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Civil Rights trip makes national history

Faculty members awarded for 24th annual Civil Rights tour

By Kassidy Hall | Echo

In November of 2017, students and faculty traveled to various parts of the country for a Civil Rights tour. The trips have been regularly organized for over 20 years, but have never been recognized with an award until now.

Steve Messer, professor of history, was the first individual at Taylor to brainstorm the earliest Civil Rights trip in the 1990s. He was accompanied by Alan Winquist, former professor of history, on a planning trip in 1992 and within the next year, the first official trip was offered to Taylor University.

“We did the tour for the first time in January 1993,” Messer said. “Since 1993, I have led twelve other tours for both students and faculty. Although I no longer plan and lead the tours, as I will retire at the end of this academic year, these tours have been the most stimulating teaching activity of my career. I am delighted that Felicia (Case) and Scott (Moeschberger) are carrying on the tradition and adding their own creative ideas to this effort.”

In Selma, Alabama, the group’s first stop of the day was the Edmund Pettus Bridge which was named after a white supremacist. Martin Luther King Jr. led supporters down this bridge three times in a march for the right to vote. (Photograph provided by Felicia Case)

In Selma, Alabama, the group’s first stop of the day was the Edmund Pettus Bridge which was named after a white supremacist. Martin Luther King Jr. led supporters down this bridge three times in a march for the right to vote. (Photograph provided by Felicia Case)

The trip was originally planned to be for faculty only, and frequently took place during the summer. Scott Moeschberger, associate dean of the honors program and associate professor of psychology and higher education, participated in one of the faculty trips, which inspired him to create a similar opportunity for students. The first student Civil Rights trip took place in 2004.

Two years ago, Moeschberger partnered with Felicia Case, higher education adjunct professor and director of Intercultural Programs. Students in Moeschberger’s Peace, Justice and Reconciliation class and those involved in Black Student Union and the Office of Intercultural Programs were brought together for another trip to the South.

“It’s grown every year in significant ways, both in numbers but also in how we interact with the students and the opportunities that students have,” Moeschberger said. “It’s also formative for me. Every time I’ve participated, there’s always something more than I learn about myself and that I learn about my faith or about our country’s history.”

Other staff members are invited to join the trip alongside the participating students. Case and Moeschberger look for faculty who are already engaged in conversation surrounding the topic of Civil Rights and race so students can connect and converse with older adults both during the trip and when they get back to campus. As the two faculty members who regularly plan and chaperone the trip, Case and Moeschberger recently accepted an award for the trip on behalf of Taylor University.

The Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values is an organization at Florida State University, which hosts a yearly conference in Tallahassee, Florida. Drew Moser, dean of experiential learning and associate professor of higher education, nominated Taylor University’s Civil Rights trip to be considered by the Dalton Institute for the annual award of Best Practice.

Case and Moeschberger attended the conference on the weekend of Feb. 1, where they were recognized as the overall winner for Best Practice. The award was presented to them during a luncheon, which was accompanied by a cash prize and a chance for Case and Moeschberger to present their trip to other members of the conference.

The Taylor University Civil Rights trip was recognized and awarded for “providing an educational space in which students of diverse backgrounds can begin to understand each other and the historical context of the Civil Rights Trip.” Key spots in the highlighted trip included Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee.

“Anytime you’re recognized in a larger environment, it’s a conference and an award that means quite a bit,” Moeschberger said. “You see you’re in step with where higher education is moving. You see the conversations you have with students are validated by the larger best practices. To hear and to receive that has been great news for the institution and for all of us involved with the project.”

While the key component of the trip has always been to observe history, both Case and Moeschberger emphasize the impact that the trips have on current events.

Students traveling on the trip are required to consistently journal and self-reflect on what they have learned. These journals serve as a way for students to consider the importance the trip will continue to have when they return to campus. The smaller size of the group also leads to an opportunity for relational and thoughtful conversation.

“I think sometimes, we think we know history, but then we go, and we find out that there’s more to it,” Case said. “It opens up the fact that when we know where our country has come from, it helps us to then think about where we want to go. Knowing is always a good thing. I don’t think you can ever have too little information.”

With or without recognition, Case says she absolutely plans on continuing the trip in future years. The number of student participants will stay around 30 every year, leaving room to learn and grow with every trip that is taken.

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