Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning
4 years, 5,000 projects, more than $1 million in grants
By Helen Plotkin
The Class of 2009 has earned a spot in Hendrix history as the first class for which Odyssey participation was a graduation requirement.
Students who entered in fall 2005 knew they would be part of a new program focusing on engaged learning, but the details were a bit sketchy. Many of them had already chosen Hendrix for other reasons.
“I was pretty sold on the college, so the talk of Odyssey was only a bonus for me at the time,” Jordan Kennedy ’09 said. “I was intrigued, but I had no idea how much it would impact my time in college before I got there.”
For many 2009 graduates, Odyssey defined their Hendrix experience – and that’s no accident. In 2003 when Hendrix President J. Timothy Cloyd challenged the faculty to create what became the Hendrix Odyssey he asked that it “be universal (required of all) and defining of the Hendrix experience.”
Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning has clearly met both goals.
“The Odyssey program is as cool as you want to make it,” said Justin Warren ’09. “It’s like a very efficient machine: the amount of work and imagination that you put into it is directly proportional to the amount of cool that you get out of it.”
Mallory Bader ’09 agreed. “The first thing that I explain to people when I tell them where I went to college is the Odyssey program,” she said.
So, what is Odyssey?
“Odyssey grew from the active learning environment that has long been cultivated at Hendrix,” President Cloyd said. “It has become the unifying ethic for how we approach liberal arts and sciences education.”
Your Hendrix Odyssey requires that all students complete at least three experiential learning projects chosen from six categories: artistic creativity, global awareness, professional and leadership development, service to the world, undergraduate research and special projects. Hendrix graduates receive an Odyssey transcript in addition to their academic transcript.
Students and faculty are eligible to apply for grant funding to support their Odyssey projects. More than $1 million in funding as been awarded since Odyssey began in 2005. At the end of the 2008-09 academic year nearly 5,000 Odyssey credits had been recorded and 240 projects involving 604 students and 83 faculty had shared $1.18 million in grant funding.
Dr. Mark Schantz, the first Odyssey director (who left Hendrix at the end of the spring semester to become provost of Birmingham Southern University in Birmingham, Ala.), said the Odyssey Program has “succeeded wildly. The evidence of success is in the projects that faculty and students develop and the incredible creativity of the students.”
Dr. Nancy Fleming, the current Odyssey director, said the way Odyssey functions as an umbrella to draw many facets of the Hendrix experience together is unique.
“Odyssey draws on so many different kinds of experiences and recognizes the value of them,” Dr. Fleming said. “It pulls together the components of a well-rounded education. It speaks to our motto of ‘unto the whole person.’ ”
In a relatively short period of time, Odyssey has grown from an intriguing concept to an integral part of the Hendrix experience.
“Odyssey is not an add-on. It’s not an extra little something we’ve added to our curriculum. It’s who we are,” President Cloyd emphasized.
How has Odyssey changed Hendrix?
The idea of Odyssey has done more than transform the lives of individual students. It has also refined the way Hendrix thinks about itself and its mission.
“Odyssey has made Hendrix better at being Hendrix,” said Dr. Robert E. Entzminger, Provost and Dean of the College.
“We have always had students and faculty who are creative and who work well together outside the classroom,” Provost Entzminger said. “The funding and the program have made it possible for more of our faculty and students to realize their dreams.”
Several Hendrix administrators identified Odyssey as a primary reason for the recent expansion of international programs and dramatic growth in the number of Hendrix students traveling abroad.
“Odyssey has been a catalyst behind our impressive growth in international study and service projects,” President Cloyd said.
Another benefit of the Hendrix Odyssey has been a significant impact on the College’s ability to recruit students from across the country.
“Odyssey has put us on the radar screen in a way we really hadn’t been before,” Provost Entzminger said. “Without Odyssey we would not have as many students from as many places.”
Although he believed the Odyssey concept would be well received, Dr. Entzminger said he and others were surprised by the level of success.
“There is no way we could have seen that we would grow 40 percent in four years, that we’d be able to recruit as far as we have, or that our national visibility would be where it is now,” he said.
For example, Hendrix was recently listed in as the nation’s top “up-and-coming” liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report. Innovation and a constant push to improve were the key criteria for inclusion on the list.
