Students reach beyond the gates

Catherine Rainey, Managing editor

Beginning next fall, Mercyhurst will be sending its students into the Erie community and beyond to carry out the spirit of Mercy as part of its newest addition to the core curriculum: Beyond the Gates.

“Beyond the Gates will be one of the most innovative and Mission-driven experiences ever known to the curriculum of Mercyhurst University,” Colin Hurley, director of Community Engagement, said.

The class of 2020, currently freshmen, is the first class required to register for this one-credit experience in service learning or another form of civic engagement. The BTG will be the third credit in the iMU part of the core curriculum.

Beyond the Gates is a way for students to get involved in the community, gain new perspectives and embrace the “other,” according to Hurley. This includes some pre-approved study abroad trips, as well. Current freshmen have the opportunity to enroll in a section of BTG during the upcoming registration, which opens for them on Friday, April 21.

There are 14 sections of BTG. The first seven sections are service learning placements in the Erie community; sections eight through 12 are regular three-credit classes with a service learning component incorporated into them; and sections 13 and 14 are pre-approved study abroad courses, which require additional paperwork and costs through the Study Abroad Office.

If a student registers for a BTG credit in sections one through seven, they will receive an email survey that asks for their schedule availability in the fall, as well as their service interests, such as working with children or environmental stewardship.

The administration will then work to place students at one of approximately 30 service sites in the community that have agreed to partner with Mercyhurst. Each student will receive their BTG placement and transportation arrangements in the fall.

To fulfill the credit, students will serve approximately 12 to 14 hours at their placement site throughout the semester. There may be additional training beforehand, and opportunities for critical reflection afterwards.

The hope of a BTG experience is to help students experience a deeper feeling of connection to humanity and learning from diverse groups of people and claim a stronger resume with emphasis of service, professionalism and experience. In addition, students can discover possible locations and oppoprtunities for future volunteering or internships. Students consider adding a new concentration, joining a club, declaring a major or minor and making new friends at Mercyhurst.

“When you graduate, you’re going to be working in a global workforce,” said Hurley, who describes BTG as an opportunity to experience racial, cultural, and even linguistic differences. “You take chemistry labs and you take biology labs. Beyond the Gates is like a community lab.”

Students are able to take their BTG credit at any time before graduating, but Hurley notes that the longer they wait to take it, the harder it will be to get a placement of their choice.
“You can probably wait to do BTG next spring or your junior year, but then you’ll likely be behind and might not get your top pick of experience because you’ll be mixed with the class of 2021 vying for their own seats,” Hurley said.

Hurley said he encourages current freshman who have manageable workloads and 17 credits or less next fall to register for BTG.

Freshman Athletic Training and Sports Medicine/Pre PA major Delaney Froebel plans to take her BTG credit next spring on a study abroad trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Froebel, who has already been on a medical mission trip to Mexico through Merychurst this year, seems optimistic about the new installment.

“I think Beyond the Gates is a good way to get people to experience different cultures and different types of people. I think it makes you more culturally aware, and depending on where you go, it makes you realize how fortunate you are,” said Froebel. “Missions work is especially rewarding and I would recommend it to anyone who has the chance to go.”

Hurley credits David Dausey, Ph.D., provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and Heidi Hosey, Ph.D., dean of Global Programs and Experiential Learning, along with himself, for working to get Beyond the Gates up and running.

“As President Michael T. Victor has given us the vision of a timely ‘renewal through Mercy’ for the next 90 years, I hope this class of 2020 will be the visionaries who recognize BTG as an opportunity, as bold as it might seem, to have meaningful experiences and make memories during your time as a Laker,” Hurley said.