Q&A with Michon and David Weeks – St. Olaf College
This spring, alumni of St. Olaf College, friends and families will have the opportunity to hike, bike and kayak through Croatia and Slovenia while learning about the culture and history of the region. region and tasting local dishes and wines.
This is all part of an Alumni & Family Travel program tailor-made for St. Olaf participants by Associate Professor of Art and Art History Practice Michon Weeks and her husband, David, the pastor of the church. Lutheran St. Peter’s of Northfield.
In addition to offering over 120 international or national off-campus study programs for current students, St. Olaf offers approximately 12 programs per year to alumni, families and friends. These Alumni & Family Travel programs – led by current and retired faculty and hosted by campus leaders – allow Oles to explore and learn in new corners of the world.
While St. Olaf has suspended the Alumni & Family Travel program during the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the programs that were due to take place this year have been postponed until 2022 or 2023 – and registration is now open. All programs will follow COVID safety protocols, and leaders will monitor global conditions ahead of programs and make travel adjustments as needed. Alumni & Family Travel’s primary goal is to deliver a highly educational itinerary shaped by the expertise of faculty leaders.
Michon and David Weeks bring both their expertise and experience in leading overseas programs. Most recently, they led the international and off-campus environmental science program in Australia and New Zealand for St. Olaf students during the 2020 spring semester. The program was cut short by the COVID pandemic. -19, but provided many valuable lessons – and made the Weeks keen to lead another group overseas.
They took a moment to explain why they developed the Alumni & Family Travel program in Croatia and Slovenia and what fuels their interest in leading lifelong learners abroad.
Michon, what led you to become an art and art history teacher?
I am a practicing artist and teaching art is one of my passions. It is a joy to work in an art studio where students learn and engage. I have a responsibility to work hard for my students, passing on what I have learned to them. It is a privilege and a responsibility to share the subject that is close to my heart with others. I am happy that my studio work as a painter is supported and encouraged by my colleagues in St. Olaf.
What did you like about directing students abroad?
Michon: Students are so much fun traveling with them because of their camaraderie, playfulness, enthusiasm, curiosity, and desire for adventure. I also like to eat ice cream with the students and swim in the ocean.
David: As a pastor, I mostly work with older adults so it was fun and enjoyable to interact with younger adults.
What was it like being taken abroad with a group of students when the pandemic started?
Michon: We were all disappointed that our stay in Australia was cut short by two months due to the pandemic. As a result, we missed spending 10 days on the Great Barrier Reef snorkeling and studying marine biology. It was particularly difficult for our students. Yet we trusted the decisions of the St. Olaf Office for International and Off-Campus Studies as they monitored the situation and decided when we should end our stay in Australia. Their skills and support made my job as a leader much easier. Looking back, I’m so grateful that we were able to spend a full month studying in New Zealand in February 2020 before the pandemic spread.
What made you consider running an Alumni & Family Travel program?
David: Why wouldn’t you want to lead a group of adults through St. Olaf’s Alumni & Family Travel? It’s a great opportunity to explore other cultures, foods and stories, and to make new friends. In addition, the program is very well supported by the Alumni & Family Travel staff.
How did you choose the destinations for your 2022 program?
Michon: We chose Croatia and Slovenia to experience the brilliant blue glacial lake of Bled, the sunny Adriatic coast, the spectacular wonders of Plitvice Lakes National Park and the historic towns and villages along the Dalmatian coast. We’re also excited about the Backroads cycling portion of the trip.
We chose Croatia and Slovenia to experience the brilliant blue glacial lake of Bled, the sunny Adriatic coast, the spectacular wonders of Plitvice Lakes National Park and the historic towns and villages along the Dalmatian coast.Michon Weeks
David: It would be nice to see professional cyclists Tadej Pogacar or Primoz Roglic, who are from Slovenia and currently ranked # 1 and # 3 in the world. Pletna boats on Lake Bled seem exciting to me.
Compared to core students, what do you think is different when leading adult lifelong learners abroad?
Michon: There will be a diversity of people on the trip, including professionals, retirees and young adults. We will all learn from each other – and there are no marks at the end of the program.
David: As much as I enjoyed leading young adults, our ages and life experiences were different. I look forward to stimulating conversations while tasting craft beers in Slovenia and Croatia.