By Rose Miller, Staff Reporter
Returning to UMF this fall after a six month sabbatical in Tanzania, Professor of Political Science Dr. Linda Beck is already preparing to return with students enrolled in her travel course, Ecotourism and Environmental Activism, this coming June.
The course will focus on the same topic as Beck’s research. “[Ecotourism] means that the tourism is conducted in a fashion that supports the environment,” said Beck. “One in which the local community and its interests are taken into consideration.”
As the emphasis on environmentally conscious tourism implies, students will be staying in comfortable accommodations in bed & breakfasts and lodges. “We’ll never be staying in an unclean or unsafe environment.” Beck assured. “Tanzania is a very stable country where there has never been a military coup ever.”
Throughout the two week trek students will meet with activist and conservation groups and partake in class discussions in order to learn more about ecotourism in local communities. They will also participate in safaris and an optional hike on Mount Kilimanjaro.
The locations and activities lining students’ itineraries mirror some of Beck’s experiences over the course of her 6 months abroad. Beck worked with several research groups and local ecotourism operations in her research on enviro activism. Beck explained via email that she was interested in the capacity of local civil society organizations to influence enviro policy and practices by the state.
Beck’s husband, also a researcher, joined her along with their two children. While the couple each had their own projects, they worked together studying “ecotourism as it relates to enviro-activism.”
For Beck one of the highlights of the trip was hiking Mount Kilimanjaro with her daughter. The charity hike collected donations to support an organization that protects porters from being mistreated. According to Beck, several professors and community members from Farmington contributed to the cause.
While low enrollment prevented Beck from bringing many UMF students last semester, one was able to make arrangements to pursue the course as an independent study. Although no else from UMF was able to attend, several of her husband’s students from Long Island were able to participate. At least four students need to enroll to prevent the course from being cancelled again, but with a number of people already expressing interest, Beck seemed confident the course will be going forward.
In an informational meeting earlier this month Beck explained some of the details and logistics of this year’s trip to a handful of prospective students. The 15 day trip will begin on June 19th with a late departure from Boston, and will conclude on July 2nd. The course’s price tag of $3,455 will cover airfare, in-country travel, health insurance, lodging, food, and program activities. However this will not cover tuition, passports, visas, vaccinations, spending money, or optional activity cancellation fees.
As interested students asked questions about the cost of the trip Beck discussed some options to make payment more manageable. For instance it’s possible for students to include the course in their spring financial aid. “I think it’s such a cool experience I’d hate to see anyone miss it because of financial reasons,” said Beck.