$3 Million Endowment Allows 10 Writers to Take a Service Trip to Guatemala

Donald L. Jordan gives the gift of study abroad to foster goodwill in English majors


Photo courtesy of Eric Spears.

    This spring break, Columbus State is offering an unconventional study abroad trip to Guatemala to do service work, and Donald L. Jordan has given the English department an endowment of $3 million that will fund the trip for ten English majors. 

    This endowment is the largest gift ever given to CSU’s College of Letters and Sciences, and one of the largest in the University’s history. The initiatives of the endowment include the service trip,  a manuscript competition, and an endowed professorship in creative writing.  

    This study abroad opportunity can be counted as a few different courses: ITDS 1145; ENGL 3107, or ENGL 4176. The main purpose of the trip, though, is to cultivate Travel Writing. The course is designed with readings and writing assignments that pertain directly to Guatemala, so students have the opportunity beforehand to read about Guatemala’s history and culture before setting foot in Central America.  

Photo courtesy of Eric Spears.

    “Guatemala is a wonderful country and culture that is a great fit for the CSU student.  The location is near the UN World Heritage Site of Antigua,” informed Dr. Spears, the director of the Center for Global Engagement at CSU.

     According to Dr. Gee, the program director of the trip, Mr. Jordan was particularly interested in having students write about their experiences after carrying out service work. “Our creative writing program is offering undergraduates opportunities that no other University System of Georgia institution has,” he added. 

    Dr. Gee scouted for the trip in Vuelta Grande this past January. There are over 300 families at the village, with seven to eight children per family. They assessed the needs of the village of Vuelta Grande, consulting with two foundations that have established a good environment for learning there, and concluded that teaching English to children in the mornings and completing small construction projects— building stoves or latrines—would make for productive and beneficial afternoons.  

    Mr. Jordan wants students who would normally not have the opportunity to do service work have the opportunity to travel. This is in the hopes that someday, when the students are able to afford to do more service work, they will want to give back, because of their having learned what service projects entail.

    “The planning process was intensive, beginning with field assessment, but then it also involved collaborating with the two partnering foundations, CEPA and Funcoli, in order to make safe and streamlined arrangements,” Dr. Gee explained. 

     Katherine Grego, the study abroad coordinator at CSU, explained that CSU has had a partnership with the Cultural and Educational Programs Abroad (CEPA)  Foundation for many years. 

    “CSU was interested in assisting their efforts so we can allow students the unique opportunity to give back and create a lasting impact on the local community,” she said. 

    “I hope that students’ creative and personal lives are enriched by experiencing life in a Guatemalan village first hand. It’s one thing to read about migration and immigration and hear different opinions about border crossings, but it’s another thing to bring students to a Central American country so that they can interact with people for an extended period of time and make their own judgments,” Dr. Gee said.

     “What I would like most of all is for Columbus State University students to leave Guatemala with their own unique view of life abroad, with their own opinions of how being there parallels or contrasts with their American selves.”