Green Room

Not Your Average Liberal Arts Education

posted at 12:33 pm on September 23, 2009 by

So. Things are a little different in Alaska, it seems.

It all started when a few alumni of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks wrote a regular column for the school newspaper, while they were deployed in Iraq. A university even allowing a column written by soldiers? This should already be setting off red flags. And the president, Mark Hamilton, is a former US Army general. I know!

Anyway, the column was a great success, so Hamilton suggested that the journalism department at UAF try to get some of the students embedded with soldiers. In Iraq.

In the age of helicopter parents and increasingly risk-adverse school administrators, a university creating an opportunity for students to travel to a war zone with its official support might seem improbable. But given decreased violence in Iraq and a plucky professor whose colleagues organize similarly exciting adventures in the Last Frontier, the UAF group succeeded in becoming the first school-sponsored group of its number to embed with US troops in Iraq [with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division — which is based in Fairbanks when it’s not in Iraq].

The university overcame a number of logistical, financial, and legal hurdles to make the trip happen. Canfield and two other students, along with their journalism professor, spent August embedded here in Iraq’s Diyala Province reporting on everything from life on remote outposts to patrols in search of militants who launch rocket attacks on US bases.

That’s some serious study abroad program.

Local news agencies in Fairbanks are publishing basically everything the students can produce, so it’s also great PR for the military up there. And at least one other school has applied for the opportunity to embed too — although the article didn’t say which school.

Something tells me these journalists are going to turn out a little differently from the rest of this year’s crop.

I won’t ask if you’d let your kids go, because that probably requires a lot more thought and introspection than a simple blog entry should ask for. But would you go to Iraq yourself, either as an embed or as a tourist? Or go back in that manner, if you were previously deployed there?

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Iraq? Yes, I’d go as a tourist or as an embed in a minute, if I had the opportunity.

Afghanistan? no way. But then I read Michael Yon’s reports.

WWS on September 23, 2009 at 1:08 PM

If I were thirty years younger….

Skandia Recluse on September 23, 2009 at 4:10 PM

I’m working on a PhD at the moment and in a couple years I’ll be taking a long look at the teaching opportunities that might be available in Alaskan universities. This reinforces my feeling that Alaska is the place to be.

joe_doufu on September 23, 2009 at 5:18 PM

I am in the military and I live in Fairbanks Alaska.

It’s a great town, very supportive of us, and UAF isn’t a bad school (but VERY expensive – check it out).

Off topic – it’s starting to get cold.

The odd thing, or not, about UAF, they have underground tunnels between dorms and classes, but won’t let the students use them for fear of parties, assaults, and lawsuits.

But UAF WILL allow students to “deploy” to Iraq. Somehow that strikes me as pretty funny. In a dark way, I suppose.


LSBeene on September 24, 2009 at 1:14 PM