In the News

Hamline alumna remembers SPAN, a half century ago

This article is slated to appear shortly in The Oracle, the student newspaper at Hamline University which published its first edition in 1877.

By Evelyn Hovda Anderson, SPAN administrative assistant

It was 52 years ago, and I was a shy Hamline sophomore, the first person in my family to go to college.  I wrote some articles for the The Oracle and was leaning toward a journalism major. Thanks to a Hamline professor who saw something in me that I didn’t know was there, I had a life-changing experience through SPAN, the Student Project for Amity ­among Nations. Even after all these years, I consider the SPAN experience a landmark event in my life.

George Vane, Ph.D., suggested that I apply to SPAN, an organization founded by students which was preparing students for travel to four countries in the summer of 1962. Vane  suggested Morocco as a destination for me, because I had taken some French language classes. As my research topic, I decided I wanted to  explore the status of women in Morocco. I wanted to  pay particular attention to the meaning of the veil, or a headscarf worn by many women there.  Another Hamline student, Bill Clute, also in the Morocco group, studied the educational system in the newly-independent country.

Our Morocco SPAN group of 10 had students from four other Minnesota colleges as well. The other SPAN groups that year, which also included Hamline students, visited Greece, Nigeria, and Peru.

After more than a half century, SPAN is still active and Hamline students have always been eligible to participate. Since SPAN’s inception in 1947,  90 Hamline students have traveled with SPAN to study, research, and travel to countries as diverse as Cameroon, Switzerland, Ghana, Micronesia, Thailand, Portugal, and Yugoslavia.

In 2015 SPAN intends to send students to Germany and to the Republic of Armenia and neighboring Georgia, a former Soviet Union state. . (EA note: this is still tentative). Just as I did a half-century ago, the 2015 SPANners will prepare for their international research experience by meeting regularly as a group and working independently as they develop their individual research projects, make contacts abroad, learn more about their host countries and arrange for transportation and housing overseas.

Our academic advisor, Mohamed Selim, Ph.D., of the University of St. Thomas, had both personal and professional contacts in Morocco and spoke Arabic fluently.  SPAN selects faculty advisors, such as Salim, based on their experience in the destination country and their effectiveness as teachers and as mentors.

SPANners, as they are called, enjoy an eight-week in-country summer stay. While abroad they carry out a research project on a self-chosen topic.  This can involve interviews with experts, surveys, site visits, library research, or whatever kind of field studies the SPANner decides will result in a successful research project. I was the reserved Minnesota student conducting interviews with Moroccan leaders in French, rehearsing the questions carefully and hoping I would understand the answers!

Upon return home SPANners, just as I did, synthesize their research findings  and write a  substantive research paper, approximately 50 pages in length. SPAN provides guidance for this process so the finished content and format of the paper is much like a master’s thesis. I’ve been told SPAN students who apply for graduate school find that the SPAN paper is a valuable asset. SPAN is one of the few study abroad programs that requires and supports undergraduates as they do their independent research of their very own.

The SPAN experience helped me develop my self-confidence, curiosity, interviewing skills, problem-solving abilities, cross-cultural understanding, and international interests. I learned to live on a very tight budget, staying in hostels, dorms, and I had an unforgettable week with a family in the walled Medieval city of Fez. SPAN alumni provide scholarships to help make the experience financially possible for current students.

If you are adventurous, independent-minded, and a strong student with international interests, consider applying for SPAN.  You can contact SPAN directly (see box) or contact John Mazis, Ph.D., professor of Middle East studies and history at Hamline University (jmazis@hamline.edu). Mazis was a SPANner to Greece in 1995. He also  serves on SPAN’s executive board.

If you are like me, you might still be talking about your experience 50 years from now.

Coming soon: PHOTOS

Photo 1: Two Hamline students were part of the SPAN group that landed in Casablanca, Morocco, in June 1962. They are Evelyn Hovda Anderson, seated on the arm of the sofa at right, and William Clute, standing at far right.    Mohamed Selim, Ph.D., of the University of St. Thomas, the group’s advisor, is standing second from left.

(Use with photo 1 if space permits) Students from other colleges are, from left: Michael Nickolay, University of Minnesota; Julie Broberg Boots, Macalester College; Phyllis Swanson Lacroix, St. Cloud State University; Edith Henderson Ruby, Macalester College; Greg Casey, University of St. Thomas; Jan Weiser, Macalester College; Kathryn Sederberg, University of Minnesota; and Chris Low, University of Minnesota (standing second from right). Two other men in the photo were representatives of the U.S. Information Agency in Morocco.

Photo 2: Four Hamline SPAN alumni from 1962 celebrated their 50th anniversary at a SPAN banquet in 2012. They are, from left, Dorothy Johnson Suomola, William Clute, Mary Parrish, and Evelyn Anderson. Dorothy and Mary went to Greece, and Bill and Evelyn went to Morocco.

Photo 3: The Morocco group’s advisor, Mohamed Selim, Ph.D., (seated), joined a 2013 reunion of some of the members: Julie Boots, Edith Henderson, Evelyn Anderson, and Phyllis Lacroix.

Photo 4: The 2014 SPAN group to Cuba and Puerto Rico posed with some of their new contacts at the University of Puerto Rico.

 

(Sidebar)

What is SPAN?

  • Student Project for Amity among Nations (SPAN)
  • Oldest study and researchabroad program in Minnesota, started in 1947
  • Nearly 3,000 SPANners have visited more than 93 countries on six continents
  • Non-profit, student-run organization
  • Students from all Minnesota college or university can participate
  • Provides opportunity for independent undergraduate research, with guidance from a qualified academic advisor
  • Students earn eight semester credits from the University of Minnesota, transferable to other institutions

– four credits for the preparation period and eight  weeks in the destination country

– four  credits for successful completion of 50-page research paper during the following                   academic year

  • In 2015, the destinations will be Germany and  the Republic of Armenia and the former Soviet Union state of  Georgia
  • Scholarships available

 

For further information or to apply:

Student Project for Amity among Nations (SPAN)

Room 774, Social Sciences Building

267 19th Avenue South

Minneapolis, MN 55455

(West Bank, University of Minnesota)

 

Web: www.spanalumni.org

Email: mnspan@umn.edu

Phone: 612-626-1083

Contacts:

Evelyn Anderson, administrative assistant (Hamline alumna)

Theofanis Stavrou, executive director, professor of History

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