So what is next for Your Hendrix Odyssey?
Hendrix is now widely seen as a model for engaged liberal arts and sciences education. As other institutions work to copy the College’s success, Hendrix must keep improving Odyssey to maintain its leadership position. President Cloyd has responded by once again asking Hendrix faculty members to be creative and bold in their thinking as they develop Odyssey 2.0. The faculty has responded with an array of proposals with the potential to enrich the Odyssey concept as they are developed and unveiled.
Dr. Entzminger sums up the goal for Odyssey’s future: “We are looking to make it even more robust and more integral to the whole educational experience.”
Luke Erickson – Chesterfield, Mo.
One of Luke Erickson’s Odyssey projects set him on his career path; another revealed his passion. Both might help him stave off climate change.
As a chemical physics major, Erickson participated in undergraduate research with Dr. David Hales, professor of chemistry. The two explored the use of sulfur compounds as a short-term means of slowing global warming, testing the hypothesis of Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen.
Erickson said the research gave him important lab experience, which will be useful to him this fall when he begins graduate studies in mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado. Erickson hopes to do his Ph.D. research at the National Renewable Energy Lab. He sees research as his career path, if not his calling.
“While I’ll pay the bills for awhile doing renewable energy research, I’m confident that the best way to mitigate the twin challenges that will define my generation – climate change and peak oil – is by growing our own food and supporting small, local agriculture,” he said.
During his sophomore year, after volunteering at a community garden for a summer, Erickson decided to start a Hendrix community garden.
“I loved the garden on every level,” he said. “Of my experiences at Hendrix, I am most proud of starting the community garden and watching it grow. It was extremely important to me to be able to eat some totally local food in an age when most of our food has traveled 1,500 miles to get to our plates, and in classes I was studying the terrible climatological effects of that system.”
Mallory Bader – Memphis, Tenn.
Environmental Studies, Sociology/Anthropology
For 12 days, Mallory Bader ran around England with some of the country’s best and wackiest cross country runners. As a longtime runner, Bader had a deep interest in exploring the country where cross country running originated as a sport. And as a sociology/anthropology major, she appreciated the unique culture of each running club she accompanied.
“The trip allowed me to pursue an interest that could not have been explored within the classroom setting, as well as practice my cultural anthropological skills of interviewing and participant observation,” she said.
Bader ran with three different Hash Harriers clubs in London. Portrayed as “a drinking club with a running problem,” the Hash Harriers appeal to a young crowd by starting and ending their group runs at a pub or bar. Bader also observed the annual relay race of the Thames Hares and Hounds, the oldest cross country running club in the world.
While abroad, Bader carried a small notebook to jot down her observations and record interviews. She drew strongly on the skills she learned in her Ethnographic Methods class, but the trip was more than an academic exercise for her.
“I’ll remember the trip forever in the sense that, being a competitive runner for so long, I was kind of burned out on it,” she said. “But then I saw 60- and 70-year-olds running with the Hash Harriers, just running because they enjoy it. It was nice to see that running can still be fun and it’s something that people can do for their entire lives.”
Justin Warren – Little Rock
Billed as “the play Shakespeare would write if he were from Arkansas,” Burn Out Macbeth: A Southern Gothic Tale was actually written by seven Hendrix students and their theatre arts professor, Ann Muse. They wrote and produced the play in three weeks and performed it on a seven-by-seven foot stage – in Scotland, at the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
“For the first time, I was involved with the theatrical process from the very beginning,” said Justin Warren ’09. “This experience was unique in that our professors came in with merely an idea, and really gave us the freedom to take it in the direction that felt right to us.”
The group ended up with a hillbilly version of the classic Macbeth: a bloody comedy set in the Ozark Mountains. After weeks of eight-hour practices, they packed up their costumes and props and flew to Edinburgh. That year the Fringe Festival, the world’s largest arts festival, attracted nearly 20,000 performers in 2,088 shows from 46 countries.
Despite the tough competition, the Hendrix actors attracted a sizeable audience. The average attendance for a Fringe performance is seven people, but Burn Out Macbeth routinely received five times as many attendees. On the final night, they performed to a sold-out audience.
