Copenhagen: A New Summer Destination
for SSE Students

Fall 2014 | Article By Nicole Escarra

Copenhagen: A New Summer Destination for SSE StudentsThe summer of 2014 marked a new, exciting chapter for students in the School of Science and Engineering. For the first time, students had the opportunity to study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark in a summer program designed to meet their academic needs. Tulane faculty members taught all of the courses offered this summer, enabling students to satisfy major, minor, or core requirements while living in Denmark.

Although Tulane students have studied in Copenhagen during the fall and spring semesters since 2010, study abroad options during the academic year tend to be less accessible to students pursuing degrees in science or engineering. Donata Henry, a Professor of Practice in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, taught two of the Copenhagen summer courses: Diversity of Animal Behavior and Natural History of Denmark. She offered one view as to why science and engineering students can have a more difficult time pursuing study abroad opportunities during the academic year.

"There is a rigorous courseload for SSE majors," said Henry. "It can be really challenging for them to devote an entire semester to study abroad. A four-week session like the Copenhagen summer program is much more feasible."

Pete Alongia, Director of Study Abroad, recognizes that there is a need for Tulane to provide science and engineering students with opportunities to study abroad.

"With the Copenhagen program, students in science and engineering can study abroad during the summer, a time when students usually have more flexibility, and have a meaningful, and international, educational experience," said Alongia.

Beth Wee, a Senior Professor of Practice in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Program and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs in the School of Science and Engineering, agreed with both Henry and Alongia. She also emphasized the value of offering a study abroad program that meets the needs of science and engineering students.

"This program really offers the best of both worlds. Participating students were able to continue their research during the school year and then take summer classes with Tulane faculty that went towards their major or minor."

Copenhagen: A New Summer Destination for SSE StudentsA group of fourteen students, mostly rising juniors and seniors, participated in the four-week summer program. Although students from a range of majors participated, ecology and evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and psychology were some of the most represented concentrations. The Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) provided the housing and educational facilities, as well as recommendations for guest lecturers and field outings.

Wee taught two courses: Brain and Behavior, a neuroscience requirement and a class commonly taken by students majoring or minoring in psychology, and Behavioral Endocrinology, a more advanced course that focused on the role of hormones in physiology and behavior. Wee felt that the four courses offered this summer complemented each other well and hopes that she and other participating Tulane faculty can continue to refine and expand course offerings.

"Overall, there was a strong emphasis on animals and the environment," said Wee. "I would really like to see an additional environmental focus, with an emphasis on geology, weather, climate, etc."

Henry agreed with Wee's assessment.

"Geology would be a fantastic addition," said Henry. "Even the rocks of the buildings in Copenhagen tell a story."

One of the most unique elements of the summer program was the extensive use of study tours. In the course entitled Natural History of Denmark, taught by Henry, students were able to hone their observational skills in the field. They also had the opportunity to visit natural and historic attractions, such as the Jagersborg Forest, Bollmose Bog, and Dragsholm Castle. These trips included the perspective of local biologists and botanists, whose perspectives further enhanced the students' experience.

Henry also felt that the country itself has a unique appeal for Tulane students, due to similarities that exist between Denmark and Louisiana in terms of geography as well as environmental challenges.

"In many ways, the landscape here is similar to Louisiana: flat, surrounded by water, etc. Denmark also faces some land loss issues. The community is very cognizant of global change, and protective of its green spaces, and I think it's important for students to see that."

Both Wee and Henry are excited about the future of the program. Wee shared her belief that the strengths of the Copenhagen summer program mirror those of the university as a whole.

"I always say that Tulane students get the benefits of a big university, namely a broad range of research, etc., in a smaller university setting. The Copenhagen program is like that, only tenfold," said Wee. "Because the courses are taught on a smaller scale, students are able to really get to know the faculty. And I know when the students are truly learning the material, because I can see it happening on an individual level. It was a phenomenal experience, and I am so excited that we can offer this to our students."

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