Summer course offers opportunities for students

Taos, N.M., is a place many probably have never heard of, but at Mercyhurst University, there is an opportunity to take a three-week, pre-summer course with a week of it housed in New Mexico. However, at publication time, with few students interested for 2012, the course will be postponed until pre-summer 2013.

This course gives students the chance to look with new perspectives on the world, in the ways of religious diversity in the U.S. Students will do many activities while in Taos that allow self-reflection through lectures, fieldtrips, guest speakers and service they are providing with other community members.

Colin Hurley, director of Service Learning, explains that the cost of the course (including the trip) is $1,800 and accounts for airfare, food, lodging and transportation.

The class starts after graduation into the second week of June. For students who go on this trip, it will be the equivalent of a 3-credit class upon approval by the Registrar’s Office. Those going on the trip would essentially take the elective of RLST 320: American Religious Thought taught by Verna Ehret, Ph.D.

“Students will be expected to take a test on the material studied prior to going to New Mexico,” Ehret said, “Then they will, through interviews and informal conversations, conduct research on enculturation and ethical practice in Taos. Finally, students will write a 10-12 page research paper based on both the experience in Taos and academic research on their topics.”

This class will open up the students’ minds to various faith traditions such as Catholicism, Pueblo/Native American, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, for example. Many times, these hands-on experiences can erase stereotypes and encourage a positive dialogue among various groups.

In recent trips to Taos, students engaged in an enjarre project for several days. Enjarre is a project where people of the St. Francis de Asis parish take two weeks in June to apply new adobe mud to the exterior of their church, quite an historic structure and one of the most photographed of its kind in the world.

In the past few years, Mercyhurst as well as Southern Methodist University (SMU) students have joined the local church members in this yearly tradition and celebration of community through hard labor and casual conversation over meals.

Taos, is located near SMU’s branch campus at Fort Burgwin, a recent partner campus for the Mercyhurst Archeology Institute’s field school.

Unfortunately, there has only been one student who has signed up for this 2012 pre-summer course. Therefore, the trip will be postponed until May 2013 unless a few more students show immediate interest. A maximum of 10 students can sign up for the trip.

“Though the class size might seem small, the memories and experiential learning will surely be as unforgettable as the sun setting over the Rio Grande gorge or the 13,000 foot mountain peaks overlooking the Taos valley,” Hurley said.

Students should email Hurley or Ehret at with questions or interest.