Hendrix-in-India 2013

Hendrix in India

CONWAY, Ark. (October 8, 2013) – Ten Hendrix botany students recently participated in the first Hendrix-in-India program.

The student participants included:

  • Adam Bigott '14
  • Meaghan Epperson '15
  • Ariana Fabian '14
  • Marley Halter '15
  • Paige Johnson '15
  • Paul Kreitz '16
  • Charlotte Marchioni '16
  • Lauren Nelson '14
  • Tammi Ragan '15
  • James Williams '14

Led by Hendrix biology professor Dr. Ann Willyard, students spent 21 days this summer traveling through a spectacular region of the southern Indian state of Kerala. Although Kerala is listed by National Geographic as a "must see" destination, few Americans visit this ancient spice capitol of the world.

Along with Kelly Amsberry, a botanist with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, students explored study sites ranging from the Arabian Sea coast, through the tea plantations and Cardamom Hills, to rain forests at 2000-meter elevation in the Western Ghats.

"Studying plants where they grow is incredibly useful for biology students, especially in the richly diverse Tropics," said Willyard. "Kerala offers the advantage that we can also explore the history and present-day agricultural practices of some of the important crops that changed the world: tea, spices, and medicinal plants."

Dr. Willyard's Tropical Field Botany (BIOL 108) course in the summer 2013 session also gave students the opportunity to learn about homestead gardening and Ayurvedic medicinal plants. Along the way, Hendrix students held cultural exchanges with Keralan college students, learned a few traditional dance steps, and had a chance to practice yoga and to ride an elephant.

"Plants are so incredibly important. I am now fascinated with how things are made and what raw ingredients they require," said Nelson, a sociology and anthropology major. "Going through fields of tea, cane sugar and rubber and then to the factory for processing illuminated the course of production and opened my eyes to how many finished products I just accepted as is without questioning their history or ingredients."

"It is easy to separate the natural world from a finished product but unsustainable to miss the connection," she added. "I have started to check labels like mad but am disappointed that the original location of the raw ingredients is often kept secret. I want to go back to seeing my food grown before my eyes!"

Dr. Willyard was invited to present seminars on her research as a visiting scientist at St. Teresa's College in Ernakulam and at BCM College in Kottayam. Amsberry also presented a seminar at BCM College on her conservation work with rare plants in Oregon.

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. For the sixth consecutive year, Hendrix was named one of the country's "Up and Coming" liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Hendrix is featured in the latest edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges, as well as the 2014 Princeton Review's The Best 378 Colleges, Forbes magazine's list of America's Top Colleges, and the 2014 Fiske Guide to Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu.