This item originally appeared in the February 3, 2005 issue of The Tech Talk.
By MARY LYNNE O'NEAL
Three Tech professors and a geography class traveled to the Mississippi Delta to get a little taste of southern history and culture.
Dr. John Strait, a professor of geography, Dr. Brian Etheridge, a professor of history, and Dr. Richard Hutchinson, a professor of social sciences, along with the Geography 290 honors class, took a field trip to Cleveland, Miss., to explore the cultural geography of the region and discuss how the area has influenced modern culture in society.
"I'm an old-school geographer who believes that the best way to learn about yourself and where you're from is to travel somewhere you've never been and meet somebody else," Strait said.
"There are a number of historical events and cultural processes that have unfolded there that have had a tremendous influence on the formation and evolution of American culture."
Strait said the region is generally considered as one of the primary birthplaces of the blues music genre, as well as the birthplace of many literary authors and other American art forms.
It has also been labeled the heart of the South.
"The region has been referred to as the 'most Southern place on earth,' so understanding the Delta allows one to understand much of what we mean when we refer to 'Southern' culture," Strait said.
Etheridge volunteered to tag along on the trip and said he enjoyed the different aspects of the area.
"I really learned a lot about the area," Etheridge said. "It was my first time there, and being a history professor, it was very interesting to look at it from a historical prospective."
The group also met students visiting from Minnesota, who did not quite understand why the area was the way it appeared.
"The students from Minnesota would ask why it was such a poor place," Etheridge said. "Our students had a little bit of a different response to the Minnesota students because of their different cultural backgrounds."
Mary Ann Miltenburger, a junior English major, attended the trip and said she learned a lot.
"It was a really great trip," Miltenburger said.
"We got to see parts of the Delta and where the levee broke from the flood in 1927."
John Lary, a senior history major, enjoyed learning outside the classroom.
"It was good to experience the blues culture from an actual place and not just listening to it on the radio," Larry said.
"The best part of the trip was just being with the other students and getting to experience it all with them."
Strait said a separate purpose of the trip was to simply allow the students and the faculty members to get to know one another outside of the classroom.
"As a result, our classroom sessions have already become more interactive," Strait said.
He also said the trip was a great success, and he has already planned on taking more trips in the future to allow more interactive learning between students.
"The students and I have already figured out some additional things to do, such as include Memphis for a little taste of 'urban' blues," Strait said.Ê
"It would be a good continuation of the rural to [urban] process associated with the blues and the culture associated with it."