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Alverno Students Compare Milwaukee to Baltic Coastal Cities - Up Close & Personal

S Bence

In a matter of hours, thirteen students from Alverno College will be embarking on a European adventure.
This is no mere  holiday. Over the last semester two professors – one of history, the other political science – have taken a multidisciplinary approach to the study of “coastal cities”.

Starting here at home – the class explored Milwaukee’s relationship to its water resources and its goal to become a global water hub. Now, the group is off to Gdansk, Poland, followed by Kalmar and Malmo in Sweden and finally Copenhagen Denmark.

Political science professor David Brooker and history professor Jodi Eastberg both joined the Alverno College faculty nine years ago. Recently, they’ve been formulating the elements of what they thought would be a meaningful educational experience – comparing and contrasting Milwaukee as a coastal city to cities abroad.

“For example Malmo, Sweden has its own Calatrava building; it has the Turning Torso and it’s really the centerpiece of the city. So one of our case studies was studying the Milwaukee Art Museum which is located on the lake. It took a lot of community partners to build that project; and then to compare that with the building in Malmo makes a really interesting comparison,” Eastberg says.

David Brooker says they designed the course across eight Saturday sessions that took students to key locations on and near the water.

Credit S Bence
One of the travelers is now an Alverno alum. Natalie Boos graduated less than a week ago with degrees in history and interactive media. She's elated to be on her first European tour.

“The course hasn’t been as much about the Baltic cities as much as it’s been about Milwaukee and to set comparative framework so when we go to Europe there are things we can relate back to Milwaukee,” Brooker says.

In addition to touring Milwaukee’s lakefront art museum, students hopped aboard a steel-ferrying ship and the Global Water Center.

The students enrolled in the Coastal Cities course range from art therapy to global studies.

Credit S Bence
Rachael Fry, Breanne Pemberton and other Alverno classmates pitched in at South Shore Park beach clean up.

Rachael Fry is a junior majoring in sociology and philosophy; Breanne Pemberton is working on a philosophy major with a Chinese language and culture minor. And while Alverno’s mission includes cultivating effective citizenship and a global perspective among its students, Rachel Fry’s motivation was simpler:

“The trip,” Fry says.

But Pemberton and Fry say over time, they started to connect with the subject matter:

“I definitely see so much more of a connection to the water than I did before,” Fry says.

“I guess I hadn’t thought about the economic aspect of Milwaukee being a coastal city. I don’t know much about history because I hadn’t studied it before. So looking at the city from aspect, I didn’t think about that’s why our city is on the coast, to bring in the ships. And I didn’t know that some of them in the harbor go all over the world. And I’ve seen the ships. but I didn’t realize how large they are when you stand next to them,” Pemberton says.

Now the students are eager to get to Europe and use what they’ve learned:

“When we were comparing to Milwaukee to other cities in Scandanavia we ranked them one to five, how we though Milwaukee measured up; we didn’t seem as positive as I had hoped with in areas like public transportation, how we recycle,” Pemberton says.

Rachael Fry she recently received a shock when she learned her own aunt doesn’t recycle.

“ I was like, who does not recycle. I didn’t realize there are people who did not recycle, but there still are, which bummed me out,” Fry says.

Almost as bummed out as Fry will probably be to return home after the trip of a lifetime.

We’ll plan to catch up with the Alverno group when it does return. In the meantime, the class will be reporting and uploading pictures to a class blog.

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.