“This project taught me how to be a performer on a grass-roots level, which strips away all of the glamour of being an actor in a traditional theatre with lights, a huge stage, and stage crews for assistance,” he said. “It ultimately made us much greater performers.”
PROFESSIONAL AND LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Alex Graddy-Reed - Los Angeles, Calif.
Comparative Public Policy
As chair of Campus Kitty, Alex Graddy-Reed helped the organization celebrate its 60th birthday in style, by raising more than $62,000 for local charities. It was an astronomical achievement for the Hendrix organization, which sponsors a week of fundraising events each spring. The 2008 total, which itself had been a record-breaker for the club, was $42,025.
“There’s no doubt this was the best thing I did at Hendrix,” Graddy-Reed said. “It was an amazing time when I was constantly busy planning and executing events all while staying focused on why we were trying to raise all this money.”
By her senior year, Graddy-Reed was already an experienced fundraiser. She had spent the previous summer as an intern with the advancement office of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, planning events and working with high-level donors.
Both the internship and the Campus Kitty chairmanship gave Graddy-Reed valuable job skills, and she earned a Professional and Leadership Development credit for each experience. The experiences also led to a career path: she plans to work in fundraising for several years, and then attend graduate school.
“Both opportunities prepared me for this career and gave me a set of skills that most people don’t gain until entering the work force,” she said. “The Odyssey program gave me the opportunity to explore development work in different settings, which cemented my desire to work in the field after graduation.”
Joe Muller – St. Louis, Mo.
Joe Muller’s path to law school passed through three continents. In 2007, Muller leapt at the opportunity to travel to Rwanda with a group of Hendrix students, faculty and administrators. The following year, he and Mary Flanigan ’09 received Odyssey funding for a service trip to Guatemala. This fall, he begins work on his law degree at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
“My Odyssey proposals helped prepare me for the law school application process,” Muller said. “My experiences abroad have encouraged my interest in law in general, and international law in particular.”
In Rwanda, Muller met with government officials like Rwandan President Paul Kagame. He and the other Hendrix students were able to ask questions about policy issues and governing in Rwanda. They also toured health clinics and microfinance projects, and stopped to see a Gacaca Court in action.
“The Gacaca Courts are one of the remedies that Rwandans have developed to deal with overflowing prisons from the 1994 genocide,” he said. “The courts are many people’s only judicial remedy for crimes committed during the Genocide, and as foreigners we were really fortunate to see how they actually worked.”
Muller also confronted injustice in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, where he volunteered at a shelter for women and children. He was awed by the resilience and tenacity of the children there.
“I think my Odyssey trips have been an integral part of my experience at Hendrix,” he said. “My Odyssey experiences have been some of the most defining and memorable experiences that I’ve had in my undergraduate career.”
SERVICE TO THE WORLD
Jordan Kennedy – Bogalusa, La.
Studio Art, Art History minor
Jordan Kennedy spent the spring break of her junior year on an island in the Bahamas, but not at a resort. She and other Hendrix students on a Hendrix-Lilly mission trip worked side-by-side with residents to repair homes destroyed by a hurricane. While re-shingling rooftops and mixing cement, she realigned her priorities in life.
“The experience secured within me my desire to spend my life in service to others,” Kennedy said. “I believe you can’t fully get a grasp of who you are until you are granted the opportunity to completely abandon yourself and fully serve another individual.”
Kennedy was granted two such opportunities during her time at Hendrix, thanks to the Hendrix-Lilly program (now called the Hendrix-Miller Center). A few months after her trip to the Bahamas, Kennedy received a Lilly Service Fellowship to travel to Ghana for seven weeks. She spent six weeks as a civil servant in the small village of Etordome, where she assisted with community development and taught at a secondary school.
During her free time she organized a formal photo shoot for the community, particularly the schoolchildren, who had never seen photographs of themselves. An Odyssey grant funded the production of her senior art show, an on-campus exhibition of the photographs she took in Ghana.
“I am particularly passionate about telling the stories of those who would otherwise not be heard,” Kennedy said. “It is my hope that my camera can be the microphone through which than can have freedom and comfort to speak.”
Jamie Fotioo, Admission Counselor and Enrollment Communications Manager, coordinated the interviews and Katie Rice ’10, student writer, drafted the text for this story.