- The precedent-setting blend of disciplines and the sense of exploration
and adventure that made up the first year of The University of Southern
Mississippi's Vietnam Studies Program are the focus of an article
soon to be published in the world's premier studies-abroad journal.
co-authored by Southern Miss faculty Dr. Raymond Scurfield, Dr.
Andrew Wiest and five others, will appear in the next edition of
Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. The publication
will garner worldwide attention for the cutting edge Vietnam Studies
to Wiest and Scurfield, Dr. Leslie Root, a Gulf Coast-based psychologist,
and four Southern Miss graduate social work students lent their
talents to the creation of the article, which focuses on the development,
implementation and evaluation of the Vietnam Studies Program's first
In May, 2000,
16 students, five faculty and three Vietnam veterans traveled to
Vietnam to embark on a unique journey through history. The trip
was much more than just a tour of historical sites, as student and
veteran interaction was built around visits to battlefields where
the veterans themselves had fought.
In the ensuing
years, the Vietnam Studies Program has grown into one of the world's
premier study-abroad programs and one of Southern Miss' most recognized
and honored undertakings.
a professor of Social Work at Southern Miss, is himself a Vietnam
veteran. Prior to coming to Southern Miss, he had led veterans back
to Vietnam to help them come to grips with their experiences there.
He said that the type of discovery the Vietnam Studies Program pioneered
- involving both students and veterans - was something unique in
not going to have that on the typical study-abroad program,"
Scurfield said. "You would be returning to the battlefields,
obviously, but not with the people who had fought there right there
with you. It was very powerful - for the students, veterans and
Wiest, a professor
of history at Southern Miss, said that the uniqueness of the endeavor
was something those involved in the program recognized at the time.
knew we had lightning in a bottle to a certain degree," Wiest
said. "We knew we had something different and special."
that Scurfield and Root in particular recognized this and took care
to develop a method of evaluating the program in way that would
eventually grow into the upcoming Frontiers article. The students,
faculty and veterans were presented with a set of questions before
leaving for Vietnam and were evaluated again a short time after
their return to the United States.
yielded by the evaluations - which are detailed in the upcoming
publication - gave an idea of the impact of the experience on individuals,
as well as the overall effectiveness of the program.
Of the 16 students
who participated, eight were graduate majors and eight were undergraduate
who is unidentified in the article, remarked, "The trip was
one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I highly recommend
it. The only negative aspect was that it was too short."
comment, which spoke particularly to the value of the studies
was, "Visiting the battlefields, learning more about the war
was so meaningful. It meant so much more to actually see the vets
at the battlefields and hear their stories instead of sitting in
a classroom listening to a lecture."
A veteran who
participated in the program gave a quote that offered insight into
the healing process that took place for him on the trip. "When
I had thought about Vietnam in the past, it was always violence,
noise and ugliness. Now it's everything it wasn't - peaceful, productive,
friendly and fascinating. We didn't permanently cripple all the
people or the country."
that he and the other faculty who went on the trip learned a lot
from the unprecedented combining of two disciplines - his field,
history, and Scurfield's, social work.
that the publication in Frontiers would help other universities
by providing an example of a unique studies-abroad concept and would
help Southern Miss by drawing attention to the Vietnam Studies Program.
that what happened that year was the best example of what international
education can do," Wiest said. "We had students and veterans
together in the same place, which was utterly new.
got to learn, and the vets got to learn as well."