Semester at Sea is a floating college campus. It’s been operating since 1963, and in recent years runs two semester-long voyages each year on a repurposed small(-ish) cruise ship. The academic home institution for SAS is currently Colorado State University. In the past SAS has partnered with other universities — most recently the University of Virginia and before that the University of Pittsburg. All the courses we teach confer college credit through CSU and have to go through the regular CSU curriculum process.
This semester (Spring 2020) there are 570 students and about 30 faculty teaching more than 70 college courses. In addition there are around 30 lifelong learners, 50 staff, and 200 crew on the ship.
We will spend 4 months traveling across the world’s oceans, first sailing across the Pacific (yes, in the dead of winter!) from San Diego to Japan with a refueling stop in Hawaii. Then on to Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, and finally disembarking in the Netherlands. We’ll spend 50% of our days at sea and 50% in the many countries we visit. We only teach during the “at sea” days, and instead do many field programs in the countries on the other days.
I’m not on sabbatical leave, but rather have been assigned for this semester by CSU to teach on SAS, through the Loren Crabtree Fellowship program. I’m teaching two courses: Global Studies and Oceanography.
My oceanography course is a “regular” undergrad course (NR 150). I’ll have 30 students, and teach on alternate days. On the ship we don’t do weekdays and weekends, but rather all days are either “A” or “B” days. My oceanography class meets on B days after lunch. We’ll cover physical, chemical, and biological oceanography. My expertise and passion in tis field is the deeply interconnected nature of the Earth system, in which the ocean plays a central role as heat exchanger, energy and carbon cycle reservoir.
My Global Studies course is very special. It’s required of every student on board (570 of them!) and it’s also strongly encouraged for all lifelong learners, staff, and spouses. I co-teach this course with two other amazing professors: Michael Maniates from Yale University of Singapore and Sue Wildermuth from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. They are both humanities scholars. We’ll the course every single “at sea” day (both A and B days), with a section of 300 at 9 am and another section of 300 at 11 am!
Global Studies has three faculty and three instructional coordinators (like TAs) that cover the history and politics and economics of each country we visit, the culture and communications aspects off each country, and the oceans themselves and our global role in sustaining them. It’s incredibly exciting to work wit these amazing colleagues and to “think big” about working with hundreds of students to truly engage in our global society and the natural world from which we emerge.