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Students Participate in First Ever Honors Immersion Trip to Belize

Six students joined Robert Pampel, Ph.D., and Greg Beabout, Ph.D., on a two-week trip focused on academics, accompaniment and adventure to Belize City.

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Students pose in front of the famous Belize sign, located in Belize City near St. John's College.

In late 2019, the Saint Louis University Honors Program hosted its first ever international immersion experience in Belize City, Belize.  The two-week trip, a special collaboration with SLU’s Casa Belize program and partners in Belize City, was a pilot program built around the themes of academics, accompaniment and adventure.

During their stay in Belize, students enrolled in an ethics course taught by Greg Beabout, Ph.D., from SLU’s Department of Philosophy and tailored to fit the Belizean societal and cultural context.  As students probed the nuances of Aristotelian virtue, they also spent time with incarcerated youth at the Belize Central Prison, students and parishioners at St. Martin de Porres parish, and students at St. John’s College in Belize City.  The goal was to encourage an attitude of solidarity and to push against the common stereotypes of service for others.  Instead, students made a conscious effort simply to be with and to understand the students and community members they met.  It’s all part of Beabout’s assets-based community development approach.

In addition to the rich intellectual aspect of the trip, students also experienced fellowship with Jesuits in Belize City, bonded with one another over meals and long van rides to and from their community engagement activities, and enjoyed adventure as they snorkeled off the coast of Caye Caulker and tubed down a river through ancient Mayan caves.  In short, students invested fully in an immersive experience designed around the themes of academics, accompaniment, and adventure.

Director Robert Pampel, Ph.D., was pleased to see the trip launch after several years of seeking out a distinctive honors abroad experience.  “I had gone down several rabbit holes with external vendors promising unforgettable European excursions to Paris and Rome, but none of these ever felt right.  As I learned more about SLU’s participation in the Belize 2020 initiative, it quickly became clear that Belize could offer a rich and mission-centric experience for our students.  I’m thrilled it worked out and these six students were able to participate.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic will prevent a return trip over the upcoming winter break, Pampel remains committed to Belize as a study abroad partner.  “Our goal is to return in summer 2021, potentially with a larger cohort from fellow AJCU honors programs.”  With a strong infrastructure of community partners, the future looks bright for an honors tradition in Belize.

The Honors Program at Saint Louis University, established in 1938, engages intellectually curious and academically successful students in a community oriented towards the Jesuit ideals of holistic learning, academic rigor, and community engagement. Through a combination of individually tailored curricula, experiential learning opportunities, and developmental guidance and mentorship, the Honors Program prepares students to become citizens who engage in the process of inquiry and apply their knowledge in service to society.