Students interested in a journey around the world might be better served by enrolling in one of John Morrow’s classes -- at least in the short term. The education he provides achieves much of the same objective, but at a fraction of the cost.
As Associate Professor of Spanish and French, Morrow shares his extensive foreign affairs knowledge and international travels with those eager to learn. One approach that Morrow is careful to avoid during this exchange is a lecture-only format. He knows the tendencies with attention spans. Therefore, he resorts to a broad media mix -- from Argentine newspapers to Spanish-language movies and music videos -- to add variety to his content and teaching methods.
“If we were to just study Spanish grammar, I can assure you that would be a pretty boring class. Yes, there might be a few students who are fascinated by grammar, linguistics and so on, but most students find it quite dull, so what you have to focus on is teaching language within a cultural context,” Morrow said. “We don’t want our students to be literate linguistically but illiterate culturally, so my language teaching takes place within the context of culture.”
And inherently aligned with culture is the concept of diversity -- a term that some people associate with disdain or discomfort.
“For a lot of people, diversity is simply different. To me, diversity has a lot to do with similarities. A lot of people focus on how this is different or that is different, but when you break it down and look at the bigger picture, we are all human beings and we are all very similar,” Morrow said. “Different isn’t bad. Different is simply different. People have different traditions, customs and so on, and I find my students really enjoy learning about diversity and cultural differences.”
Travel is a guaranteed way to experience diverse customs and traditions and in 2011, Morrow became the first Ivy Tech professor statewide to be granted a sabbatical, which allowed him to teach advanced Spanish conversation, travel literature and Islamic culture in the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program last fall. Morrow joined academic colleagues, their families and nearly 500 undergraduates in visiting 15 countries in four months, sampling numerous cultural and culinary adventures along the way.
Spending sufficient time with Morrow is the armchair equivalent of getting a passport stamped.