Thomas Jefferson envisioned the University of Virginia as a community of faculty and students, living together, with minimal hierarchy, connected by the common interest of learning. He called this community The Academical Village.
In true Jeffersonian fashion, our floating campus, the MV Explorer, is the contemporary academical village. ¬†Students, faculty, staff, lifelong learners and the crew all come together as a community to live and learn from each other. ¬†Unlike a typical campus where students return to their dorms and professors go home, aboard the ship you can find students and professors eating diner together. ¬†This allows for an extremely unique and engaging educational experience for everyone involved.
During embarkation our Academic Dean, Craig Barton asked the students a question; “in addition to socks and underwear, what is it you need on this voyage in order to be a part of our academical village?” The answer is in finding the answers to three questions. What?, how?, and why?
Barton, believes if you are going to be a part of this village, and be a world traveler, you have to start with one of these questions. Figure out what you are interested in, and go from place to place operating in a comparative model, understanding what makes each port different from the other, how is it different, and why is it different. In order to do this, he believes travelers and members of this academical village should observe carefully, not casually.
This community operates on¬† trust; inquiry; communication; tolerance for ideas that are new to you and different than your own; and finally, the principle that everyone must be responsible for forming critical opinions on fact rather than hearsay.
These beliefs, combined with the principles of the academical village, shape the curriculum our students will experience on this voyage.¬† The very nature of a multi-country experience provides a structure for comparative analysis; additionally, our faculty have built courses which allow students to compare practices, cultural products, and rituals in the various ports of the Mediterranean.
As we navigate the waters of the Mediterranean we must think of this space not as a barrier, which bodies of water often are, but rather the critical element of connectivity, between Europe, Africa, and The Middle Eastern.