If LCC International University were to give awards to partnering institutions and faculty for endless support and collaboration, Jerry Holsopple would receive them all, as the leading faculty member from Eastern Mennonite University. Since 2004, every two years, Professor Jerry has been a returning leader with a summer international experience program, bringing along a group of students from the United States. This summer, in a nearly post-pandemic world, LCC welcomed our partners from EMU for cultural exploration, to indulge in photography, discover Lithuania, and continue to strengthen the long-term partnership between LCC and EMU.
Jerry Holsopple is a Professor of Visual & Comm Art at Eastern Mennonite University in the United States. He is an artist, photographer, and renowned videographer, who teaches photography and digital media-related courses. Lithuania and LCC have a dear place in Jerry’s heart, and he keeps returning for this summer initiative every other year, bringing EMU students to gain an international experience as part of their curriculum. Eastern Mennonite University is a long-term partner to LCC International University, bringing diversity, cultural exchange, and opportunities for students to establish meaningful connections. During the 5-week visit, the group explored cultural and social issues, religion, and history using photography as a learning lens.
The first ties Professor Holsopple had to LCC was through a connection in the Theology Department 17 years ago. As he has continued regularly coming to the heart of Europe, he became more and more interested in Lithuania’s history and past: the collapse of the Soviet Union, becoming a part of the European Union, and the introduction of the Euro currency. Also interesting, Jerry joined LCC as a Fulbright Scholar throughout the academic year of 2009-10.
He came to the liberal arts education institution and realized that the best way to share international experiences is if the classroom was full of students from the United States and LCC. “I've committed myself to a relationship with LCC to create a rich experience for both EMU and LCC students, where they learn a lot about photography as a practical skill, but also using that skill to learn deeper things. I encourage them to tell the stories of people,” shared the professor. The spectrum of explored attractions was very wide, including The Hill of Crosses in Siauliai, KGB Museum in Vilnius, a walking tour of the Jewish minorities in Kaunas, and more. “One of the reasons I keep coming back and bringing along a group of students is the fascinating mix of history, culture, and religion in the country.” As a faculty leader, Jerry Holsopple is committed to visiting places with connections and support, where students can enrich their skill set, even though some of them have never held a camera. In the end, the students are required to produce photography projects and write an essay.
Discussing the benefits of the partnership between LCC and EMU, Jerry Holsopple mentioned that student interaction is a collaborative form of learning, and it doesn't privilege one set of information over another. Bringing various perspectives from the United States and Lithuania stretches the learning process and outcomes. Apart from student collaboration, staff and faculty work together hand in hand. “I am able to make the program richer, and more appealing, because I have the full support from LCC,” shared Holsopple. It is also very important to ensure better workflow, quality, and proper use of resources before coming to LCC.
Although the pandemic has moderated the situation significantly, we are happy to have had a chance to host our long-lasting partner from Eastern Mennonite University. The relationships that students build, living together in the residence halls, experiencing the culture, these things haven’t changed. He also mentioned that before the pandemic, Klaipeda felt more vibrant, full of events, full of people. In general, he doesn’t think students are missing out on any experiences. “It’s a great way to have some time off from online classes and screen time.”
Having Jerry Holsopple as a returning lead faculty member for so many years is a great example of how beneficial the partnerships between educational institutions are. “This experience is transformational to many students.”
Photo copyright - Gediminas Juška.