Nine countries + three continents + 39 students = Summer of teaching, exploration and fun for Rowan prof

Rowan University professor Denyse Lemaire teaches geography and geology, but she'll have to utilize some solid math skills to keep track of her teaching load this summer. Over nine weeks, Lemaire,
Rowan University professor Denyse Lemaire teaches geography and geology, but she'll have to utilize some solid math skills to keep track of her teaching load this summer.

Over nine weeks, Lemaire, a Mickleton resident, will teach three Rowan classes in nine countries on three continents from mid-May to mid-August.

Altogether, 39 Rowan students will study with Lemaire this summer in courses that she, herself, has meticulously organized. Before each class, Lemaire, at her own expense, takes a preview trip, shoring up prime educational and cultural opportunities for her students.

"That, for me, is a way to avoid little mishaps," says Lemaire. "We never get a bad hotel. And I bargain for the prices. The prices for the classes are at cost. I can really give students the maximum for their money," says Lemaire, a professor in Rowan's College of Liberal Arts since 1998.

From May 23-June 6, Lemaire will teach "Rowan University Discovers Europe," a three-credit course that will take students to France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.

From June 20-July 11, she'll teach "Geology of the National Parks," another three-credit course that will take students to 14 national parks and a smattering of state parks in nine western states.

And, from July 23-Aug. 17, Lemaire will teach "Rowan University Discovers Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia," a non-credit instructional course.

Wherever she's teaching, Lemaire works diligently to provide her students with the best learning opportunities.

One of the highlights of the class to Europe, for instance, will be Memorial Day, when students will attend services on Omaha Beach, where 9,300 troops died during World War II. Students also will assume German and American positions along the rocky cliffs of the beach as they get a first-hand understanding of the enormity of the D-Day invasion.

"They're exposed to everything?the geography, the history. We use maps from the time period and we stop along the shore to show them all the beaches and all the drop-in areas. It's very academic," says Lemaire, who grew up in France and Belgium and has visited 65 countries thus far.

Also during the class, students will meet with two survivors of the D-Day invasion, folks Lemaire found during a preview trip. In Bastogne, site of the Battle of the Bulge, her students will be able "to see the turmoil, the great bravery of the American soldiers who battled the Germans.

"If the students want to feel history, they need to be in the best possible place," says Lemaire, who also makes sure that her students get a feel for the people and culture of the countries they visit.

Meals for Lemaire's classes are shared in off-the-beaten-path spots favored by locals. And when the class visits popular tourist sites, such as the Louvre or the Roman wall in the heart of Autun, France, guest scholars such as art historians and archaeologists lead the tours.

"It's all about having friends," Lemaire says with a laugh, noting that a friend of hers, a professor at the University of Brussels, will be one of the bus drivers for the Europe class. In an effort to keep costs down, Lemaire recently earned a special license to drive the other 15-passenger bus.

On the three-and-a-half-week Australia trip, students will see the Paul Gauguin Museum in Tahiti, tour the Great Barrier Reef and visit The Pebbles, a sacred site of the Aboriginal people. They'll spend a night in Tahiti on their own island, where Lemaire will cook dinner.

"I'll cook for them, no problem. It will be French cuisine that evening," she says with a smile.

Part of the itinerary on the three-week National Parks trip includes exploration of the sedimentary rock at the Grand Canyon, a visit to a ghost town in Nevada, and a trek to the Mormon Temple in Utah.

After spending days touring--and sampling foods native to the areas they visit--classes will come together in the evenings for more traditional, classroom-like interactions. One night they hold class in a 19th century hotel in France. In another, a former convent in Belgium.

Students on the trip to Europe will even take their final exam on the eight-hour flight home.

"We bring the classroom everywhere we go," says Lemaire. "It's a very different approach to teaching and learning."

The learning doesn't stop once students are back in Glassboro, she notes.

"I try to involve them in research," says Lemaire.

Rowan junior political science major Matthew Sykes, of Atlantic City, presented his research based on a class abroad with Lemaire before the Association of American Geographers' annual meeting last spring.

"The classes have been the best part of my college career," says Sykes, who will take his fourth course abroad with Lemaire this summer when he goes to Australia.

"Professor Lemaire has more energy than half of the students. Every day we're out by 8 a.m. and we're often in class at night for three hours. Because of her experience, we're able to see more of the countries than we would ever be able to see if we organized our own trips."

While this year marks the first time Lemaire has taught three summer classes abroad, she has taught two in the past. Last year, she taught the Europe class for the first time as well as "Rowan University Discovers China," which she also taught in 2005.

"I'm thinking about Iceland for my next Rowan class," she says.