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University students use Rome as their classroom

August 8th, 2011 7:58 am by Contributed to the Press

A group of 20 students enrolled in “Architectural History” and “Innovation and Technology” courses at East Tennessee State University recently traveled to Rome, Italy, for a unique summer learning experience.
During several weeks of residence in Rome as well as excursions to Tivoli, Pompeii, Ostia in Italy and Barcelona, Spain, students conducted research and field studies on a particular time period, such as Antiquity, Renaissance or Baroque.
Each participant maintained a sketch or photo journal of the experience.
The architectural history class was designed and taught by Jeremy Ross, an assistant professor in the ETSU Department of Engineering Technology, Surveying and Digital Media, and an associate vice president in university advancement. Kevin Varney, a graduate assistant in the department helped with the coordination of field research and logistics.
Responsibility for the graduate course in innovation and technology was shared with a professor from the University of Rome. That class explored topics such as health and architecture, globalization of trade in antiquity, energy conservation in design, and environmental economics. Students participated in research, workshops and field studies with professionals in environmental sustainability.
Participant Ashley Renfro noted, “Since I’ve never been out of the country or even on a plane, I was not sure what to expect. Living and studying in Rome has been one of the best experiences in my life!”
Adds Brock Woodring, “The experience in Rome has opened my eyes to so many new things that I never knew were possible. I feel like my life has been bettered in so many ways.”
As an added component, the ETSU Alumni Association and the ETSU College of Business and Technology sponsored a donor trip for individuals who have provided financial support for students in this summer program. Using university and faculty contacts, Linda Garceau, dean of the ETSU College of Business and Technology, led a group of 16 donors on a unique, behind-the-scenes tour of Rome.
One group member, Forooz Smalley, said, “It was amazing to sit in a former pope’s bedroom, visit the private offices and archives in the Vatican and interact with some truly amazing people. Most importantly, I feel honored that we were able to help a deserving student be part of this experience.”
Sponsorship makes this summer experience available to students who might otherwise not be able to enroll. Most participants paid the usual class tuition and airfare. The remainder of the cost was covered by ETSU International Scholarships and the generosity of donors, including Anita Bates, Roland and Sharon Boles, Peggy Campbell, Bill and Harriet Cone, Linda Garceau, Janey Diehl, Susan Epps, Louis and Lucy Gump, Mark Hicks, Laurie Higgins, Jim and Sonia King, Dr. Richard and Lois Manahan, Tom McKee, Jim Rhein, Jeremy and Lauren Ross, Dan Simmerly, Kel and Forooz Smalley, Norris and Donna Sneed, Paul and Nancy Stanton, Fred Warren, John Varney and previous students of the program.
This student opportunity has enjoyed three years of success and plans are already in motion for next summer, with additional courses in communications and business and an expanded enrollment.
For more information on the class or the opportunity to contribute to the student scholarship fund, contact Ross at 439-4242 or visit

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