Earlier this semester, the students in my “History of the Holocaust” course went on a field trip to the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Organizing a field trip for 100 students with diverse schedules proved to be far more complicated than I had imagined, but in the end the buses arrived, and in two trips over two days every student visited the museum. I must admit that I was anxious about how the trip would go both from a practical perspective—would the buses arrive on time?—and from a pedagogical perspective—would the time be better spent engaging in classroom discussion and reading about the newest research on the Holocaust?

In the end, the student response was overwhelmingly positive. In a survey I conducted of students after the visit, 71 percent rated it as “an outstanding educational experience,” with an additional 21 percent rating it positively. Many commented that the museum had a significant emotional and psychological impact on them, complementing the intellectual rigor of the classroom. The museum modeled ways of presenting the types of knowledge they gained in the classroom to a larger public, and allowed the students to reflect on how best to communicate complex ideas to diverse audiences.

The reaction was similar when I took my modern Jewish history class on a field trip to the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), where they were able to view up close the works of art I had selected from the museum’s Object Study Classroom. Students reported a new appreciation for art, and were “starstruck” to be in the presence of a Chagall.

Clearly, lessons learned through experience resonate in ways that complement the classroom experience. The Frankel Center for Judaic Studies provides multiple opportunities for students to expand their academic interests beyond the university classroom through study-abroad experiences, participation in research projects, and internships.

This winter, Shachar Pinsker will be teaching Judaic 255, “Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in Israeli Culture." The course will begin in an Ann Arbor classroom and end in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where students will explore key sites in the history of these diverse cities, and meet with Israeli writers, filmmakers, and other artists. In order to help students fund their study-abroad experiences, students can take advantage of the Weingast Family Fund for Study in Israel. We are grateful to Joshua and Fran Weingast for endowing this gift.  

Students also have opportunities to assist faculty in research projects. A previous issue of Frankely Speakingshowed how some of our students have been exploring the multiethnic history of Detroit’s Chene Street, in a course co-taught by Deborah Dash Moore and Marian Krzyzowski. Other students work through U-M’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. I had the rewarding experience of working with two undergraduate students last year developing digital maps of Jewish demography based on census data from the 1926 Soviet census.

Finally, students can engage in a variety of internships facilitated through the LSA Internship Network, allowing them to apply academic knowledge gained in the classroom to real-world situations. Scholarships are also available to help make internship experiences affordable, and the Frankel Center will be announcing additional internships in the coming months. 

I encourage all students to explore how their classroom learning can be enhanced by developing leadership skills, forming communities of interest, and broadening their intellectual perspectives through the experiential opportunities available at the Frankel Center.

(Frankely Speaking, December 2015)