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Gaither serving as Executive Dean of Semester at Sea

Kenn Gaither, assistant professor in the School ofCommunications, will be serving as executive dean during thespring session of Semester at Sea, a 100-day educational andstudy abroad program for students. The University of Virginiasponsors the floating university that is open to studentsnationwide. Gaither has participated in the program seventimes previous to this spring’s semester voyage.

As executive dean, Gaither is responsible for theprogramming aspects of the voyage. He will oversee the shipand the various departments, while serving as a liaisonbetween the ship-board community and the institute forship-board education. He is the ultimate decision-maker forissues that arise aboard the ship.

About 750 students will participate in the program, and theywill earn 15 credits that can be transferred back to theirundergraduate institution. They will be leaving Jan. 17 fromthe Bahamas. During the course of their travels, they willvisit Puerto Rico, Brazil, South America, Mauritius, India,China, Hong Kong, Japan, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Vietnambefore returning to Miami May 9. While the students are atsea, they will take classes every day. At port, students willgo on field trips that complement their course study.

“The ship typically goes to places not common to studyabroad,” Gaither said.

Students chosen for the trip must have good academic andbehavioral records at their institutions. Most students havea GPA of higher than 3.0. Faculty members apply to UVA andare chosen by the academic dean of a particular semester atsea.

The vessel that carries the hundreds of students, about 65faculty and staff members and crew is retrofitted so that itfeels like a university campus. It is equipped with eightclassrooms, two dining halls, a library, computer labs and astudent union.

“It’s a transformative experience,”Gaither said. “How can students not be affected bygoing to 10 different countries in a span of 100 days, seeingcultures that are dramatically different and dynamic?That’s one of the strengths of the program.

“Many students have never seen a world like thisbefore. The magic of the program occurs from leaving theBahamas to what happens in the next 100 days. They’repart of a community, and the heart of that community is theacademic programs and the shared experiences.”

Colin Donohue,
2/7/2008 2:09 PM