant recipients must return to Fairhaven for a year where they share their experiences with peers and the greater community. Coffey said she did a number of presentations for different groups at the World Issues Forum, Whatcom Justice Center and Scholars Day. Informally, she shared her experiences with friends and family.
The ALG provides Coffey, Casey, Pullella Barca, Goñi-McAteer and countless others the freedom to broaden their perspectives in ways that aren’t possible in a traditional classroom setting.
For Coffey, would she do it all again?
“Oh God yes,” she said. “I don’t know why everybody doesn’t apply, it’s so amazing.”
To learn more about the ALG program, visit www.fairhaven.wwu.edu/adventure-learning-grant.