On-campus cost, new semester in Jerusalem
Beginning next academic year, St. Olaf College will offer Religion, Politics, and Society in Jerusalem and Athens, a new faculty-led semester-long study-abroad program in the Middle East. And thanks to a generous gift from Lisa Nave Buck ’77 and Greg Buck ’77, St. Olaf students will be able to participate in the program for the same cost as studying on campus.
“We are grateful for this exciting gift and the chance to provide a faculty-led program in the Middle East centered in Jerusalem again,” says St. Olaf Provost Marci Sortor. “Greg and Lisa’s gift will make it possible for us to provide a large cohort of students with a balanced, in-depth look into the intersections of faith, politics, and history within the region.”
The biennial Jerusalem Semester will first run from February to May 2023. Twenty students will study for two months in Jerusalem and a month in Athens, with separate excursions to Petra (a UNESCO World Heritage site) in Jordan and Galilee in Israel. Throughout the term, students will meet with local experts and community leaders from different faith and cultural communities. The term will consist of three courses taught by in-country faculty with varied backgrounds and perspectives on a range of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They include Sacred Encounter in Text and Practice, Political Theology, and East or West: A Cultural Sociology of Greece. The fourth, taught by the term leader, Associate Professor of Religion Jason Ripley, will integrate curricular and co-curricular experiences to explore the concept of pilgrimages, both religious and secular. The courses will count toward four of the new Ole Core general curriculum requirements.
“I am so excited for this program and the ability for students to participate regardless of financial need,” says Ripley. “Jerusalem and Athens are historic centers of religious, philosophical, and political ideas that continue to shape and animate our world today. I can think of no better way to explore and encounter these ideas and practices than via direct immersion in these diverse cultures and communities!”
By removing the financial burden of traveling and living off-campus, we hope more students can participate. We made great friends on our program; being able to immerse ourselves in Jerusalem enabled us to see how the city’s religious life unfolded daily and gain a balanced view of the conflicts there.Lisa Nave Buck ’77
Oles have built a long history with the Holy Land since Professor Emeritus of Religion Ansgar Sovik and Muriel Sovik led the first term in 1966. Since then faculty have led 38 subsequent semester programs in the region. This includes the 1976 term that Greg and Lisa Buck participated in along with 30 other Oles; they deeply valued their experience and have returned many times since. The Bucks also supported work done by faculty and staff to develop the new Jerusalem Semester.
“By removing the financial burden of traveling and living off-campus, we hope more students can participate,” says Lisa Buck. “We made great friends on our program; being able to immerse ourselves in Jerusalem enabled us to see how the city’s religious life unfolded daily and gain a balanced view of the conflicts there.”
“We hope it will change the way students view the world just as it did for us and our classmates,” says Greg Buck. “Hopefully many St. Olaf students will study there for years to come.”
Through giving, two of the college’s three faculty-led flagship study abroad programs (the Jerusalem Semester and the Global Semester) are now offered to students at the same cost as studying on campus. The third, Environmental Science in Australia and New Zealand, does not have dedicated aid, though several scholarships are available to students studying abroad.
Gifts through the St. Olaf Fund and endowed gift funds, including the Bucks’, now generate approximately $1.07 million annually to lower the cost of study abroad for Oles. This support has helped St. Olaf sustain its 12-year standing as the top baccalaureate college by the number of students who study abroad each year, though COVID-19 has prevented many from studying abroad the past two years.
“I’m so grateful to Greg and Lisa for helping launch this program,” says Director of International and Off-Campus Studies Jodi Malmgren. “Our faculty-led programs create unique off-campus learning communities for students to explore their academic interests, faith and values, and vocation. As COVID restrictions subside, we are delighted to see the world start opening up once again for Oles to study abroad.”