This May, students will have the opportunity to experience the south in a way like none other. Catherine Waggoner, professor of communications, is offering seven students the chance to join her on a trip through the Mississippi Delta. On this trip, students will not only be gaining a new sense about the south that they may not have had before, but they will also earn two credits from a communications course, counting towards their general education “S” credit, along with completing their community service requirement.
The reason that Waggoner does this trip is to allow students to get a view into the south, seen from a different scope as so many know from movies such as “The Blind Side” or “The Help.” As Waggoner described, “Americans seem to have a fascination with the south and exploring the south, but to what extent is the south what we really think it is?”
Students will begin their journey to Mississippi on May 18, and for the next three weeks, they will be engulfed in southern life. What used to be a one-week Spring Break trip, this is the first year Waggoner is offering course credit alongside community service. The first stop of the three-week trip will be to the University of Mississippi or “Ole Miss,” where James Meredith famously and single-handedly brought down the wall of segregation of the university in the early ’60s.
With three days to explore Oxford, students will also get the chance to see Roanoke, the home to writer William Faulkner. Once the three days in Oxford are up, the true trip into the delta begins. The further you get outside of the Oxford area, the more cotton fields and farmlands one sees, and the beautiful Antebellum South style houses come few and far between, with shacks and shanties mixed in between.
The final destination for this trip is to the Carrie Christian Center, where a large part of the community service will be done.
“There is a tremendous need there, and a chance to do service and see an impact right away,” Waggoner said.
In her eyes, the reason to go on this trip is to give students a chance to learn about another culture, even though they may not be a southerner. There is another identity that goes along with this south that people outside the south don’t know about. This trip is in its third year and is very special to Waggoner, seeing that not only is she taking students through her hometown, but showing them its beauty and its blemishes.
Waggoner exclaimed, “Mississippi gets forgotten a lot. It is a very poor state economically and educationally, but a very right state when it comes to music and art and food.”
As Waggoner talks about the trip and the great experiences one can gain not just for school credit, but the benefits of doing good and helping someone so in need, she says the motto of the Carry Christian Center — where the majority of the work will be done — can sum up the whole trip.
“Our motto is to get rid of poverty one relationship at a time,” she said.