“Think of Lewis and Clark – they didn’t have an agenda.” Dr. Bonnie Smith discussed the nature of travel, a nature prone to “bumps and uncertainties.”
For the students and professors embarking on the “Rediscover America: 40 States in 40 Days” cross country road trip this summer, a few such “bumps” cropped up before ever getting on the road.
“Anytime you’re doing anything for the first time, there are going to be issues for planning,” Smith said.
More than 50 students applied and 15 were selected to go on the trip, but faulty early information led to a reduction in the number of program participants and an increase in cost.
The trip started as a conversation that sociology professor Ken Spring had with Matt Burchett, former coordinator of new student programs.
“Initially the communication with the bus company told Matt that they had a bus that could sleep up to 17 people. We based our initial numbers off of that information,” Spring said.
In Smith’s words, it was simply a matter of “bad info.”
After several months of planning, checking back with the bus company revealed that the bus only had beds for 12.
“Obviously this was problematic,” Spring said. “We called a meeting with the bus company, then followed it up with a series of meetings with the students and the Provost’s office.”
One result of the numbers mix up was an increase in the cost of the trip, causing five students to pull out.
“In all our communication with students we said that the price was not set in stone, that it was subject to change, but we were hoping to have it go downward rather than upward,” Spring said.
Sophomore journalism major and trip participant Pierce Greenberg would like to see more students go, but understands the situation.
“As much as I want the greatest number of people to experience this as possible,” Greenberg said, “I don’t think the safety or space of others should be infringed upon.”
As it stands, 10 students are set to depart June 6.
Bus logistics aside, nothing else about the trip has changed. The sociology and writing classes will still be taught and the bus will still make its way around the country, hitting stops like Chicago and San Francisco, Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.
Greenberg is looking forward to the trip.
“It’s a great chance to examine the cultures in our country in a new and unique way, while earning some class credits at the same time,” he said. “This whole trip is about taking what we know and having that challenged through first hand experience so that we can all get a deeper understanding of this truly amazing, diverse country that we call home.”
Smith sees the trip as a “priceless” experience. “That’s the tradition of the great American road trip,” she said. “You don’t exactly know what you’re going to be doing.”