June 4, 2013
Contact: Mary Moates ’14, Communications Assistant
One college offers undergraduate students access to forests filled with reptiles and amphibians; the other offers a sub-tropical sanctuary to study birds. Both offer incredible opportunities for studying the natural world, but more than 500 miles separate the two schools.
In an attempt to make valuable, hands-on study of two diverse ecosystems more affordable, Maryville College and Jacksonville University have formed a collaborative reciprocation agreement that will enable students from both institutions to stay on each other’s campus for no charge while visiting on extended field trips. Both MC and Jacksonville University are also offering reduced meal plan options for the visiting students.
The agreement was enacted between Dr. Dave Unger, assistant professor of biology, and his long-time friend and former colleague, Dr. John Enz, assistant professor of biology and marine science at Jacksonville University.
“We thought that if faculty were allowed to host exchanges at other institutions, students should be able to, as well,” Enz said.
According to Unger, the opportunity will allow for field trips with minimal cost requirements, as well as allow students to meet other students from a different location.
“This is a launching pad for us where students from two totally different environments can collaborate on research,” Unger said. “This uniquely benefits students from both colleges.”
In September of 2012, the vertebrate zoology class taught by Unger and assisted by Dr. Drew Crain, Maryville College professor of biology, hosted a group of Enz’s herpetology students from Jacksonville University. The class was able to traverse both the 135-acre College Woods and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to study amphibians and reptiles.
“The area around MC is one of the most diverse in herpetology,” Unger said. “Each institution has a unique piece to offer in this reciprocation agreement for our science classes.”
From April 17 until April 22, Jacksonville University and Enz hosted Unger’s and Crain’s upper-level ornithology class (Biology 403). During the trip, 10 MC biology majors, Unger and Crain were able to study a variety of tropical birds, fossils and landscape.
Enz said he felt that the most important factor of the student trips is the exchange of ideas between students from different environments.
“We have biology students coming from such different ecological areas,” Enz said. “When students come from Tennessee to Florida, they see that the landscape is totally different from the deciduous forests. It’s exciting for me, as the instructor, when the students experience this whole new ecosystem.”
The ornithology course is offered every other year at Maryville College, so Unger and Crain expect to make the trip to Jacksonville University again in Spring 2015, but it may be sooner.
“There’s potential for even larger collaboration as we refine this process,” Unger said. “We hope to continue this for many years to come, and that certainly will open up new opportunities for our students.”
Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state‘s third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for its academic rigor and its focus on the liberal arts, Maryville is where students come to stretch their minds, stretch themselves and learn how to make a difference in the world. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester was 1,168.