Seminar on homelessness incorporates service-learning trip to Washington, D.C.

Gettysburg College students are going beyond the classroom to learn about homelessness.

A five-day trip to Washington, D.C., from Oct. 9 to 13, is the keystone of English Prof. Chris Fee's first-year seminar, "Tryin' to Find a Way Back Home: An Introduction to the Literature and Legacy of Homelessness in America."

"Homelessness is a term that conjures up unsavory images in the popular imagination, flat, generic, clichés that owe as much to fear as to fact. The truth is, children account for a shocking proportion of the homeless in America today, as do women fleeing abuse, as do the working poor, many of whom find it impossible to secure affordable housing in many of our cities," Fee said.

The students will blog about their experiences and post comments, photos and video confessionals.

Focusing on service and experiential learning, the first-year seminar was designed in collaboration with the college's Center for Public Service. In the classroom, students study and discuss information from a number of sources including non-fiction texts, organizational websites, popular newspapers and magazines, memoirs, novels, and films. Students also fulfill service commitments in the local community throughout the semester.

The trip is based at N-Street Village at Luther Place and draws on relationships between Gettysburg College and DC Central Kitchen, National Coalition for the Homeless, Community for Creative Non-Violence, DC Outfitters, and other service organizations.

"Why do the stereotypes of the pushy panhandler and the drunken bum continue to dominate our collective vision of homelessness? What can be done to alleviate the circumstances surrounding homelessness in America? Should we act? Should we care? These are just some of the question that we consider during the course of this seminar and take with us to D.C. The students gain a more visceral sense of the problems, while at the same time learning in a practical way some of the ‘tools' that are already being used to help the homeless," Fee said.

Fee's seminar was featured in the Winter 2007 alumni magazine.


Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Posted: Fri, 9 Oct 2009

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